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Q. Where does it say we have to tithe 10% of our earnings to the church? We can't afford that and can barely pay our bills as it is. Is tithing 10% a requirement for Christians?
There are no requirements for Christians to give 10% to the church. I suspect some pastors have taught and instituted this "law" to make sure their own pockets are "lined."
You may be in severe debt and struggling to make ends meet. But, a few greedy pastors want to make sure they live comfortably. Of course, there are also many ministers who are sincere, devoted believers. These are not the ones I'm talking about.
Civil Taxes in Ancient Israel
Old Testament tithes were "not primarily gifts to God, but taxes for funding the national budget in Israel" (MacArthur 2001).
In those days the Levitical priests were Israel's civil government - tithes served as taxes similar to the way our income taxes work. We find the 10% tithe in Deuteronomy 14:22-23:
"You must set aside a tithe of your crops - one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship - the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored - and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the LORD your God" (NLT).
20% Plus Total Taxes
In ancient Israel there were also smaller taxes (see Leviticus 19:9-10&Exodus 23:1-11). So the total taxes actually ran more than 20%. Any giving beyond that was voluntary.
Early Church Shared Joyously
In New Testament times believers joyfully shared what they had:
"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need" (Acts 2:44-45, NASB).
This was most likely a necessity because of the many pilgrims in Jerusalem who were eager to stay longer to learn about their new faith (Ryrie 1996, 1731).
Hard Working Pastors Deserve our Support
Christians are told that good preachers and teachers deserve our support:
"Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain" (1 Timothy 5:17-18, NLT).
This passage supports the idea of funding dedicated preachers. But, notice that it says funding those "who work hard at preaching and teaching." The photo depicts Randy Alcorn who wrote the groundbreaking work, Heaven, and who works tirelessly to bring attention to the persecuted church worldwide. Author/teachers such as Alcorn deserve our support.
Giving Cheerfully from the Heart
However, the amount we give to Christian ministries should be from our hearts - and given cheerfully:
"You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Reaping What We Sow
The verse just preceding this one reminds us that "a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop" (2 Cor. 9:6). In other words, we reap what we sow!
Beers, Ronald. 2007. Life's questions. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
MacArthur, John. Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn? Available from: www.gty.com.
Ryrie, Charles. 1996. Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago: Moody.
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