In numerous places in the Old Testament, tithing is commanded of God’s people (cf. Lv 27:30; Neh 10:35-37; Mal 3:8-10). However, many believers will say that tithing was an Old Testament rule that’s no longer valid – that giving is the new principle. This premise is based on the notion that Christ came to abolish the law; which is an idea derived from such scriptures as Colossians 2:13-14 and Hebrews 7:18-22.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” I don’t see Jesus saying anything about abolishing the Old Testament law; He came to fulfill the law. So what exactly did He mean? William Barclay, in The Daily Study Bible, says, “Men blame the past for many things . . . [but] as Jesus saw it, it is man’s duty neither to forget nor to attempt to destroy the past, but to build upon the foundation of the past.”
The law culminated in Jesus, who is the embodiment of the law; and the moral and godly principles taught in the Old Testament are still valid for instruction in righteousness; however, because of Christ there’s grace and forgiveness for when we fall short of the law. Grace is the idea communicated in Colossians 2:14, when Paul stated that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
I can’t persuade you one way or another in whether you’ll choose to believe in tithing versus giving. Hopefully, you won’t view it as either/or, but that you’ll believe as Randy Alcorn teaches in his book The Treasure Principle, that tithing “can be the training wheels to launch us into the mind-set, skills, and habits of grace-giving.” Hopefully, you’ll realize that tithing is just the starting blocks, or the base requirement from God, and that you will practice both tithing and giving.
It’s your decision on whether you choose to tithe or give, or to do both. However, what I can do is ask you to seriously think about something. What I want you to consider is this: Which is easier, tithing or giving? Which requires a bigger commitment?
Those who claim that Christ abolished the law will usually make another claim alongside this one. They will say that we are now a New Testament church; and therefore, the New Testament is the basis for our guidelines, not the Old Testament. Okay, if we’re a New Testament church, then perhaps we should look at what that entails. If we want to get serious about becoming a New Testament church, then there’s a model for us to follow in Acts 4:32-35:
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Here, we see the New Testament church in its infancy, as it’s just beginning; and we learn some things concerning our belongings and what’s expected by the Lord. This Scripture tells us that the things we possess aren’t really ours, but God’s. We’re just stewards of His resources. Here, we see how all the people liquidated their assets, converted it all into money and laid it at the apostle’s feet for use in the church; which was then “distributed to each as anyone had need.”
How much of what they owned did the people of the New Testament church give unto the Lord’s work? Everything! Many people like the idea of giving, because it provides an excuse to donate less money to the Lord’s work; but in the principle of giving, God will often ask people to give more than a mere ten percent, and He might even ask them to give their all! So, if you’re someone who’s keen on the model of giving, are you prepared to give your all if God were to ask you?
One of the tenets of giving is that you should give in proportion to what God lays on your heart. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” What we purpose in our heart should be a response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But what happens if the Spirit tells you how much to give, but you get His voice mixed up with your own selfish motives? This can easily happen to people who prefer the model of giving versus tithing. Listen, as I share from another passage in Acts 5:1-6:
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
Ananias was in the process of selling his land, in order to give the proceeds to the church; however, he kept back part of it for himself. Peter said that in doing so, Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit and to God. How did he lie to the Holy Spirit, and what does this mean? The Holy Spirit convicted him of what amount he was to give, and when he withheld part of the amount, he tried to deceive the Lord. If God convicts us of what amount we should give, and we refuse Him, then this a serious offense. Refusing to give the right amount could result in experiencing times of hardship.
So, which is easier, tithing or giving? Tithing is a whole lot easier! In the tithing model, you have a set amount that you’re to give on a regular schedule. It will always be the same unless your income changes. In the giving model, God might require more than ten percent; and at times require your all. Also, you had better hope that you’re really giving what God lays on your heart, and that you’re not using the model of giving so that you can skimp on your offering. If the voice of greed overpowers the voice of the Holy Spirit, then there could be a world of hurt to suffer.
The giving model views the Lord as lenient and tolerant of our meager gifts born out of cheating hearts; but on the contrary, God was, and is, and always will be a God of justice who holds us accountable for our sin. I don’t know about you, but tithing seems a whole lot easier and safer than adhering to a giving system. Once again, however, I must emphasize that this shouldn’t be a matter of tithing versus giving. We should practice both tithing and giving; with tithing being the starting blocks.