Question: What does the Bible teach about tithing? Are believers supposed to tithe to their church?
Scripture: Malachi 3:7-12
Answer: Believers in Jesus Christ are not under the Mosaic Law (Rom. 7:1-6; Gal. 3:16-19). Therefore, the tithing system, which was a legitimate and compulsory means of taxation for the nation Israel, does not apply to believers in the church age. Although Abraham paid a voluntary tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20), it is not mentioned as a pattern for giving in the New Testament church era.
Definition: The Hebrew word for tithe, literally means “the tenth part” (Deut. 14:22; Neh. 10:37; Deut. 26:12; Neh. 10:38).
Old Testament. In Israel, a tithe, or one-tenth, of the livestock and produce belonged to the Lord and was considered holy (Lev. 27:30). It was to be given to the Levites as their inheritance in exchange for their service to the Lord (Num. 18:21-24). The Levites in turn were to give a tithe to the priests, which was to be the best of the offerings, lest the house of the Lord be neglected (Num. 18:28-30; Neh. 10:39). Every third year, this tithe was to be used locally for Levites, strangers, widows, and orphans (Deut. 26:12-15). A second tithe was used to cover the costs of the annual feasts in Jerusalem (Deut. 12:5-18; 14:22-26). In addition to this mandatory system of taxation, the Israelites also joyously presented voluntary or freewill offerings to the Lord, usually as an expression of thankfulness to God (Exo. 35:28; Deut. 16:10).
In Malachi 3:8-10, Israel was commanded to bring the “whole tithe to the storehouse” because they were robbing God. This verse must be understood in its context. Israel has been restored to the Promised Land and has rebuilt its temple. But now many were becoming dull in their faith and were not following God’s instructions for worship. This included tithing. The “store house” refers to the treasure of the Jerusalem temple and cannot be interpreted or applied to mean the church today.
New Testament. Among believers today, giving should be regular (1 Cor 16:1-2), purposeful (2 Cor. 9:7), proportionate (2 Cor 9:8-9) and with a cheerful spirit. Believers may give ten percent of their income, but the church is not under the Old Testament tithing system of taxation. New Testament giving cannot be equated with the obligations of the Mosaic Law in which Israel was to give twenty percent. Israel’s tithe did not include sacrificial and freewill giving, which was over and above their double tithe. Today our giving is a barometer of our spirituality (1 John 3:17). Believers are to give graciously, sacrificially, and regularly.
Summary. Believers today are to give prayerfully and sacrificially to the work of the Lord. But they are not obligated to contribute a specific percentage of their income as required of the nation Israel. However, the principle of giving the Lord the first fruits can be applied to the church today (Pro. 3:9). Giving to the work of the Lord should come first. It is appropriate to give priority to supporting one’s local church and its ministries. Yet 1 Timothy 5:8 implies that giving should not keep a believer from providing for the basic needs of one’s family. All giving is a private matter between a believer and God. It must not be subject to coercion or public approval (Matt. 6:3-4).