Are Christians required to tithe?

c. 1625

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Question: I have a question about giving 10% of the salary I have earned to the church. My friend tells me that this was done in the Old Testament but in the New Testament it is not required. We need only give as we feel. Can you tell me more about it?

Answer: Abraham is the first one we see applying the 10% principle (Genesis 14). After rescuing his nephew Lot from several invading armies, he takes the plunder from his victory and gives a tenth of it to one he identifies as a priest of God Most High named Melchizedek. The Law of Moses later makes this a requirement of all Israel (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Because there are a couple of tithes they were responsible for it is possible they were required to pay as much as 14-22% of their income at times.

Because the law of the tithe is not repeated in any of the New Testament letters to the churches, some have argued that it is no longer a requirement of followers of Jesus. I think that is basically correct. When Paul instructs the Corinthians to prepare an offering for the saints in Jerusalem, he tells them to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with” their income (1 Corinthians 16:2). He does not specify an amount or percentage.

However, it seems to me that Abraham’s tenth is a principle of giving that we should aspire to. Even though we are not required to give a tenth, it should be a benchmark of our giving. I would strive to give a tenth or somewhere near that, and then, as the Lord prospers me, I would seek to give even more. This is what we teach at Central Church. The Lord honors those who give cheerfully and generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). [For more related study see “Are we still obligated to keep the Law?”]

Randall Johnson

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