Are Christians Required to Tithe?

The Christian Testament makes few references to tithing. In the gospel accounts they are made at a time when the Law of Moses, which required tithing, was still in effect. All other references are in the book of Hebrews. These refer either to tithing under the Law or to tithing by Abraham. The Christian Testament never explicitly commands the Christian to tithe. Does, then, the Bible imply that Christians must tithe?

The argument is made by some that tithing was pre-Law and is, therefore, still binding upon Christians. The book of Hebrews says that Abraham, after defeating the invading kings, gave Melchizedek “a tithe of the spoils” of battle. Of no other amount, nor on any other occasion does the Bible say that Abraham paid tithes. Abraham’s grandson Jacob practiced tithing. This he did as a vow he made, not because of a command of God. Outside of this the Hebrew Scriptures make no mention of tithing until it is commanded under the Law of Moses. — Hebrews 7:4; Genesis 28:20-22

Even if Abraham or Jacob had been commanded to tithe, its being a pre-Law command would not automatically make it binding on Christians. Noah was commanded not to eat blood, and Abraham was commanded to practice circumcision. Both of these commands were before the Law; yet, in Acts 15 one is specifically included as being binding on Christians, and the other is excluded. The only scriptural conclusion is that tithing was not one of the “necessary things” which the holy spirit and the apostles saw fit to lay upon the gentile believers. — Genesis 9:3, 4; 17:9-14; Acts 15:28, 29

The book of Acts reports that “for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and distribution was made to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:34, 35)

Does this mean, then, that Christians owe all of their income to the assembly? It does not appear that this practice extended outside of Palestine, perhaps ever, not beyond the Jerusalem area. Whatever the case, this was a custom, not a command. Chapter 5 relates that Ananias died after withholding money from the apostles. Did he die for stealing God’s money? Peter said to him,

While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:1-6)

Peter did not accuse him of stealing, but of lying.

Concerning the money he was collecting for a relief mission, Paul wrote,

Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly nor under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

He even refers to the priests and temple service under the Law when explaining that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel,” yet Paul does not command Christians to pay tithes. In what better context could Paul have done so? — 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:11-14

Christians should give money to God’s work, and ten percent is not an unreasonable formula in calculating how much to give. However, since none of the apostles mentioned tithing, nor is there any other indication that Christians must tithe, anyone who teaches this is going beyond Scripture and is laying a new foundation which was not laid at the beginning. — Ephesians 2:20.

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Jay Dicken