The Tithe That Binds, part 2
Having presented the case that Old Testament tithing is no longer binding as a law for New Testament believers, I thought it important to lay out further the principles, or patterns, of giving that saturate the New Testament. I will also be writing a third and final part that will answer the most common objections that I have encountered in my ministry. As stated in part 1 of The Tithe That Binds: “While tithing is no longer a law to be obeyed, it certainly remains a principle to be applied. Whatever our view on tithing, the binding principles behind the giving of tithes is strongly reaffirmed in the New Testament: faith, sacrifice, and worship.”
Rather than a continuation of a total tithe of 23.3% (Num.18:21-24; Dt.14:22-27; Dt.14:28-29), the New Testament presents giving based on the principles of faith, sacrifice, and worship. (These are certainly not the only principles, but they are the prevailing ones). These three principles were also present in the Old Testament economy, but they have taken on an even more profound importance under the New Testament.
1) Faith: True New Testament giving is first of all an act of faith. Both sacrifice and worship are impossible without faith in God. When we give out of obligation, guilt, or greed (hoping to get something from God), then the purpose of giving is lost. The reason we give is to joyfully see the work of God carried on, lives changed, provisions given, and God glorified. The purpose of giving is to turn our naturally stingy hearts into generous hearts. Indeed, we are to give joyfully or not at all. Paul’s word to the Corinthian Church, though he doesn’t actually use the word “faith,” is a reminder of how our giving is really an indicator of the quality of our faith.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8—The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
2) Sacrifice: Sowing bountifully not only requires faith but also sacrifice. By its very nature, faith hinges upon giving up something in order to gain something better. For example, real faith in Jesus for salvation hinges upon giving up our self-perceived “right” to rule our own lives (otherwise known as sin) in order to gain forgiveness of sin and eternal life. That hinge is what the Bible calls repentance. There is no faith in Jesus without repentance, nor is there repentance without faith in Jesus.
Like salvation, the giving of money to the Lord’s work through the local church requires sacrifice on the part of believers. We see a great illustration of sacrificial giving in the early church in Acts 4:32-37.
Acts 4:32-37— Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
The principle of sacrificial giving is founded on an even more encompassing principle: Christ sacrificed it all (His very life) that we might have a better standing with God. Hear what the writer to the Hebrews says:
Hebrews 8:6-7—But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
3) Worship: The New Testament is clear that God is to be valued above earthly possessions because God is the Creator, worthy of all of our attention and adoration. A realistic view of possessions includes the acknowledgement that earthly things will fade away but God and His gospel are eternal.
Matthew 6:19-20—“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Jesus commands us not to treasure earthly wealth in the place of what is most valuable, namely God. Once we see possessions as we should, then we will be free to give to the church with the right motives (Matt.6:19-24). One way that we do this is through the giving of money to a local church as a part of our worship of God. Let’s state it clearly: Giving is an act of worship, just as much as singing, praying, and hearing God’s Word.
In the New Testament, there is no law on giving but one: Give! Give in faith. Give sacrificially as God leads you by His Holy Spirit. Give as an act of worship of a God who has sought us and bought us by the blood of His Son.
Soli Deo Gloria,