Why the Tithe Is Obsolete and What to Give Instead

I’ve written several posts on tithing and they are, by far, the most viewed posts on Average Us. It seems that a lot of you are interested in this subject and have questions about the typical Christian teaching you hear on it. In those previous posts, I reason that the tithe which God commanded Israel to give has nothing at all to do with Christian giving.

photo of tithe in dictionary

[Christian Giving: What’s the tithe got to do with it?]

However, I’m concerned that my posts could be seen as justification for a half-hearted financial commitment to the kingdom of God, or a less generous attitude toward those in need, or to excuse self-centeredness in one’s financial habits.

I want to clear up any misunderstanding in this post.

What was the tithe?

First, let’s get some definitions out on the table. As I’m sure you know, a tithe is a tenth of anything, whether set aside and saved, or given away freely, or required by law, or taken by force.

So much for a dictionary definition, but what was the tithe which God required of Israel? That tithe was one of many ritual giving laws required under God’s covenant with Israel, called the Old Covenant, of which Moses was the mediator. The purpose of the tithe and all giving laws under the old covenant was two-fold:

First, the tithe reminded Israel that all her wealth, property and prosperity was a gift of God’s gracious covenant with her. And second, it was imposed to support the complex, ritual sacrificial system (Priests, Levites, animal sacrifices, etc.) that foreshadowed Israel’s need for a perfect, once-for-all, final sacrifice for sin.

Is the tithe renewed in the New Covenant?

Christians never were, and never will be, under the Mosaic covenant God made with Israel. In the language of the New Testament book of Hebrews, the old covenant has been replaced with a better covenant–what Jesus called the New Covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). Jesus made this covenant with everyone who trusts and follows Him, whether Jewish or Gentile. This covenant offers better promises, given through a better mediator (Jesus), and secured by a better sacrifice (also, Jesus).

The tithe became obsolete, when the Old Covenant it belonged to, and the sacrificial system it supported, became obsolete. This explains why the apostles never taught a single word about the tithe: It would be a contradiction to financially support a sacrificial system that had been replaced by the perfect sacrifice.

Why should Christians give if they aren’t commanded to tithe?

But, does this mean that Christians may de-prioritize giving, and give casually? Surely, no. Do we not need to learn, as Israel did, that God is the source of every opportunity to earn every dime? Surely, yes. Is there not New Testament instruction about generosity? Surely, yes. Do Christians not have a mandate to spread the good news of Christ’s kingdom to all the peoples of the earth? Surely, yes.

Christians, we must be about His kingdom. Seek it first, Jesus said (Matthew 6:33). And seeking it first requires that we orient our finances around the priorities of spreading the gospel of the kingdom, and supporting those in need. With each increase in salary, with each bonus, each obligation paid off, and each annual budget we should look for opportunities to increase our giving to these priorities.

How much should Christians give?

But, how much you give is a private matter of conscience between you and God. It is not a public percentage you agree to, nor has it anything to do with the Old Covenant tithe. If you give 50% of your annual income, you having nothing to boast about before God, and no one should ever know of it. But if you’re struggling to give just $5, you have nothing to fear from God, either. His acceptance of you depends on Christ’s sacrifice, not your giving.

Now, if you’re average like me, you’re frequently self-centered with your money, wasteful, and in debt more than you should be. If this is the case, don’t let your past choices and current circumstances strangle your ambition to give generously in the future. Let’s repent of our consumerism and greed. And whether you’ve sinfully spent yourself into a hole, or simply lost your job, seek the kingdom as your first priority, and plan for future growth in giving as your financial position recovers.

Over time, let’s learn to earn more, spend less, live more modestly, reduce our debt, and give much, much more.

Surely, we have a mission.

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16 thoughts on “Why the Tithe Is Obsolete and What to Give Instead

  1. If you want to say tithing is no longer required, I’m fine with that. But not if your argument is a justification to give less…or to give later.

    The New Covenant requires so much more than the Old Covenant.

    Old covenant says don’t commit adultery. New covenant says don’t even lust.

    Old covenant says don’t commit murder. New covenant says don’t even think evil thoughts against your neighbor.

    Old covenant says eye for an eye. New covenant says turn the other cheek.

    You get my drift.

    I don’t believe in tithing either…but I do believe that the 10% of the Old Testament is a great starting point.

    Giving is not a salvation issue. But it is an important spiritual discipline. That’s why many Christians never fully experience the life God intended for them…because their pocketbook is more important than their faith in God as the ultimate provider.

    That’s why Matthew 6:21 is so important. Treasure first. Then heart.

    The law of tithing may have been abolished, but not the principle. Under the new covenant, much more is required.

    I enjoyed this post.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Larry.

      I think what you’re saying is similar to my point except for this: I don’t think the tithe is a principle or a starting point for giving. I don’t think the NT treats it as such, and that view tends to make tithe + x a new law. However, the NT does teach complete devotion of life to Jesus and empowers this through His Spirit in us. Thus, the grace of God moves us continually toward more surrender, more devotion, and that impacts our giving.

      Thanks again, Lon

      • My view is that comparing oneself to others (in this case OT believers) is unwise since it tends to create pride or complacency or guilt–and generally a works righteousness approach to Christian living. My first and third post on this subject gives more info on my perspective on your honest question. They discuss Paul’s teaching on private conviction and conscience. Search,”Why Jesus and the Apostles didn’t Teach Tithing.” or What Jesus and the Apostle taught about giving.” It’s a fact that they did not teach tithing to the church. The question is why? My answer, which is based on a historic covenantal view, is not the majority perspective in America. I encourage you to read other perspectives, and then live/give for Jesus according to your conscience, and teach others to do the same.

  2. Enjoyed the post and comments. Do not get me wrong, I believe in tithing and the giving of offerings (II Corinthians 8:12 & 9:7) to sustain the needs of the ministry but the Old Testament tithe has always been a sore spot with me. I have heard preachers intimidate the congregation with the old covenant teaching on tithes (Malachi 3:8) yet correct me if I am wrong but should not the tithes of every third year (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) instead of taken to the storehouse be given to the Levite, stranger, fatherless, and the widow? The preachers state “give and trust in God to provide your needs.” I say to the Church, “give all the tithe of the third year and trust in God to provide your yearly needs.”

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I believe your understanding of the tithe laws is correct. My belief is that we should preach and teach the gospel, and teach people to generously support the great commission (which serves to spread the gospel) and great commandment. And we should simply call this, “giving.”

  3. Lon,
    I like what you have to say here. I appreciate your kind and gentle spirit as you tackle this (sometimes) contentious issue.
    I guess my response to Larry is a little different than yours: if we are truly supposed to give more than those under the old covenant, than giving 11% or 15% actually isn’t more. Since multiple tithes were required every year, then giving 15% would be giving less.
    I wouldn’t say the standard has been raised or lessened; I would say it has changed. The motive is not to give an excuse to give less, but to be faithful to the Scriptures. In effect, this ends up freeing up the wealthy to give more and relieving the burden of the poor (who, if not landowners, really didn’t have to give much at all under the old covenant).
    Blessings!
    Dave Croteau

    • Thank you Dave. I’m grateful you stopped by. May I ask a question of you? I’ve often wondered how/when/where/why the tithing teaching as we know it arose in Church history. I can’t recall reading about this in anything older than the 20th century. Do you have any sources you could share that give the historical background on how this teaching arose? If so, I would be really grateful for an email. Thanks so much. Grace and peace to you, Lon

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  5. Thank you SO MUCH Lon, for your write ups on the tithe. I was raised in the catholic religion and as a young adult, came to really ‘know’ Jesus through a good friend (and a longsuffering, praying Aunt). I have seen ‘many miracles’ in my family even ‘before’ we began to tithe. We began to tithe as time went on ‘in obedience to what we were taught. We feared ‘robbing God’ and feared even more ‘being cursed with a curse’. We have given ‘so much’ to the church house we ‘very faithfully’ attended’. After many years, i began to notice little things that the leader of the flock began to ‘produce as fruit’. I wont go into that because I have given that to God and know He will deal with it, (and that church leader), in the very end. I was – well, sad (and angry) and sadder and realised we have been, over many years, as being ‘one of the FLEECED flock’. I realised we did not ‘do our own research and homework’ in the beginning and just trusted: Well he’s a man of God, we’d better obey. On this journey (and thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars later, week in and month out), one night, just suddenly I had a peach in my heart – and stopped tithing. The peace and freedom that came I ‘cannot explain’. I experienced such a freedom in my heart, that that it made me ‘LOVE JESUS MORE’….and ‘wanted to give’ even more! I have to agree, that once the Holy Spirit reveals ‘The Truth’ to you and ‘you alone’ – you will know what to do with your resources ‘with all your heart’. Jesus will return soon it says – He (Jesus), and He alone will be the one you will answer to – and know one else. Not your Pastor, not your fellow believers – J E S U S. Pastors who ‘fleece the flock’ and use certain scriptures ‘out of context for their own self gain, will be dealt with accordingly (perhaps even harsher. God will look ‘at our hearts’ and greed for mammon has no place in there! It is incredibly sad, the amount of deceptive teaching and scripture twisting going on in the modern church today. After more than 15 years My Husband I finally ‘saw the light’. I believe God is doing a work in this time in history – separating the sheep from the goats! These so called ‘modern day shepherds’ out there – I don’t care how long or how many theological certificates or degrees you have – there is no degree like ‘hearing from the Holy Spirit’ Himself. ‘self deception’ would have to be the most painful once you are able to see the truth again. Even more so when various modern day evangeli$t$ see the light too and how much oppression they put on the flock. Give, YES, Give, by all means, with all of your heart and ‘work out for yourselves what you shall give’ and then give it, joyfully, without begrudging. There are far more tithers out there, giving our of ‘fear of being cursed’ or ‘give and i’ll get blessed’. Its sad and I think it makes Jesus sad. THANK YOU SO MUCH firstly ‘To my Lord & Saviour’ and for His Holy Spirit for showing me this bondage I was caught up in and then graciously freeing me from it that I may ‘purpose in my heart what I shall give’ – and thank you Lon, for having the courage to blog it. Love & Peace and good things come down on you ‘from the Father of lights’ that gives to his children and to you & Dawn.

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