Talking about money in the church always makes people uncomfortable.
In reality, some people have taught unbiblical principles that makes people gun-shy. Some preachers use guilt tactics relentlessly. And some listeners have money as their idol and resent anyone teaching how they should use it.
As a pastor, I have heard people pushback regarding tithing by citing that it is an Old Testament principle. Since the command is not taught in the New Testament, believers don’t have to practice it.
Make no mistake: tithing is an Old Testament concept.
The Israelites were commanded to give 10% of their crops and livestock to temple work (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:26; Deut. 14:24; 2 Chron. 31:5). This nationwide commitment would provide for the needs of the ministry. God even promised to bless those who tithed (Mal. 3:10).
Many people will comment that nowhere in the New Testament is the concept of tithing repeated. I have to admit: they are right. Tithing is not a New Testament concept.
The New Testament does not encourage Christians to tithe. It encourages us to sell everything we have and give it away.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and we are called to give in keeping with what we are able (1 Cor. 16:2). The early church’s example showed them – not only giving – but “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). Due to all the property being sold, no one in the early church was needy (Acts 4:34).
So, make your pick: would you rather give 10% of your gross income or sell what you own?
Giving 10% off your gross income should be where you start but not where you end.
The goal should be to start giving 10% to the local church as early as you can. As your income increases and your debt decreases, you should see if you can give more than 10%. We are called to honor the LORD with all of our wealth (Prov. 3:9) not just some of our wealth because everything belongs to God anyway (Ps. 24:1). We should give freely (Prov. 11:24).
You are correct that you don’t owe God 10%. You owe him 100%.
While we will never repay God for his goodness, he owns more than 10% of what we have. He owns it all.
We are stewards. We are called to manage what has been entrusted with us. 10% isn’t the goal but it’s a start.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.