The question of giving is a very interesting one in many churches. In one corner, you have those who believe that tithing is based on Malachi 3:10, tying it to the law. In the other corner, you have those who believe that everyone should give according to what they have determined in their heart according to 2 Corinthians 9:7, connecting it to grace.
I don’t know which side you fall on, but I want to shed some light. I want to provide an answer to the question: is it Biblical to tithe if Jesus fulfilled the law?
2 Principles about Jesus and the Law
In Matthew 5:17-18, we have Jesus’ statement about the Law. Here is what he said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Before we can answer this question of tithing, there are two things we can learn from these verses.
1. Jesus Did Not Come to Abolish the Law
I know the Law often gets a bad rap, but the truth is—the Law is actually good. Before you think I’m going to tell you to start sacrificing animals again, keep reading. There was never a problem with the Law, or the first 5 books of the Bible. The problem was, men could not live up to the requirements of the Law. I want you to put this in your heart. The Law is good. However, trying to earn justification or salvation by living up to the requirements of the Law is not good. If you try to do that, you will fail miserably. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 3:20:
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Because the Law is good, pure, and holy, it makes us aware of our sinful condition. For this reason, the standards of the Law will never go away. From now until Jesus returns, the Law will always be present making us aware of our sin.
2. Jesus Fulfilled the Law
Knowing the standards of the Law remain and will always remain presents a problem. We can’t live up to them. The good news, however, is we don’t have to—because that’s what Jesus did for you. Your justification now comes through faith in Jesus, not trying to fulfill the requirements of the Law.
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” – Galatians 3:11
You may be asking…what does this have to do with giving? Do I tithe or not?
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/valio84sl
The Connection to Giving
Let’s take these principles and apply them to giving. Let’s consider the verses I mentioned earlier. First Malachi 3:10:
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 there will not be room enough to store it.
The Old Testament principle was to give God a tithe, the first 10 percent of your income. Since Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, there is actually nothing wrong with giving a tithe. It is a great principle to live by and it is still a great way of acknowledging that everything you have comes from God. That does not answer the question completely.
What you have to consider is your motive for giving. What the Law does not do is expose the attitudes or conditions of your heart. This is the problem the Pharisees had. They knew the Law and even lived up to the requirements of it (sometimes) but they were not aware of the attitudes of their heart.
The same is true of giving. It’s not just about what you give, the spirit or attitude with which you give matters as well. Paul addresses this in the New Testament.
The Other Verse to Consider about Giving
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Paul throws a wrench in this equation because he is not as concerned about the amount you give, but the spirit with which you give it. What he does do, however, is he ties your sowing (giving) and your reaping together.
If you give much, you will reap much. If you give little, you will reap little. This is a carryover from an Old Testament proverb,
The generous man [is a source of blessing and] shall be prosperous and enriched, And he who waters will himself be watered [reaping the generosity he has sown].– Proverbs 11:25 (AMP)
There is a connection between giving and receiving. The measure you give out will be measured back to you. However, Paul adds one thing here that is worth noting. And it is this that will ultimately determine if your tithing is biblical or not. I want you to take this little three-question quiz based on 2 Corinthians 9:7:
1. Are you deciding to do it on your own?
2. Are you being forced or conned into giving?
3. Are you doing it cheerfully or reluctantly?
How did you do? This is not graded pass/fail it is graded by reveal. What did your answers reveal about your giving?
For your giving to be biblical and pleasing to God, it has to come from a willing and cheerful heart. If you are angry, unwilling, reluctant, or don’t see the point…then that is not the attitude God blesses in giving.
If that is the spirit with which you are giving, it’s probably better not to give and keep your money. You have missed the blessing of giving. Your giving should flow out of knowing that God is your source and you are gladly choosing to honor him with your giving. When that is your attitude, that’s when the blessing of sowing and reaping happens.
So What about the Tithe?
Finally, the answer. Here’s what we have uncovered so far: Jesus did not come to abolish the Law. With that being said, tithing is indeed biblical, so go ahead and continue tithing. However, we have also discovered that your attitude in giving is just as important, maybe even more important, than your tithe.
As God has blessed you (and continues to bless you) you will discover that you worry less and less about the 10 percent. Often you will end up giving more because you see the needs, and you are using the resources and blessings God has given you to meet them.
I would even go so far as to say this: If your attitude is “just give 10 percent and your obligation is fulfilled,” then you really don’t understand the spirit of giving. When you really understand giving, you will soon recognize that the tithe is not the end of giving…it is just the beginning.
When you give in this manner, it’s not because you have to or you’re forced to—it’s because you want to. This is the real heart of the matter, and it’s what God was after all along.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Thomas Bullock
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.