Over the years I’ve heard very little preaching and teaching on a biblical view of money, possessions, and finances. I don’t know why this is the case. It’s not as if there is a shortage of preaching/teaching material out there on the subject. When you turn to the Gospels Jesus had plenty to say about money and possessions. Same thing goes for the apostle Paul. The Old Testament isn’t silent on the matter either. But for some reason, pastors tend to stay away from teaching about money. When they do talk about it, it is usually right before the church is about to receive an offering. Most, although not all, typically refers to receiving tithes and offering. It’s the tithes part that I think is meant to really get the congregation’s attention. The not so subtle message is: If you are a Christian, and a member of this local church, then it is your sacred duty to give your tithe to support gospel ministry.
But is this really a wise practice? Should ministers of the new covenant encourage other new covenant Christians to give a tithe? What exactly is a tithe anyway? What is the motivation for believers to give monetarily?
Sam Storms has recently tackled these questions in a post entitled, “10 Things You Should Know about Tithing under the Mosaic Covenant.” I encourage you to go and read the entire post for yourself. What follows are only a few observations and related thoughts.
First, as members of the new covenant, Christians are no longer under the old covenant law code, all of it, including what some refer to as the “moral law.” This does not mean Christians are lawless, since they are still subject to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). There are plenty of New Testament commands for Christians to keep without adding the Old Testament.
Second, this does not mean that the old covenant law has no relevance for the Christian. By no means. Paul writes that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). This includes the Old Testament and the Mosaic law found in its pages. The way in which the old covenant law is helpful to Christians is expressed in the 2 Timothy passage. (For a helpful treatment of Paul’s use of the Law see Brian Rosner’s work Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God.)
Third, while Christians are no longer required to keep the Old Testament laws, they are still useful as guide rails are useful to a car on a mountain road. Those guide rails are meant to keep you safe, to preserve your life if you venture to far to the right or to the left. They are there to make sure you enjoy your trip through the mountains. There are principles that can be learned from the Mosaic law that can help believers remain faithful to God, to keep them from danger, and to enjoy serving God.
Fourth, the New Testament does not give a precise percentage of money one is required to give back to the Lord. The teaching of the New Testament focuses on sacrificial giving; giving that is motivated by what Christ has done to rescue and redeem sinners; and on giving freely, cheerfully, and with joy (see Luke 21:4; Acts 2:45; 2 Corinthians 8:8–12; 9:7).
Fifth, while no Christian is required to tithe, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy goal or a good place to start. For years our family has started with giving 10% of our income to assist in the ministry of the local church and have tried to go up from there. I’m not sure on the precise percentage that we give of our income, but there are several ministries we give to beyond the 10% we give to our local church.
Sixth, all Christians would do well to take a long hard look at their finances to see where the money is going. Although this isn’t always the case, it could be the case that your checkbook will be able to reveal where your heart really is. Where we give most of our money may be the things we love the most. This practice can also help one to see where money is wasted. One can find areas to save and use those saving for the good of God’s kingdom.
Finally, there are some passages of Scripture, often cited in support of the requirement of Christians tithing (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42), that say less than people let on. In each of these passages, Jesus is speaking to persons who are still under the regulations of the Mosaic law, meaning they were required to give a tithe, as well as offer regular animal sacrifices, and not eat certain foods. Christians are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices, nor are they forbidden from certain foods. Why then would anyone conclude they are still required to tithe?