When it comes to the issue of Christian stewardship, debates swirl concerning the exact amount that one should give. Many opt for a strict “tithe,” preaching that the truly devoted will give 10% of their income. Some espouse a “free will” approach, believing that believers should only give as they are spiritually compelled to do so. Others maintain that giving is irrelevant and unnecessary in the age of grace, keeping nearly all of their earnings for themselves.
In considering this matter, believers should consult God’s Word. It has the authority and ability to give illumination for all issues related to faith and practice (see Psalm 119:160 and John 17:17). I believe one can discern what to give by considering three important ideas from Scripture.
Christians Should Be Givers.
One cannot be honest with Scripture and self while denying God’s will concerning giving. The New Testament is chock-full of instruction in this area. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), and“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The apostle Paul agreed with Jesus’ instruction, as he regularly encouraged believers to be generous with their income (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; and Philippians 4:10-20).
There Is No New Testament Law Which Mandates A Percentage for Christians.
As believers living in the age of grace, we are only obligated to fulfill one law—the Law of Love (see Matthew 22:37-40). James called it “The Royal Law”(James 2:8). It is the single axiom by which we are to live our Christian life. Some may think that such a solitary edict makes Christianity too easy; but if one is honest, loving God and others isn’t always as simple as one might think. In addition, Jesus teaches that adherence to this command will result in godly obedience in all areas of life (see Matthew 22:40 and John 14:21). Giving falls under this umbrella. We are not commanded to give a certain percentage in the New Testament; but if we love God and others, we will give generously.
The Entirety of God’s Word Informs Us Concerning What We Should Give.
By studying Scripture, one can see that God has historically dealt with humankind according to three different legal systems. New Testament believers live under the aforementioned “Master’s Law” (see Matthew 22:37-40). Old Testament believers lived by the “Mosaic Law,” which was detailed in the Pentateuch (see Exodus 19:1-Deuteronomy 34:12). Prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, all of humanity existed underneath God’s “Moral Law” (see Genesis 2:2 and 4:6-7). This initial legal system was based upon the Lord’s standard of right and wrong in light of His holy character. It is still in tact today, as it is inwardly engraved on the hearts of all humanity (see Romans 2:14). Under both the Moral and Mosaic legal systems, man and woman were instructed to give at least a tenth of their income to the Lord (see Genesis 14:18-20; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Proverbs 3:9; and Malachi 3:10). If this is true, how can believers under the Master’s Law do any less? Giving of ten percent of one’s income is simply a good place to start for those who live according the Master’s Royal Law of Love.
Dr. Patrick Latham