Does the New Testament say to tithe ten percent?

Does the New Testament say to tithe ten percent?  That’s a question lots of people probably wonder about.  And if it does, is it ten percent of gross income?  Or ten percent of net income?  Or was that just an Old Testament thing?

Does the New Testament say to tithe ten percent?Believe it or not, the only time ten percent is stated as the amount to give – is in the Old Testament.  Yes – there are references in the New Testament.  But all of them are references back to what was in the OT – in the Jewish Law.  And even before the Jewish law.

Tithing in the New Testament

You’ve probably heard the saying – God loves a cheerful giver.  You may think that’s something made up by church leaders to get people to donate more – tithe more – part with more money.  But it’s not.  Unless you count Paul as a church leader doing that.  While Paul did write about actually giving what people promised, his main concern was salvation of the soul – not just getting money.

In any case, here’s something Paul did write about “giving”.

Sowing Generously

2Co 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

It’s not the one tenth from Old Testament times.  It’s what he has decided in his heart to give.  However, Paul also says, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Yes, that cheerful giver thing is real.

The thing is though – Paul’s audience knew about the ten percent.  The history of the 10 percent.  What follows is more along the lines of “giving”.

9 As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”

The quote “was written” in Psalms 112:9.  There are various opinions about the meaning behind verse 9.  I plan to do a separate article on Psalm 112 – Blessed is the person who fears the Lord.  When it’s done, I’ll put a link here.  Or – feel free to sign up for emails as new things are added, using the box towards the top right of the page.

Anyway – the differences are based on what do with the two themes in this Psalm.  The first part of Psalm 112 is for those who are righteous.  The ending is for those who aren’t righteous.  And verse 9 sits between them.  Many “experts” support having verse 9 belong with the righteous.

However, I like the approach of keeping it as being right between the two of them – the righteous and the unrighteous.  Therefore, it is can describe something of both of them.

I have handled verse 9 as a summary of what was written about the godly in the body of this psalm, but it would be equally right to link it to verse 10 so that these last verses together make a contrast, like Psalm 1, between two ways of life, the way of the godly and way of the wicked. Furthermore, these last two verses each have three lines and therefore fall together as opposed to the other verses of the psalm, which only have two lines. Derek Kidner says, “The companion psalm [Psalm 111], whose subject was the Lord, finished with a verse that invited man’s response. The present psalm, having expounded that response, clinches the matter by showing how bitter, transient and futile is the only alternative way of life.”

Verse 10 says the wicked man “will gnash his teeth” when he looks on the prosperity of the righteous. I do not think that always happens in this life. The wicked often remain quite content with themselves and despise the righteous. But it will happen one day, when life is done. The Bible describes hell as a place where there is an eternal “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). If you are not yet a Christian, don’t wait until then to discover what life is actually about.  [1]Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (p. 919). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

I don’t think much of the two lines versus three lines argument.  Style, grammar, Etc. never really enter into my mind too much on this kind of thing.  We have people today who get graduate degrees for such things.  I dare say, not a single one of the Bible authors was anywhere close to that kind of education.  It’s the thoughts – not the writing skills – that I believe are important.

Therefore, I do put weight on the likelihood of this being a transition verse.  As such, it’s both a statement about the impact of the righteous and the ultimate ending of the unrighteous.

Given that Paul’s prior statement also has such a contrast – between the one who sows much versus the one who sows sparingly – this seems like what he was trying to say as well.  With Paul being an expert on the message of the Jewish Scriptures – it makes a lot of sense for him to have viewed it this way.

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Paul now goes on the train of thought for the righteous.  He’s given the warning, in a subtle way.  One that most people today probably wouldn’t even recognize.  But his listeners in the church in Corinth certainly would have received it loud and clear.

There’s really no reason for Paul to follow the thought on the unrighteous, given what he was trying to accomplish.  We read of his intent in the words introducing what we now call Chapter 9.

2Co 9:1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Paul knows there are “issues”.  The point of this letter was to address them.  But not in a condemning way.  In away that was more encouraging.  Like – knowing the right thing, I’m sure you will do it.

2Co 9:12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

And Paul closes with words that are along the lines of these lines from Psalm 112:

Ps 112:5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.

Ps 112:6 Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

So that’s the kind of thing Paul wrote.  About giving to the “church”.  He never mentioned the ten percent.  Because he didn’t need to.  But then, he also wrote about giving less (sowing sparingly) and giving more (sowing generously).

Based on that, ten percent appears to be more of a minimum.  I don’t want to get into being a Pharisee and setting absolutes.

Tithe Ten percent?

Having said that, remember this:

The Widow’s Offering

12:41-44 pp — Lk 21:1-4

Mk 12:41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Mk 12:43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

No percentage stated there.  But it’s everything she had.  As John MacArthur put it:

12:44 all she had to live on. This meant she would not be able to eat until she earned more. The widow exemplified true sacrificial giving.  [2]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mk 12:44). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

That’s 100 percent of what she had left.  All of it.

Jesus points this out for a reason.  Not to say that we should all give everything.  But to show the difference in her faith that God would take care of her – as compared to the lack of faith from the rich people who gave little by comparison.

12:44 This woman’s complete faith is contrasted with the scribes’ religious pride and shallowness. They rip off widows’ resources. This widow gives all her resources to God and thereby depends on Him by faith to provide her needs. In giving, God looks at the heart, not the amount (cf. 2 Cor. 8–9). But also notice the amount was all she had. Giving, like deeds and words, reveals the heart!  [3]Utley, R. J. D. (2000). The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter (Vol. Volume 2, p. 150). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

We may not be aware, but given the culture of the time, this was an incredible amount of faith for a widow.

WIDOW (Heb. ˒almāmâ; Gk. chḗra). Together with the fatherless and the sojourners, widows were members of a disadvantaged class in ancient Hebrew society. To help counter their plight, the Mosaic law contained a number of very specific provisions to protect and provide materially for the often needy widow (e.g., Lev. 22:13; Deut. 14:28–29; 16:10–11, 14; 24:17–22). This included the principle of LEVIRATE MARRIAGE, which required a man to marry his deceased brother’s widow if there had been no children (25:5–10).

This sounds good, however it didn’t always work out.

Nevertheless, the widow, in her frequent poverty and dependence upon public charity, was particularly vulnerable and easily exploited. Its repeated mention in the prophets and elsewhere testifies to the prevalence of such treatment (e.g., Isa. 1:17, 23; Ezek. 22:7; 10; cf. Job 22:9; 24:21; Ps. 94:6). In addition, widowhood was held by many to be a disgrace (cf. Ruth 1:19–21; Isa. 4:1; 54:4). Ultimately, however, Yahweh would recompense the oppressors, for widows were among those who enjoyed his special care and favor (Exod. 22:21–24 [MT 20–23]; Deut. 10:18; Ps. 68:5 [MT 6]; 146:9; Mal. 3:5).

As I said – things didn’t always turn out well for widows.  Given what John MacArthur said, there’s no telling when the widow Jesus pointed out was going to get money to eat again.  And yet, she gave everything she had to the church.

The Hebrews’ regard for the plight of widows is reaffirmed in the New Testament (e.g., Jas. 1:27). Luke singled out virtuous widows (Luke 2:36–38; Acts 9:39–41). Jesus used them as examples (Mark 12:42–43 par. Luke 21:2–3; 18:3); he exhibited special concern for them (7:12–15) and sharply denounced their oppressors (Mark 12:40 par. Luke 20:47). Acts 6:1–6 records a problem (and its resolution) concerning the charitable distribution of food to needy widows.  [4]Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 1056). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Given the condition of widows at the time, and this widow giving everything, Jesus’ comment is striking.  And if it doesn’t make us think twice – it should.

Much like what Paul wrote – Jesus isn’t saying ten percent isn’t the “correct amount”.

Tithing and faith

This widow gives all her resources to God and thereby depends on Him by faith to provide her needs.

It seems that the correct amount is something that puts us in a position of having faith that God will provide for us.

Now – that doesn’t mean we should go out and spend money on all sorts of things for ourselves – and then give some amount that puts us beyond our means – expecting that God will somehow take care of that.

I think the Parable of the Ten Minas puts that thought in its place.

The Parable of the Ten Minas

19:12-27 Ref—Mt 25:14-30

Lk 19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

Lk 19:14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

Lk 19:15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

Lk 19:16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

Lk 19:17 “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

Lk 19:18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

Lk 19:19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

Lk 19:20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

Lk 19:22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

Lk 19:24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

Lk 19:25 “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

Lk 19:26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

Yeah – tough message.  And yet, every Christian should be aware of when Jesus said:

Mt 22:37“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Not to mention when Jesus said:

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

And so there should really be no surprise for us regarding The Parable of the Ten Minas.

And there should also be no surprise that Jesus wants us to rely on God.  It’s not an absolute number.  It’s a sign of faith.

And even what we do with the remainder of the money should be something that in some way is a blessing to God.  Ouch.  I hurts to be reminded of that, doesn’t it?

Tithing – and stealing from God

Huh?  Who said anything about stealing from God?

Well, actually, God did.

It’s from a book that seldom gets talked about.  It’s the last book of the Old Testament.  After you read it, you’ll understand why the Jewish people were so interested in hearing from God again.  There was a 400 year gap between the prophet Malachi and the arrival of Jesus.

Maybe the Jewish people were afraid that God finally gave them what they deserved?  Afraid that God had abandoned them for good?  But then, even though we do deserve it, God said He’d never abandon His people.

And so – here’s the section from Malachi the NIV calls, Robbing God.

Robbing God

Mal 3:6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Mal 3:13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

Mal 3:14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ ”

Mal 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

Mal 3:17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

No wonder Paul wrote about the righteous and the unrighteous.  It wasn’t a new thought.

No wonder Jesus talked about the widow who gave everything.  It wasn’t a new thought.

No wonder we don’t want to tithe.  That’s not a new thought either.

On the other hand, why don’t we want to tithe? 
It’s righteous.
Living in faith. 
And God will bless us, even as we bless others.

Ultimately, of course, there’s only one reason we don’t like to.  Only one reason we have a hard time being cheerful givers.  BTW – I don’t mean cheerful givers in the style of the Pharisees and the rich people in Biblical times.  I mean cheerful givers in the style of what Jesus Spoke of.  What Paul wrote about.  What Malachi described as possible, when we give what God called “whole tithe”, regardless of how big of a percentage that might be.

The reason – Satan.  Whether it be greed, seeking pleasure, or any other use of money that’s not good in the eyes of God – it still comes down to Satan.

And like Jesus said – we cannot serve two masters.  We cannot serve God and Satan either.

Conclusion – Tithe Ten percent?

So the next time you’re in church – and the sermon / message is about tithing, think of this.

Is it an uplifting message – like what Paul wrote?  Even though the people had issues with their giving, Paul still chose to go that way with them.

Or is it embarrassing, like if you were one of the rich people Jesus was comparing to the widow?

Or, rarely I suspect, is it the fire and brimstone message – tithe or else?

Yeah – think about that.

And then realize, no matter what, it’s not Malachi giving you a message from God.
It’s not Malachi telling you that God says you’re stealing from Him.

And then be glad – you’re still alive.

As long as we’re alive, we can “fix” this.

As long as we’re alive, we can be like Zacchaeus:

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

Lk 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

Lk 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

Lk 19:7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”

Lk 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Lk 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

No – tithing alone won’t save us.

Tithing isn’t a huge public things like it used to be.  So maybe that’s a good thing, in a way.  It takes away the temptation to make a big show of how much we gave.  Other than the finance people at the church, no one should know how much anyone gives.

However, tithing is very much an act of faith that God sees.  And He sees especially in our hearts – whether or not we do it grudgingly – or cheerfully.

2Co 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

 


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