Can We Preach the Tithe?


Tithing—I believe every Christian should do it.   But can I preach that?   Like you, I’m committed to preaching only what the Bible clearly teaches.   Unfortunately, I’ve always found the Bible’s teaching about a believer’s responsibility to tithe to be fuzzy around the edges.   Off the top before taxes?   Off the bottom after taxes?   All to the church (ours in particular!)?   Off of income or off of possessions?   Of course the problem isn’t with Scripture.   The problem is me.  

When it comes to giving, my own preferences, opinions, and training make it hard for me to approach relevant texts with a clear and teachable mind.   On the one hand, I know that the tithe is “law” and that, in Christ, we’re no longer under the Law.   Still, it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can honestly taste the sweetness of God’s grace only to turn around and “Scrooge” God by giving Him less than 10%.   The very idea makes me want to raise my voice, pound my pulpit, and thump my Bible!   Which is exactly why I’m not yet ready to preach that sermon on tithing.   But I’m getting closer.  

It has occurred to me that there’s more than one way to tithe.   In fact, three distinct forms of tithing are practiced in the Bible.   Only one is legitimate for the believer.  

The form of tithing most often addressed in Scripture is “tithing as covenant.”   This practice of tithing was specific to Israel as the covenant people of God.   It was part of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29).   Under the Covenant, God promised to materially bless Israel for obedience and, conversely, to judge them (strip them of their prosperity) for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28 and Malachi 3:8-12).  

This model for tithing has no direct relevance to us as New Testament believers.   In Christ, we live under a new covenant.   Our lives are not governed by the written code but by the indwelling Holy Spirit who writes His “law” on our hearts (Galatians 5:18;...