Critics of the mandatory tithe say it is never mentioned in the New Testament. Instead, only generous giving is discussed. This is easily addressed…
This objection takes the following form:
7 – Nowhere is tithing mentioned when commands to give generously are found in the New Testament.
When Christians are instructed to give to the poor, they aren’t commanded to give “the poor tithe.” Instead, they are instructed to be generous in helping those in need (Acts 2:43–47; 4:32–37; 11:27–30; Gal. 2:10; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15). For example, 1 Corinthians 16:1–4—a passage often cited in popular circles in support—doesn’t mention tithing; it relates to a one-time gift for poor saints in Jerusalem.
Let me address the most important example from 2 Corinthians first:
“Let each one give as he has planned in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
The critics of the mandatory tithe point to Paul’s statement here and say “See, now we all get to decide how much we will give. What matters most is that we are cheerful whatever amount we give.”
But the easy counterpoint is this: Paul was speaking of offerings, not the tithe. Paul assumed the tithe was mandatory. He was appealing to our consciences to give above and beyond the tithe, “each one as he has planned in his heart.” Offerings are not required. But whether we give the tithe or an offering, we should always be cheerful about doing so.
THE OTHER PASSAGES
I will now briefly examine the other passages mentioned by the critic:
Acts 2:43-47 – The selling of possessions and pooling of money by members of the early church in Jerusalem was a monumental act unique to a church just starting out. Those early Christians had total faith in the apostles to administer the resources. The apostles wouldn’t squander this wealth for God’s kingdom. Also, the early Christians knew about Jesus’s prophecy that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and so they heeded his words. Jesus told His listeners to head for the hills when they recognized the signs (Luke 21:20-22):
“Those who knew about this prophecy did not know when this event would take place, but they knew that they had better not be encumbered with a lot of property, especially real estate, when the day arrived” (Gary North, Sacrifice and Dominion, page 10).Gary North, Sacrifice and Dominion, page 10
In short, this pooling of resources by 3,000 people was a public testimony to their faithfulness. This act would have generated a lot of attention and attracted even more members. Clearly, these Christians gave much more than a tithe—they gave all they had to the church in Jerusalem and trusted the apostles to administer it fairly. This is not an example of normal behavior for regular churches.
Acts 4:32-37 – This was another instance we see of church members totally trusting the apostles. The apostles had the power to perform miracles, which gained the trust of the people. Believers subordinated themselves to their authority willingly on faith that the apostles would faithfully administer all they gave. Again, this was a unique situation in the church’s history in which these members gave over and above the tithe:
“The apostles continued to demonstrate their authority over the church’s members by means of their miraculous powers. The apostles witnessed to the authority of Christ by means of their displays of miraculous power. Church members were thereby persuaded to commit everything they owned to Christ by means of their gifts to the church.”Sacrifice and Dominion, page 22
Acts 11:27-30 – In this instance, we see believers of the gentile church of Antioch sending relief to the Jewish church in Judea in response to a prophecy predicting famine:
Paul wrote of the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between Jews and gentiles in Christ. “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:14). This was an early example of this principle in action. When men sacrifice money for a principle, they believe in the principle. Here, early in the history of the church, the gentiles took the initiative. They acknowledged their faith in Christ by sending money to Jews who also had announced their faith in Christ.
They trusted Barnabas and Saul to deliver the money. They had been taught by both men for some time. Their trust in the message led to their trust in the men. The mark of this trust was their transfer of money to them.Sacrifice and Dominion, page 52
This, too, was a situation unique to the times. Prophets no longer speak with the authority they did during the days of the early church—at least not ordinarily. These were extraordinary times. Miracles abounded. The gentile Christians believed the Jewish prophets, so they prepared for a year to help the Judean Christians. This was the demonstration of a new faith in action. The text doesn’t mention the tithe, but certainly their tithes, along with extra offerings, would have been used to provide the assistance.
Gal. 2:10 – Here, Paul is emphasizing the importance of charity in the Christian life. Charity to those outside the church is impressive to outsiders. Charity in general is impressive. Charity is one of the biggest ways Christians can attract unbelievers. Seeing an entire group of people engage in sacrificial acts of charity is peculiar and makes the observer wonder what is going on. Giving away the wealth God gives us to help those in need is an investment in God’s kingdom and is one of the main ways He wants us to use our wealth. We are obligated to give our tithe to our local congregation. Then we are encouraged to give offerings above and beyond this.
1 Cor. 16:1-4 – Paul here has in his mind the idea that Christians who are rich in possessions should be generous towards those brothers and sisters who aren’t. We are supposed to help each other because God is rich unto all who call upon him (Rom. 10:12). His fund-raising request was that all members “put something aside and store it up as you are able.” This is like the tithe, but it is not the tithe:
Paul asks them to give as they are able, in terms of however much God had prospered them. This standard is consistent with the principle of the tithe. This special collection of funds went beyond the tithe. It was an offering, as in “tithes and offerings,” as modern Protestant churches put it. It was not to be tithes or offerings. The church is supported by the tithes of its members. Paul’s request was in addition to the tithe. This was why he was writing a special appeal to church members. He was not asking the church’s leaders to pay for this special collection out of the local congregation’s tithe money, which belonged to the local congregation.Gary North, Judgment and Dominion, page 221.
The more productive people are, the greater wealth they generate. This makes them able to contribute more to charity than those who are less productive. Everyone pays the tithe. It is up to the individual how much in offerings they want to contribute beyond the tithe. This is what Paul meant when he wrote “as you are able.” He did not say “as you are required.” The tithe is assumed. Paul’s appeal was to the entire congregation to give offerings above their tithe to support the church in Jerusalem.
The critic who assumes the tithe has been abolished must furnish their evidence. In this series of articles, I have addressed seven common and popular objections. This series doesn’t cover every objection, but they are a representative sample put forward for popular consumption by a New Testament professor and dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
As a deacon, you must face up to a truth of this modern world: for whatever reason, the major intellectual powers leading the assault on the tithe and Jesus’s priestly authority in the manner of Melchizedek are those who make their living from the church. They are rarely tentmakers like Paul who are independent from church money.
One advantage you have as a deacon is that, except in unique circumstances, you are likely also a tentmaker like Paul. You are not getting paid for your service. Your service is sacrificial. It depends entirely on your desire to serve the Lord and glorify Him.
Since that is the case, you do not have to fear preaching the tithe to your congregation members. Your livelihood does not depend on how church members respond to God’s Word of truth. You can preach the minimum requirement of the tithe, as well as the benefits of paying God’s tithe. God will hold you responsible for what you know and what you do with what you know. I recommend you go forth and take the mandatory tithe with you into your local church body. You just need to plant the seeds. God will give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).