We do not regard tithing as a command, but do see it as a very valuable teaching tool and guiding principle for God’s people. God used it to teach the people in the Old Testament that the first, best and everything else belongs to Him and that an appropriate way of worshipping Him with sincere thankfulness was to give back to Him a portion of what He had first given to them (Leviticus 27:30-32). In Genesis 14, After receiving the blessing of God through Melchizedek, Abram responded by giving back to him one-tenth (a “tithe” means “a tenth”). Tithing was a common practice in cultures of that day; it was act of submission. God can use the tithe to teach the same lesson to His church.
As Christ followers, we must view all of our money as His and seek to use it for His purposes. Thus we do not command, but do strongly encourage people to give at least a tithe, and indeed for most to give more. Every instance of giving a percentage reported in the New Testament goes beyond ten percent. John the Baptist said that the man with two tunics should give away half (Luke 3:11). Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8) gave away half. The widow with two coins gave all she had (Luke 21:4). Although percentages are not given, the generosity of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44, 4:32-37) and Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) appear to have gone far beyond a tithe. Paul also specifically instructs people to set money aside regularly and for those who were wealthier to give more (1 Corinthians 16:2, 1 Tim 6:17-18). Moved by the sacrifice of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal life, it is right and natural for Christians to give even more than believers in the Old Testament.
We believe that the way we handle our giving is an important expression of where our values are. Since even the supporters of a tithe requirement would regard it as a bare minimum, we should continue to press into people the teachings of Jesus that we are to store up treasure in heaven and not to love money. If someone is not tithing, it would be appropriate to talk with them, find out why and ask them to think about whether their giving reflects what Jesus has taught. At the same time, it would be equally appropriate to talk to someone who is wealthy and only giving 10% in the same way. Our priority as a church must be to urge people, on the basis of God’s Word, to make monetary decisions that reflect a life orientation of loving God with all of our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Therefore, the most important question regarding our money at the Day of Judgment will not be, Did you tithe?, but rather, Did you love Me with all of your heart, and did you love your neighbor as yourself? These commands are to guide us in all things, including how we use the money God gives us to steward. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” To love God with all of yourself means that everything is for Him. If we view our money as being solely or even mostly for us, we are not loving God with all of our heart, and we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Paul’s commendation of the Macedonian church was that they had put both God and helping others first (2 Corinthians 8:5). Similarly, we do not command people to give any specific amount, but we do urge people to really think about what their monetary decisions reflect about the extent to which the two great commands of loving God and neighbor are the orientation of their lives. Giving, rightly understood, is a joyous investment rather than a heavy burden.