Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by leaving a comment on this post.
Just about every Christian knows that God wants him to contribute financially to the work of the church. The amount that a Christian should give, however, is an item of debate. Many Christians tithe—that is, give 10 percent of their income—though available statistics demonstrate that giving is far below this level in most churches in America. In the current economic situation there is plenty of pressure to give little.
There isn’t as straightforward an answer as I would like to the question, “Should I tithe?” The tithe was required under the Mosaic Covenant (see Leviticus 27:30–32), though the practice of tithing had precedent (see Genesis 14:20). Israelites actually were to give a good deal more than 10 percent of their income when one includes all of the various offerings.
Christians are not party to the Mosaic Covenant, so we can’t say that the tithe is legally binding on the Christian. However, there are repeated exhortations in the New Testament about giving. In one of the more prominent of these passages (2 Corinthians 9), Paul tells the Corinthian church that “whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (9:6 ESV). Frankly, the statistics would indicate that many if not most Christians are sowing sparingly. I am of the opinion that the tithe is a good rule of thumb, or perhaps better stated, a good starting point for giving. That hardly seems onerous when one considers that God owns 100 percent of our resources.
For those who struggle with giving, and particularly those whose financial circumstances are very difficult, let me offer a simple encouragement. The fact that we don’t know how God will provide for us does not mean that He will not provide. God can increase our income unexpectedly through bonuses, gifts, or other means. He can also reduce our anticipated expenses in creative ways. It is easy to think of giving as a zero sum game: If I give $50 more this month, I’ll have $50 less at the end of the month. The Bible challenges this perception: “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (9:10 ESV).
When some people ask the question, “Should I tithe?” they may be wondering whether or not it is appropriate for a church member to withhold his giving if church programs or direction don’t line up with his preferences or convictions. I see absolutely no justification for this practice in the Scripture and consider it a manifestation of spiritual consumerism. There is certainly a place for members of a congregation to express disagreement or even strong disapproval of decisions that church leaders have made. When members disagree with church decisions, they should express these disagreements within the legitimate channels that the church has established for petition, with respect (Hebrews 13:17), rather than withholding giving as a way of registering disapproval.
Your thoughts on the issue of tithing?