What’s Wrong with the Tithe?
There’s a lot of confusion about tithing.
If you go into most churches today, you’ll find that tithing, or giving 10 percent of your income, is what most pastors preach. A survey several years ago among evangelical pastors found that a whopping 58 percent believed that tithing was not required by the bible; 42 percent believed that it was.
In truth, tithing is an Old Testament concept. And in fact, while tithe means 10 percent, there were actually three tithes in the Old Testament—one for the Levites, one for the temple and one for the poor (which occurred every three years). Add it up and the “tithe” in the Old Testament was actually 23.3 percent every single year.
And that was just the beginning. After giving 23.3 percent of their income, the people would make offerings of their first fruits at the beginning of their harvest. They would also make an offering at the Feast of Weeks in proportion to the size of their harvest. Then they would follow that with another offering at the Feast of Booths. Even after all these offerings, there could still be further offerings that were special in nature and reflected God’s provision and blessing in the lives of his people.
Old Testament giving laws went far beyond 10 percent, but when Jesus entered the scene, he took giving to an even higher level. He showed a different way of giving—whole life generosity—by giving his life as a sacrifice. When he talked about money, he taught that we should give as we’ve been blessed (Luke 6:38), and to whom much has been given much is required (Luke 12:48). He commended the poor widow who gave her last two coins, and he challenged the rich young ruler to give away all of his wealth.
The confusion over what the Bible teaches about tithing is demonstrated in practice. Charitable giving as a percentage of income continues to hover around the 2 percent mark as it has for the past 40 years. Even though a tithe is preached, people don’t practice it.
Perhaps it’s time for a new discussion? Perhaps it’s time for a new practice?