Just recently, people have begun to ask me if there really is a New Testament standard for giving back to God. Apparently, there are websites and even churches that insist tithing (1/10th) is an Old Testament construct never sanctioned in the New Testament. In the New Covenant, or so we are told, giving cheerfully is the only standard. But serious Christians wonder if that’s really true. Here’s the personal conviction I share with my friends.
First, it’s hard to find an instance where Jesus Christ ever lowered an Old Testament standard. Moses taught that we should not commit adultery, but Christ added that we should not even tolerate lust in our hearts. The Law teaches the one should not commit murder, but the New Testament raises the bar and insists we must not hate another person- even an enemy! In the Old Testament, if a man asked for your coat, you were encouraged to give it to him. In the New Testament, Christ raised the standard and said his followers should give the needy man the coat and one’s shirt as well! If Jesus never lowered any other Old Testament standards, why would anyone suppose he would reduce the tithe to 8% or 5% or some token we can offer up cheerfully? Among other things, that’s not consistent with his praise of a poor widow who gave her last two pennies to the benevolence fund at the Temple!
Second, there actually is a clear New Testament example of a minimal standard for giving. That is, in Acts 4 the apostles and their fellow Christians actually insist that everything they possess actually belongs to God, so they share everything. They literally sell lands and give all the proceeds to the church so that Jewish Christians who have been disinherited by their families can have a roof over their heads and something to eat. Because of their faith, no one was left without food or shelter in the whole church!
So the truth is, the tithe probably is not the New Testament standard for giving back to God. The New Testament standard must be somewhere between 10% and 100%. Cheerful giving is important, but sacrificial living is the point.
Lift up the Cross!