"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." 2 Corinthians 9:6
Do I have to tithe? Am I sinning if I don’t tithe? Can I split my tithe among a few different churches and organizations? Should I require my kids to tithe? These are common questions that Christians ask when discussing the subject of tithes and offerings. And here are some brief answers to these important questions.
Question #1: Do I have to tithe? Well, that depends upon how you define “tithe.” The word “tithe” literally means “a tenth.” So when the Bible speaks of tithing, it is speaking of giving 10% of one’s earnings—specifically animals and/or produce—to the Lord. There is no doubt that the Jewish people in Old Testament times were commanded by God to tithe. In fact, when the people of Israel withheld part of their tithe, they were guilty of “robbing” God (Malachi 3:8-10).
But this command to tithe is not repeated in the New Testament. Instead, New Testament Christians are commanded to give generously and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). No specific percentage (i.e., 10%) is required of Christians. So, strictly speaking, Christians don’t “have to” tithe. However, it’s wise to consider this: If for many centuries God’s followers practiced 10% tithing as an obligation, shouldn’t this percentage be viewed as a mere starting point for Christians who are commanded to give generously? I think so.
Question #2: Am I sinning if I don’t tithe? No. Since tithing isn’t specifically commanded in the New Testament, you’re not sinning if you don’t tithe. But you are sinning if you aren’t giving generously or your attitude stinks when you give. You shouldn’t give out of guilt, fear or a desire for praise. You should give because you follow Jesus, and he’s the biggest giver of all time. Jesus was a generous giver, so we should naturally be generous givers. Jesus sacrificed himself and did so much for us, we should happily sacrifice and give back to him.
Question #3: Can I split my tithe among a few different churches and organizations? Since tithing isn’t specifically commanded of Christians, the answer is: “Yes.” You don’t “have to” give your tithe to one church. However, I believe that giving your whole tithe to your home church has the strongest biblical precedent. In Old Testament Israel, the Jewish people had a practice of bringing their tithe to the tabernacle or temple: their place of worship. And in New Testament times Christians brought their tithes and offerings to their house of worship.
Therefore, it seems best for a Christian to give his/her “tithe” (the specific percentage of one’s monthly income) to his/her home church. When Christians divide their giving across too many different churches, ministries and charities, local churches fall short of meeting their financial goals required to do great ministry. Yes, God does own the cattle on a thousand hills, but He calls upon His followers to financially support the work of ministry in the local church. Beyond this specific percentage, it’s wonderful to offer extra gifts (aka, “offerings” and “alms”) to various churches, ministries or charities as the Holy Spirit directs us.
Question #4: Should I require my kids to tithe? Yes. When God gave the Ten Commandments and other laws to Moses, He gave the following command: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). As Christians, it’s very important that we teach our kids from a young age about generous and cheerful giving. And one of the best ways to do this is by giving them a weekly allowance and teaching them to set aside one dime out of every dollar for the Lord.
I have taught each of my kids to tithe. Tithing is a given in our home. And I also inform my children of opportunities to give generously above and beyond their tithes. I don’t require them to give extra, but I give them low-pressure opportunities to be generous. And I can’t tell you how delighted I am when they respond with generosity.
Last year my daughter, who was eight years old at the time, convinced me to buy her a new doll if she scored five goals in her next soccer game. But after her younger sister was diagnosed with diabetes, she asked me if her five goals could earn her younger sister a doll instead. Of course—with tears in my eyes—I agreed. You see, Christ calls us to be generous givers, and my eight-year-old got it. We adults would do well to “get it” too.
In case you’re wondering, on game day she only scored one goal. But as far as this daddy was concerned, that was close enough. And I’ll always remember the look on her face when I let her place the new doll in her younger sister’s hands. On that day, my child truly was a cheerful giver.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah: Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane’s messages or for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com .