The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
Scriptures are cited from the NIV-UK (2011), published by Hodder & Stoughton
Q Are Christians obliged to pay tithes?
A The New Testament has little to say specifically on this subject. Although the Law Covenant continued to be binding upon the Jews during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and He castigated the teachers of the Law for their failure to observe it sincerely, He did not teach His disciples that observance of that Law was vital to their salvation (Matt. 23: 23):
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former.
They would learn soon that a new covenant was to be inaugurated, first intimated at the Last Supper, shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22: 20). And Paul clearly states that ‘we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code’ (Rom. 7: 6). [Note: The ‘new covenant’ is not that ‘New Covenant’ which will come into operation during Christ’s Kingdom on earth, identified in Jer. 31: 31-34.]
It is clear that those Jewish men and women who recognised Jesus as their promised Messiah were released from the strictures of the law of Moses. They had kept the spirit of that law ― justice and mercy and faithfulness. The Apostle Paul taught his compatriots that ‘the law was our guardian [tutor] until Christ came that we might be justified by faith’ (Gal. 3: 24).
Watching the people as they put their donations into the temple treasury, Jesus observed that the rich threw in large amounts. A poor widow put in two small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. Addressing His disciples, Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything ― all she had to live on’ (Mark 12: 41–44).
As Jewish Christians, the early disciples knew they were no longer obliged to pay tithes. As the Gospel spread throughout the Gentile world, under no Divine mandate of tithing, the idea became irrelevant. But the New Testament is by no means silent on the subject of giving. No fixed percentage is set, but all are exhorted to give according to their ability, not grudgingly, but from a pure desire to support the work of God and the needs of others less fortunate than themselves. A rich Christian might give 10% of his or her income, yet suffer no personal sacrifice, whilst the poor would find it difficult to give the equivalent of the widow’s mite.
At whatever level, our giving must be at our personal cost. We are not permitted to sacrifice what rightfully belongs to others, for as the Apostle Paul declared, ‘Anyone who does not provide for [his] relatives, and especially for [his] immediate family, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Tim. 5: 8).
It is our hearts, our time, our talents, that the Lord desires. We consecrate not merely one tenth, but our all to His service. That includes our money, and as faithful stewards we undertake to use it wisely in the Master’s interests.
May-June 2018. No copyright.