One of the most controversial subjects among Christians inexplicably seems to revolve around the concept of tithing. Since this was an Old Testament principle, doesn’t the cross of Jesus nullify the tithe? Is the tithe figured off of my gross pay or my net pay? Do I have to tithe on money given to me as a gift? Is the tithe supposed to go to the local church? It is mind-boggling how such a simple concept can become so twisted and convoluted. The uncomfortable truth is that the root of all the questions and disagreement is greed and selfishness. Let’s face it, the reason we argue for tithing less is because we wish to keep more for ourselves. Now that we’ve gotten that ugly truth out of the way, let’s take a look at a few of the questions above.
Yes, the tithe is indeed an Old Testament principle, but no, the cross does not make the Old Testament law irrelevant. Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 5:17-19 that He did not come to destroy the law, but rather to fulfill it. He told those gathered there that anyone who breaks the least of the laws or teaches anyone else to break them will be the least in the Kingdom. Jesus’ blood on the cross fulfilled the need for sacrifice in the law. He became that sacrifice. But His blood did not mean that we were to stop living by the remainder of the law. For example, we never seem to argue that it’s okay to murder or steal or commit adultery because the cross of Jesus made those laws irrelevant. We also seem to fight for our day of rest, even though that too was an Old Testament principle. Like speaking out against one sin while engaging in others, we pick on tithing only because it disrupts our own lifestyle. We want to keep more money for ourselves. It is a case of idolatry, for as Paul states in Ephesians 5:5, a greedy person is an idolater.
Whether or not one tithes on their gross or net pay is another example of greed. We are simply looking for a way to give less. Your gross pay is your salary. We pay taxes from our salary, just as Jesus said that we should (Luke 20:25). Just because the laws of our land take taxes out of your check before you ever see it does not change the fact that you are simply paying taxes out of your salary. Taxes are a bill you pay, no different from your electricity or water bill. I’ve never really heard a debate about whether we should tithe on the amount of money we have left after all our bills are paid or before all our bills are paid. Again, the gross vs. net argument is one for selfish people seeking to keep more of God’s money for themselves. Keeping money that isn’t yours is called stealing in most cultures. I would never want to be the one who stands before God and has to explain why I stole money from Him. I can’t imagine a much more uncomfortable or dangerous conversation.
I think the answers to the remaining questions above can be summed up with a simple story. I was recently asked by a group of friends for my opinion on the tithe, whether the amount was truly the Old Testament principle of 10% or not. My response was simply, “As long as there are people living in poverty, as long as there are people without food or hope in this world, then we haven’t given enough.” It distresses me that the question is always, “How much must I give” rather than being overwhelmed by the opportunity to give all that we can for the purpose of carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ. Where you give that money should be where it is needed most in order to fulfill the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps that’s to an orphanage in Russia or a food bank in your city or a refugee camp in Darfur or a school in India. Perhaps it is to your local church if they are wise stewards of that money and use it to meet the needs of the orphans, the widows and those in need. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, entrusted with His money to do His works among His creation. That is the only litmus test we need keep in mind.
Remember that most arguments over tithing boil down to our own selfishness, greed and lack of faith. I have yet to meet someone who gives back to the Lord a portion of what has been given to them, who doesn’t have their needs met. God will bless you based on the attitude of your heart and the faith you place in Him. He cares for His children; He knows your needs. Let go of the earthly things to which you hold so tightly. Give all you can because it is our good pleasure to serve the One who gave His life for us. Total sacrifice was not too great a price for Jesus to pay for us. He asks for nothing less in return.