“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
A recent hot topic in a Facebook group I’m in was about tithing. Specifically, whether Christians are required to tithe under the new covenant of grace. And let me tell you, it got very heated. It’s obvious people have definite beliefs about tithing.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we believe. All that matters is what the Bible says. Since the Bible is the complete, infallible word of God, then it trumps everything else like it or not.
I wrote about tithing several years ago (which you can read here), but it seemed time to revisit the subject. My Facebook group is talking about it, and even my church was preaching on it all through February. Surely, God is trying to tell us something.
So, let’s take another look at what the Bible, particularly the New Testament, says about tithing and how it fits into our finances. But first, a bit of review.
The Original Old Testament Commands
Moses’ Law was rife with tithing requirements, which we read about in Leviticus chapters 1-7. Under the Law, you presented your first fruits (a portion of your first harvest or animal births) to the Lord as an offering of gratitude and worship.
Five different things were presented for different offerings, each having a unique meaning. What the Israelites didn’t know is the tithes’ meanings were symbolic in relation to the future Christ.
As they’re listed here, the first three offerings were voluntary, while the second two were mandatory.
Burnt Offering = An offering of a male goat or lamb without blemish or else turtledoves or pigeons. The offering was made for atonement of unintentional sin and represented Jesus’ sinless nature.
Grain Offering = An offering of fine flour mixed with oil and frankincense was given to the priests as a cake or bread for burning. The offering was for dedication or consecration to the Lord and represented Jesus’ complete devotion to the Father.
Peace Offering = A burnt offering of either a male or female lamb or goat without blemish. The offering was made for reconciliation or fellowship with God and represents how Jesus is at peace with the Father.
The priests gave a heave offering following a peace offering. After they burned the peace offering, the priests heaved it over the altar in worship. The priests kept a portion of the offering, and the rest they gave away.
Sin Offering = Another type of burnt offering, always a male bull without blemish. The offering was for the propitiation of sin and represented Jesus’ substitutionary death on our behalf.
Trespass Offering = Yet another type of burnt offering of either a female lamb, goat, two turtle doves, or two pigeons all without blemish, or one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour. This offering was for repentance and represented how Jesus paid the price of redemption for us.
Smaller Voluntary Offerings
One smaller offering was the wave offering.
A wave offering (also called sheaf offering or omer offering) is a type of grain offering. The first fruits of the first harvest was a sheaf of barley brought to the Temple during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which immediately follows Passover. Later in the year, the first fruits of the second harvest were loaves of bread given during Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Temple priests discontinued the wave offering following the destruction of the second Temple in 70 A.D.
Still, another offering was the drink offering, which God commanded later in Numbers 15:1-10. This offering of wine was also voluntary and was in combination with both a burnt offering and a grain offering. The portion of grain and wine was proportional to the size of the burnt offering (the bigger the animal, the bigger the offering).
Other offerings such as the freewill or vow offering (Leviticus 22:17-25; 23:38; Deuteronomy 12) or the thanksgiving offering (Leviticus 7:12) were a part of the peace offering.
If you would like to read more about Old Testament sacrifices, Got Questions gives some great details.
Should We Tithe?
All the mandatory tithes found in Leviticus were no longer mandatory after Jesus’ death on the cross. Because Jesus established a new covenant of grace with us, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law. Which means we are no longer required to offer any sin or trespass offerings.
But does that mean we are not required to tithe at all?
Many people argue a command to tithe doesn’t exist in the New Testament. And if it does, they assert it’s not commanded by Jesus directly, so we can just ignore it.
The truth is Jesus talked about money. A lot. But He only directly talked about tithes once. Otherwise, it was mainly the apostle Paul, who talked about money and finances in the New Testament.
Let’s look at the best examples of Jesus’ words about money.
Tithes in the Book of Mark
“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’”
You’ve likely read or heard these words from Jesus before. A mite was a small copper coin and was the smallest denomination in use at the time. In today’s money, it would be worth about an eighth of a cent. A quadrans was the Roman equivalent. It was equal to 1/64 of a denarius, and a denarius was the equivalent of a day’s wages.
Jesus is saying the poor widow was more obedient than the rich people because she gave out of her poverty. She put in her entire livelihood, which wasn’t much. Less than a penny. But because she was obedient in her finances, God looked on her with favor and blessing.
The point here is that obedient giving to the church (tithing and offering) blesses the Lord, and He, in turn, blesses us for it.
“Now these are the ones who sow among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Jesus said these words while telling a parable about the different soils. While the main focus was about how the hardness of our hearts prevents the word of God from penetrating it, He also mentions money.
Here, Jesus emphasizes that wealth can be deceitful. It can blind and intoxicate us enough that we don’t see the need for God in our lives nor the need to sow into the kingdom. The “desires for other things” enter in and choke out the Lord’s message of loving others and leading them to salvation.
According to Jesus, we must continue to sow into the church with our tithes to help spread the gospel.
In the Book of Luke
“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon (money), that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.”
Jesus spoke these words during His parable about the unjust servant. The servant used his master’s money to endear earthly friends by fraudulently reducing the amount of debt the friends owed their master. The master then commended the servant for his cunning.
Jesus is emphasizing the importance of both honesty with our money and putting our focus on winning souls for eternity. He’s also emphasizing that non-believers are often shrewder with their money than believers. Sadly, they are often more prepared for unfortunate situations in the future.
And so, Jesus cautions us to be wise with our money by placing it in the kingdom of God to further the gospel message and to guard the church against future events. This is why it’s important to tithe and give offerings to the church.
Tithe in the Book of Matthew
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
Jesus is scolding the scribes and Pharisees for giving a tithe of garden herbs, not the kind of grain or produce the tithe was designed to cover (Leviticus 27:30). But true to form, the Pharisees were sure to measure one-tenth of each herb, perhaps even down to the seed.
Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees here is they were not tithing cheerfully or generously. And what’s worse, the Pharisees had forgotten the importance of justice, mercy, and faith, the foundational moral principles of the Law. They were too focused on incidentals instead of the spirituality of others or respecting God.
God wants us to use our money to cheerfully bless others to (again) further His kingdom through justice, mercy, and faith in His word.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-34 is all about wealth. Right off the bat, Jesus cautions us to lay up our treasures in heaven. We should not use our money for selfish gains. It is better that we use our money for purposes that lead others to salvation, and the best way to do that is to give a tithe to the church regularly.
Where Jesus Promotes Tithing
Matthew 22:21/Mark 12:17
Perhaps the only mention in the Bible where we find Jesus actively promoting tithes to the church is in both Matthew 22:21 and Mark 12:17.
“And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus is telling the Pharisees they should be obedient to Caesar and allow the ruler to collect taxes from the Jews. This is obedience to the laws of men. But everything else belongs to God, which means we should give back to God what is already His, including our wealth through tithing.
King David knew this already as he planned to build a temple to God in 1 Chronicles 11-14, where he’s collecting an overwhelming amount of donations from the Jewish people.
“Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from You alone, for You rule over everything…Everything we have has come from You, and we give You only what You first gave us!”
Wealth and honor belong to God; therefore, we are obedient to Him when we tithe.
Paul reiterates this principle in 2 Corinthians 9:13.
“As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.”
According to this Scripture, the proof of Jesus and our obedience to spreading the gospel is tied to the giving of tithes and offerings.
Other Scriptures Regarding Tithes
Paul continued to preach about money and tithes throughout his ministry. The Bible records his messages in several places of the New Testament.
- 1 Timothy 6:8-10 (The love of money is the root of all evil)
- 2 Corinthians 9:6 (“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully”)
- 2 Corinthians 9:7 (Be a cheerful giver)
- Galatians 6:10 “(Let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith”)
- 1 Timothy 6:17 (Let them do good, be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share)
In my opinion, Paul’s best words about giving tithes are 2 Corinthians 9:12-14, where he is instructing the church in Corinth how to collect it from the believers there.
“For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also in abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men.”
According to Vine’s Expository Bible Dictionary, the Greek word for supplies in this Scripture is epichoregeo (“ep-ee-khor-ayg-eh-o”), which means “to supply fully, abundantly; having nourishment ministered.” Tithing abundantly supplies the needs of the saints as well as all men—believers and non-believers alike—as it is an expression of our faith in the gospel of Christ.
Perhaps the apostle Peter said it best in 1 Peter 4:8-9.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
It Goes a Long Way
Critics of tithing in the New Testament have a certain point. Nowhere does it outrightly say we must tithe. It is no longer a requirement as it was under Mosaic Law. But, it’s plain to see God still wants us to tithe.
Tithing is a unique way of worship that expresses our obedience to God and that we trust Him to protect our finances. It also benefits the church by helping to spread the gospel and bring the kingdom of God into our communities, which benefits us all.
So, I encourage you to tithe even though it’s not a hard and fast commandment. Your giving goes a lot farther than you realize. It’s a beautiful way to reach others with the Good News (ideally leading them to salvation) and to receive a special blessing from the Lord.