Does the Bible say Christians need to tithe?
Quick Answer: Does the Bible say that Christians need to tithe? No, tithing is an Old Testament requirement. Instead, we Christians are called to give freely from the heart, not under any pressure (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Diving Deeper: Many churches teach that Christians are robbing God if they do not give a tithe. They use Malachi 3:8-10 to argue that believers are required to give a ten-percent tithe of their income in order to please God. But is this what the New Testament actually teaches us? No, the plain truth is that there is not one single instance where the apostles instruct New Testament believers to give a certain percentage. Instead, we are invited to give freely from the heart, not under pressure (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In the Old Testament, tithing was instituted for Israel to support the priests who were not allowed to earn outside income (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:20-24). The tribes of Israel gave from their own income and crops to support the Levitical priests who were busy serving God in their priestly roles. All in all, over a multi-year span, the amount given was up to 23% per year – a far cry from the 10% mandate that is erroneously promoted today. Plus, Jesus came to fulfill the Law, with the result that New Testament believers are not under its regulations anyway.
Still, some suggest that Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek (which preceded the Law) is a good argument for the ten-percent mandate today (Genesis 14:18-20). However, Abraham first went to war, killed people, and took their belongings – giving a tenth (one time) to a king. This was a common practice in the Middle East to convey respect. This one-time giving of spoils of war is not something we are called to imitate.
The only reason this Old Testament story is recounted in the New Testament (Hebrews 7:8) is because it compares the old covenant priesthood with the new. Here’s the logic: Abraham (representing Levi) pays respect to Melchizedek (representing Christ). This means that Abraham is lesser and Melchizedek is greater, which means Levi is lesser and Christ is greater. This, in turn, means that the old covenant is lesser and the new covenant is greater. This is the one and only reason for recounting the story, and there is no instruction in Hebrews 7 for Christians to give a certain percentage of their income today.
The New Testament does not prescribe tithing. In fact, Jesus explicitly calls tithing a matter of the Law (see Matthew 23:23), and Christians are not under the Law (Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:18). Therefore, Christians are not under the tithe.
Some people argue that a tithe is a “starting point” and that we should give more than the Law’s requirement, since grace is greater than the Law. But grace is not a new and stricter standard on top of the Law. As New Covenant believers, we don’t start with avoiding pork and shellfish and then avoid other foods on top of those. The Law is not the starting point, and 10 percent is not the starting point for our giving.
So, if we are not under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:1), how are we to give? We can give what we truly desire to give, to whomever or wherever we want to give it (2 Corinthians 9:7; Romans 12:8). We believers have new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and God’s Spirit within us (2 Peter 1:3-4) is sufficient motivation, without any required tithe. While some say “give until it hurts”, the truth is the opposite – we are free to give from our excess and abundance (see 2 Corinthians 8:11-14).
Those who advocate for a ten-percent tithe are teaching the wrong percentage, the wrong covenant, and the wrong motivation. The plain truth is that you are not under the Law and therefore not under the tithe. You are free to give from the heart, not under any pressure at all.
Let’s Make It a Conversation:
1. What have you been taught about tithing?
2. How does this discussion impact your perspective now?
3. What would giving cheerfully from the heart look like for you?
Tags: 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 8:11-14, 2 Corinthians 9:7, 2 Peter, 2 Peter 1:3-4, Abraham, Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Freedom, Galatians, Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:18, Genesis 14:18-20, Grace, Hebrews, Hebrews 7:8, Israel, Levites, Leviticus, Leviticus 27:30-33, Luke, Malachi 3:8-10, Matthew 23:23, Melchizedek, New Heart, New Testament, Numbers, Numbers 18:20-24, Old Testament, Romans, Romans 12:8, Romans 6:14, The Law, Tithing