Christian Tithes Payment: Optional or Compulsory?
Should Christians also give a portion of their income as a tithe? The concept of a tithe refers to giving one-tenth of your possessions or income regularly. While the topic of tithing is surrounded by controversy, let’s explore what the Bible says about it.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the ancient Israelites to pay tithes. However, for Christians, the answer to whether they should pay tithes is both “YES and NO.” Why? Because, for Christians, it is optional rather than mandatory.
If a Christian wants to voluntarily pay tithes, they can do so, and it is not considered a sin. Conversely, if they choose not to pay, it is also not a sin. However, Christians are not exempt from financial responsibilities such as applicable taxes and being generous towards others. This explanation summarizes the “Yes and No” answer. Now, let’s go into the details.
Why do many people insist that Christians should pay tithes?
- Attachment to the Old Covenant: Many people advocate for or even enforce the payment of tithes by Christians because they are still attached to the Old Covenant. Their lack of understanding regarding the purpose and limitations of that covenant, as well as the superiority of the New Covenant, blinds them to the rights and liberties of Christians under the new covenant. They often cite Old Testament laws, such as those in the Torah or Pentateuch, including the passage in Malachi chapter 3, which threatens defaulters with curses or withdrawal of blessings. Unfortunately, some religious individuals even apply these outdated laws to Christians, believing they are binding on them. They may use examples from the Old Testament, like Abraham and Jacob, who complied with this controversial law, in an attempt to justify their stance.
- Greed of Unscrupulous Religious Figures: Some misguided religious leaders, who view godliness as a means for personal gain, are aware of the truth about tithing under the new covenant but deliberately hide it from their uninformed followers. They may suppress and persecute those who dare to disclose the truth. These leaders often employ passages like Malachi chapter 3 to intimidate their followers. Their motivation is driven by the fear that revealing the truth about tithes under the new covenant would reduce their income. Consequently, they prefer keeping others in bondage to error to maintain their presumed financial benefits. This reveals their preference for money over the freedom of their fellow human beings.
Why is the payment of tithes by Christians in the New Testament not compulsory but optional?
In the New Testament, the Scribes and Pharisees paid tithes, boasting about it and attempting to coerce others into doing the same. When Jesus Christ, the authoritative source and preacher of eternal truth, observed this behavior, he responded with a poignant statement:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. However, you have ignored the more crucial aspects of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You ought to have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)
This statement by Jesus encompasses three significant points:
- Tithes were paid: Jesus acknowledged that the Scribes and Pharisees paid tithes.
- There are more important matters of the law: Jesus emphasized that justice, mercy, and faithfulness hold greater importance than tithing. These virtues take precedence over tithing.
- Tithes should not be neglected: While tithing is not among the more important matters of the law, Jesus advised against neglecting it. If someone decides to pay a tithe voluntarily, they should do so, as it is not a sin.
Summary of Tithing under the New Covenant:
The passage in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 provides a summary of the principles of giving under the New Covenant:
Here is a paraphrase, not quotation, of the passage:
“Keep in mind the following: If someone sows with restraint, they will also reap sparingly, but if they sow generously, they will reap abundantly. Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not out of obligation or remorse, because God appreciates a joyful giver. Moreover, God has the ability to provide overflowing grace to you, ensuring that you have everything you need in every situation, so that you can excel in every good deed. This is supported by the scripture that says, “He has scattered His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” The One who supplies seed for sowing and bread for food will also provide and increase your resources for sowing, resulting in a bountiful harvest of righteousness. You will experience abundance in every aspect of your life, enabling you to show generosity in all situations. Your acts of generosity will inspire gratitude towards God through our actions.”
From this passage, we see that the New Covenant principles of giving focus on the following:
- Giving from the heart: Each individual should give according to what they have decided in their heart, without regret or compulsion. Giving should be a joyful and willing act, motivated by love and gratitude.
- God loves a cheerful giver: God values the attitude behind the giving. It is not about the amount but the willingness and joy with which it is given.
- God’s provision: God promises to abundantly provide for those who give generously. He will supply all their needs and increase their ability to give.
- Generosity and good works: The purpose of giving is not solely for personal gain but to enable generosity on every occasion. The blessings received through giving should be used to bless others, resulting in gratitude and praise to God.
Christians are under the superior law of the New Covenant, which is established on better promises. The Old Covenant, including the requirement to pay tithes, has become obsolete. Christians are called to serve in the new way of the Spirit, not the old way of the written code. The focus shifts from external observances to internal transformation and a life marked by justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
In conclusion, the payment of tithes by Christians is optional, not compulsory. It is a personal decision based on one’s understanding, conviction, and desire to give. Christians are encouraged to give generously from the heart, with a cheerful attitude, and to prioritize justice, mercy, and faithfulness in their lives. The New Testament emphasizes the spirit of the law, which includes taking care of the needy and being generous, rather than adhering to a specific percentage.