“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” —Malachi 3:10

AT THE END of 1997 a study was released by a Christian research and service organization which essentially said that Evangelical Protestants are giving less to their churches. The New York Times in reporting this study said:

“Protestants, whose churches have historically urged members to tithe their incomes, are placing a decreasing percentage of their personal incomes in the collection plate, according to a wide-ranging study released yesterday of giving patterns in 29 Protestant denominations.”


“A Portion of the study, titled, ‘The State of Church Giving through 1995’, compared personal giving within eight denominations belonging to the National Association of Evangelicals and eight mainline Protestant denominations in the National Council of Churches. From 1968 to 1995, it found a steady narrowing of the difference in giving as a proportion of income between mainline Protestants … and evangelical Protestants.

“The study found that members of the evangelical denominations were giving their churches an average of about 4 percent of their incomes in 1995, down from about 6 percent in 1968.

“The study was done by ‘Empty Tomb’, a Christian research and service organization in Champaign, IL, that has published an annual survey on church giving since 1988. The organization bases its calculations on financial and membership figures published by 29 Protestant denominations in ‘The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches’, (Abingdon). For figures on per capita disposable personal income, the organization relies on annual estimates of the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.”


The question that continually arises in the matter of giving to a church is tithing. Should Christians be tithing? Tithing was an arrangement during the time that God was dealing with the nation of Israel. It was a part of the Law Covenant given to the Israelites at the hands of Moses. It consisted of giving a tenth of one’s income to the Lord to be used in connection with the religious services of the nation.

The tithing system, so far as Israel was concerned, had its beginning when they entered the Promised Land, after their forty years’ journey in the wilderness. Under the Divine arrangement made with Israel, this tenth was the portion of all their increase required to be devoted to holy purposes. One-tenth of the increase of their flocks, their herds, their seeds, grains, and everything else they acquired, was first to be set apart to the Lord’s service as sacred. It was to be used in the maintenance of the priestly tribe—the Levites—and possibly for the relief of widows and orphans, and other unfortunates. (Lev. 27:30-32) Since one-tenth of the family’s increases was required by the Lord, this was accomplished by giving it to the tribe of Levi, which replaced the firstborn that belonged to the Lord.—Num. 3:12,13


The system of taxation in vogue throughout Christendom today somewhat resembles the tithing system, except that it is collected and not left to voluntary contribution: and it is assessed on the valuation of property, etc., and not wholly on the income. It covers the expenses of public schools, relief of the poor, improvements of streets, sewers and general government expenses. In the United States, maintenance of religion, not being included in taxation, is left properly to the zeal and discretion of the individual. It is safe, however, to assume that the majority of people do not contribute largely to religion and charity; while others strictly appropriate one-tenth of their entire income to these benevolences.

The effect of the tithing system, had it been carried out in the right spirit, would have been, (1.) to teach the people of Israel generosity, and to inculcate in them a realization of their obligations to God, because all that they enjoyed was bestowed upon them by God. (2.) It would have made abundant provision for the maintenance of the priests and Levites, the widows and orphans, and unfortunates, and thus would have been a perpetual insurance fund of mutual benefit. It not only would have provided for the temporal necessities of the unfortunate, but also for the educational arrangements, which were in the care of the Levites.


But the Israelites, like all the other branches of the human family, were depraved through the fall, and had come under the control of the spirit of selfishness, the spirit of evil—to which may be traced every impure, ignoble, unholy word, thought, and act. Hence the Israelites begrudged the giving of so large a proportion as one-tenth of all their earnings, and since the contribution was left to the conscience of the people, and no officers were entrusted with the enforced collection of this tithe, by punishment of those who failed to contribute it, very soon many ceased to contribute altogether, while others gave stintingly and grudgingly.

However, the people felt that they were thus at liberty to curtail the amount of their contributions to holy purposes. And however much they presumed that they would ultimately be gainers, to the extent that they would withhold their tithes, we find that they erred. God himself not only was the ruler of that peculiar people—their King (I Chron. 29:23)—but he was also the Chief Executive Officer to administer the punishments for the violation of his own laws. Consequently, in proportion as they attempted to defraud the Lord of tithes, in that proportion they were the losers, for the Lord sent upon them plagues of locusts, blights and diseases, which more than offset the tithes which they were withholding.

In all this, and in every instance when thinking of Israel and God’s dealings with Israel, we should remember that they were a special and peculiar nation, dealt with exclusively compared to all the other nations of the earth. (Amos 3:2) God did not exact from other nations a tithe, a tenth, but neither did he promise to other nations his special care and bounty and blessing. Other nations were left largely subject to the changeable conditions in nature, but Israel, as a result of the covenant sealed between them and the Lord at Mt. Sinai, came under special obligations to the Lord. The tithing arrangement of the land, and service to the Lord carried the promise that, if they would live up to their covenant, keep his laws and statutes, he would bless them in their fields and in their cities, in their flocks, their herds, their crops and all.

Israel, therefore, was to know that God would not fail in keeping his part of the covenant, and that if they lacked any good thing, it must be because they had, in some sense or degree, violated their part of the Law Covenant. Consequently the plagues of locusts upon them were special chastisements from the Lord, and special evidences of Divine disapproval toward them. Similar things coming upon the world of mankind in general meant no such thing.—Joel 1:4, RSV


This tithing feature of the Law Covenant was not enjoined upon the disciples by Jesus, nor by any of the apostles. From this we may assume that God did not intend that it be carried over into the new age to indicate how much the followers of Jesus should give to the Lord out of their incomes. However, the habit or regular giving to the Lord of stipulated amounts would seem to have certain advantages, and doubtless those who practice such regularity in giving are richly blessed.

But, let us repeat, tithing as it was known and practiced under the Law Covenant is not one of God’s laws for the footstep followers of Jesus. The Apostle Paul, in reminding the brethren at Corinth of their privilege of contributing to the needs of their brethren in Judea, wrote: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings [to raise funds] when I come.”—I Cor. 16:2

In this exhortation Paul did not mention the tithe, which was a tenth. He left it up to the judgment of each individual just how much should be set aside to assist the brethren. If the brethren at Corinth were already tithing, it would seem that Paul would have made some mention of it, but he did not.


With the exception of the Book of Hebrews, where reference is made to Abraham paying tithes (Heb. 7:1,2), the word is used only three other times in the New Testament. One of these is in Matthew 23:23, which reads, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

Luke 11:42 and 18:12 are also references to tithing by the Pharisees. While Jesus indicated that it was proper for them, under the Law, to pay tithes, he pointed out that they had failed to get the proper lesson from it. He did not indicate that this practice of the Pharisees was to be carried over to his own disciples.

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus admonished him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, explaining that upon this basis he would have treasure in heaven. (Matt. 19:16-21; Luke 18:18-30) Here the admonition was to give all; the matter of one-tenth was not mentioned. The Master emphasized instead, that the giving of all—whether that be little or much—is the privilege extended to those who would be his disciples.

This does not mean, of course, that we are expected to divest ourselves at once of all earthly possessions and become paupers. It is simply that we consider that all we once had of time, talent, influence, and financial resources, as now belonging to the Lord, and that we will use as much of these as possible directly in his service. The fact that the Lord has not stipulated a certain proportion that should be placed directly in his service, places a severe test of faith and sincerity upon every disciple of Christ. Each such consecrated one has to determine how much he actually needs to adequately meet his legitimate earthly obligations.


To those begotten of the Holy Spirit to be sons of God (Rom. 8:14), the Lord speaks not as he speaks to servants, saying “thou shalt,” and “thou shalt not” do thus and so. On the contrary, he speaks to us as a father to his sons. He communicates to us a knowledge of his will and plan, without putting exact limitations upon our acts. He merely places us under the perfect law of liberty—Love; the law which gives us perfect liberty to do all we please in harmony with love to God and man. He who loves much may give proportionately: he who loves little may give little accordingly. Our Lord desires that each should thus show forth his own development in love.

But, shall we consider that this liberty which we enjoy releases us from all obligations? Shall we consider that because the Lord has not specified that we must give one-tenth of our incomes as he required of the Jew, under his Law Covenant, therefore we are at liberty to give one-twentieth, or one-fiftieth, or one-hundredth part—or nothing—to the Lord’s cause?

Yes, we have just that liberty—that is to say, God will not now withhold from us rain on this account, nor will he send pests as punishments as he did with the Jews under their covenant. Yet, surely all who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, all true sons of God, would rather say, ‘If it were proper that the Israelite according to the flesh should give one-tenth of all his income to benevolent purposes, is it not much more proper that we who have been so highly favored should render some thank-offering to the Lord our God, for all his benefits toward us?’


The more we consider this matter, the more we might properly be perplexed to know where our giving should end, we who are the recipients of the manifold grace of God—not only in the present life, but also of the promises of the life to come. We have received justification and its joy and peace (Rom. 5:1-9), sanctification and its rejoicing in hope of a share in Divine glory and honor and immortality, and all the good things which God hath in reservation for them that love him. (I Pet. 1:4) The more our hearts learn to appreciate the blessings of Divine favor which have been showered upon us, the more do we feel not only that one-tenth would be too little, but that a half would be too little, and that our all would not be enough for us to render unto our God!

Here the Apostle comes to our relief, and offers a suggestion, saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [already received], that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”—Rom. 12:1

That comes nearer to our reasonable service than anything else we can think of, and yet we realize that even such an offering is far too small, and does not at all counterbalance Divine grace and mercy bestowed upon us. Nevertheless, seeing that it is all that we can give to the Lord, we are glad to have the Apostle’s assurance that, presented in the name and merit of our dear Redeemer, God would esteem it holy, and would accept the offering! And so, with rejoicing hearts, we lay our little all upon the Lord’s altar in consecration.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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