Biblical Instruction and Expectations for Christian Giving

Are Christians really obligated to keep the "law" of the tithe? I hear a lot about tithing from the pulpit of my church, and quite frankly it angers and frustrates me. How does all this fit in with everything Paul says about the new covenant of grace and the Christian's freedom from the law? Why should I, as a follower of Jesus, be bound by Old Testament rules and regulations?

As you have suggested, New Testament believers are not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). We have been set free from the need to follow various rules and regulations by the sacrifice of Christ (Galatians 5:1). But it’s vital to remember that this is not necessarily the final word on the subject. As the apostle Paul put it, “Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Here’s the point. Christian freedom is not a license to live for self. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to go beyond the requirements of the law by becoming conformed to the image of Christ Himself (Romans 8:29).

In his epistles to young churches (especially the church at Corinth), Paul strongly urges Christians to give of their resources to other believers and to the work of the Lord. He asks them to give up to and even beyond their financial limits (II Corinthians 8:2). In so doing, he doesn’t negate the Old Testament law of the tithe. Instead, he exceeds it. He takes the principle of God-inspired, other-centered generosity, which was originally embodied in the tithe, and jacks it up into an entirely new dimension.

This is what genuinely Christian giving is all about. It isn’t a question of being ruled by the narrowly legalistic standard of “tithing.” Instead, it’s a joyous determination to follow the example of the churches of Macedonia. Paul says that these churches “first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (II Corinthians 8:5).

As we stretch ourselves by giving lavishly, we discover that the Lord gives back to us. He does this “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). In the words of Jesus, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). This is just one of the many ways in which the New Testament not only supersedes the Old but actually fulfills it (as Jesus said it would). The Gospel raises our understanding of the Old Covenant to an entirely different level (on this see Hebrews 8:5, 10:1).

Bottom line: here at Focus on the Family we do endorse the idea of tithing. But we don’t approach it from a legalistic perspective. On the contrary, we see tithing as a useful starting-point for disciples of Jesus who want to discover what a life of true generosity is all about. Perhaps you can see the difference.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss this issue at greater length, please call our staff of pastoral counselors.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer

Managing God’s Money

The Treasure Principle

Giving and Tithing

Other money/finance books


Crown Financial Ministries

Kingdom Advisors

Dave Ramsey

Money and Finances

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