10 Principles of Biblical Tithing

Based on our final sermon from Philippians 4:10-23, here are some principles from the Bible about giving to the church.

 It has been noted in recent years that tithing is on the decrease.  One Christian Post article noted that:

Parishioners were only giving about 2.38 percent of their income to the church in 2009, down from 2.43 percent in 2008 – shockingly low percentages.

It has also been noted that one of the most difficult sermons for a pastor to give and a church to receive centers on tithing/giving/offering.

Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York and widely-acclaimed author and blogger, wrote on the topic of tithing/giving/offering:

 A perennial question is, though believers in the Old Testament were required to tithe their income, are New Testament Christians so required?

The principle we have been using – that the coming of Christ changes Old Testament laws, yet they still have some abiding validity – holds true for tithing. In Luke 11:42, Jesus chastises the Pharisees for ‘tithing your garden herbs…but neglecting justice and the love of God.’ That is, they were diligent to tithe their income, but they were exploitative in their business dealings and unjust in their relationships. Then Jesus adds, ‘You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.’

In other words, Jesus affirms tithing, but says that by itself it is not enough. Put another way, for a Christian, tithing is a minimum standard for generosity and doing justice. Christian believers are not less indebted to and blessed by God than Old Testament believers were. Therefore we should not imagine that God’s standards for generosity would be lower for New Testament Christians than for Old Testament believers.

‘To whom much is given, much shall be required’ (Luke 12:48).

(from Generous Justice, footnote 34 on page 196-197.)

Then the question becomes:

Well, how much should I give to my local church?

For an in-depth look at this, please see this classic study from A.W. Pink.

Tithing/giving/offering financially to the local church is certainty part of the New Testament church and for every true believer.

In a bit of personal study in the last day or so, I have found at least 10 principles for giving outlined in the Scripture.

  1. Giving should be regular.

1 Corinthians 16:1 says:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.

The word “directed” here seems to lose its force in modern-day English.  The Greek reveals this as a command.  Paul is commanding, not just asking, them to fulfill the promise they had made a long time ago (cf. 2 Cor. 8:10; 9:1-5).

The implication, then, is that giving should be on a regular basis—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.  Giving should not be “one time,” part of the time, or at no time.  Giving should be all the time.

  1. Giving should be commensurate.

 Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 16:2:

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

And in 2 Cor. 8:2-3:

 “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.

We are to give as the Lord has blessed us and according to our ability.

  1. Giving should be benevolent and sacrificial.

Not only are we to give generously, but we are called to also give sacrificially.  Paul wrote in Philippians 4:17-18:

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God

They gave not only the “minimum,” but also “and more” to advance the Gospel.

  1. Giving should be premeditated and with purpose.

Notice what Paul said in 2 Cor. 8:4:

Begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints

The Macedonian Christians wanted to give above and beyond the minimum needed.

As A.T. Robertson points out:

Apparently Paul had been reluctant to press the Macedonians because of their manifest poverty. They demanded the right to have a share in it.

The Philippians, too, had this same desire:

Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again (4:16).

Both groups gave intentionally and deliberately to meet a true need in the local church and the advancement of the Gospel.  They didn’t do it because they “felt guilty” or would “feel better.”  They gave unto the Lord’s glory.

  1. Giving should be truly voluntary, not coerced or forced.

This is why Paul told the Corinthians:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7a).

And again to the Philippians (4:18):

I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God

Our giving/tithing/offering must be done of our free choice.  It must be done on our volition.

  1. Giving should be done cheerfully.

This comes directly from the end of 2 Cor. 9:7b:

For God loves a cheerful giver.

The word here for cheerful can literally mean “joyous” or “prompt to do anything.”  I wonder how often my (our) attitude is reflected in such a statement when it comes to giving!

  1. Giving should be done out of love.

2 Cor. 8:9 says:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Just as Jesus Christ died a vicarious and substitutionary death on the cross for us under the just wrath of God the Father, so, too, we should give out of love to other believers and the Lord.

  1. Giving should be done so that all needs are met.

Paul wrote further in 2 Cor. 8:12-14:

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

The equality among believers is such that all needs should be met.

  1. Giving should be done to receive a blessing.

No, this is not so you can be like the false prosperity teachers and be wealthy.  The blessing here is found in 2 Cor. 9:6:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Again, this is not teaching the idolatry of the health / wealth message in the churches. That is pure covetousness. Here’s their message: “Give to this church and God will give you a hundred fold, and then you can buy your Lamborghini!”

The biblical prosperity message is: plant your money in the kingdom and God will give you more, so you can give more of it away. God’s blessing on His children is never for selfish gain– but to allow us to be a blessing to others.

10. Giving should be done with the proper motivation.

The proper motivation in giving is an eye to the glory of God, remembering that all wealth is His anyway (you are merely a caretaker, a steward), the blessing of others, the advancement of the Gospel, etc.  As our wise pastor says, “You don’t give because there is a budget, a building, or a pulpit. You give because Christ is Lord of your life!”

Does your giving, especially financial, honor the Lord with these principles? Are you truly doing as God has commanded you?