17. (N.T.) Giving under the New Covenant

The Tithe?

17.  New Testament
Giving under the New Covenant
(Please read all previous articles on tithing first)

The purpose of this series of articles is to understand the truths in the Word of God regarding tithing. We have seen that all Old Covenant agrarian Jews and herdsmen were under command of the Old Testament Law to tithe from the proceeds of their land in order to support the Levitical priesthood who had no supporting income, as well as help the poor.  Any Jew who was not an agrarian or hersmen was not required to give to the things of the Lord.  As a result, tithing had nothing to do with money in any form, nor did it have anything to do with the building or maintenance of the tabernacle or temple.

A New Way of Giving

The Old Covenant was a religion of works - obeying the Law of Moses.  Under the New Covenant, Christianity has become a belief of the heart.  The spiritual has replaced the natural.

When one comes to Christ, believing in who Jesus is and what He has done for him, the Holy Spirit of God is then planted within the hearts. Old things have passed away and new life has begun (2 Cor 5:17). Giving then is no longer a command of the Law, but a desire of the heart to please God and help others. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more we desire to give. Giving, therefore, is a heart matter to a Christian.  

Under the New Covenant, giving could mean any fruit of labor, including monetary by those who follow Jesus to give to those who have a need

The Giving of First-Century Believers

First-century believers gave not because they were commanded, but because they chose. The workings of the Holy Spirit inside their hearts caused them to give out of a willing heart to serve the Lord. In Acts 4:32-37, there were many wealthy Christians who sold portions of their assets and put the money at the apostles' feet to be used to further the Kingdom of God and give to those in need. The money was not given for the apostles, for they were simply vessels who distributed the monies to the Christian community at large.  The moneys were given so that all needs were met.

There was only one time in Scripture where we find a judgment having to do with money (Acts 5:1-11). Ananias and Sapphira were condemned for lying because they held back part of the proceeds of the money from the sale of their land. They had promised to give to the community of believers, but instead, they kept a portion of the proceeds for themselves. It had absolutely nothing to do with tithing; it was because they lied, not keeping their word. Something was wrong with their heart. 

The New Testament Plan For Giving

The New Testament plan of giving is stated in 1 Cor 16:1-2 and 2 Cor 9:7-9 as written by the Apostle Paul, who once was a Pharisee and who once strongly believed in the tithe

1 Corinthians 16:1-2: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come."

This scripture points out a principle set up for the Church in general as the Apostle Paul instructed the Church at Galatia and Corinth in their collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. They were encouraged to give proportionately to how they prospered. There is no mention of a tithe. Simply put - those who have more to give should give more.

2 Cor 9:7-9 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. KJV

The New Testament does not state a certain percentage amount as an obligatory and required standard for giving. Remember, the Jews under the Old Covenant didn’t give 10%, but a minimum of 23 1/3% for their tithe.  How many "tithing Christians" today would willingly give 23 1/3% instead of their standard 10% that is preached from the pulpit?  Suddenly, everything changes. 

Our example of giving should be taken from Christ Himself who did not give 10% or 20%, or even 50%. Instead, He gave it all.  Jesus gave everything He had, including His life to redeem sinful men and women (2 Cor 8:9). As Christians, according to 1 Cor 6:20, we were bought with a price; therefore, we belong to the Lord – we are part of His family, heirs to all that He has.

I Cor 6:20 NKJV  For you were bought at a price; therefore,glorify God in yur body and in your spirit, which are God's.

Therefore, all that we are and all that we have belongs to God.  Not 10%, 23 1/3%, but 100%.  We recognize that we need to purpose to give in the light of our accountability to Him.

We are a family. As our father, God has called us to be faithful stewards of all our possessions (2 Cor 8:1-9). Because He is our father, and we love Him, we give. It is a heart matter. Giving, therefore, should never be mandatory, but voluntary - giving with a willing and cheerful heart. That should be our standard of giving.

The command to give - under the law - was written down in stone.  Our command today, under the Age of Grace is written on our hearts.  If the Jews gave 10% as their starting point of giving, our hearts should tell us to give more - and do it joyfully.  How much more should we as New Testament believers desire to give more.  Not out of compulsion, but a grateful, willing heart.  If one "chooses" to give a percentage amount, such as 10%, that is fine.  If, however, one seeks his heart to give 9%, 11%, 25%, 50%, or a fixed amount, that is fine as well, as long as it is given with a joyful, willing heart. Again, all that we are, and all that we have, belongs to the Lord.  We ought to give accordingly.

A perfect example is the willingness and compulsion to give by the Macedonian churches.  There were in poverty themselves; however, the Jerusalem churches, who were worse off than they needed money.  The Macedonian churches gave out of their need to help others.  Not only were they willing to give, they were excited about helping other believers.

2 Cor 8:1-12  And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (NIV)

The Purpose For Giving

The New Testament teaches that there are three purposes for our giving: 1) to meet the needs of the believers, 2) the needs of Christian workers, and, 3) the needs of the poor.

To meet the needs of believers
In Acts 2:44-45 the Word of God tells us that the believers gave – they sold their property and possessions and shared with one another as there was need. This example shows the spirit of love and generosity in the early church. The believers gave willingly in order to minister to the needs of other Christians. They took care of one another.

  • Galatians 6:9-10 tells us not to lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap.  Our purpose in giving, however, should never be to get back what we gave.  Instead, while we have the opportunity, we are to do good unto all men – especially other believers.
  • In 1 John 3:17 the Word of God tells us that if we see a brother (or sister) in need and we close our hearts to their need, the love of God does not abide in us. We cannot just “say” we love them, but we need to put our words to action. That way the love we have for God is given out to others.

To meet the needs of Christian workers
The scriptures tell us to use our money to support Christian workers. I Tim 5:17-18 states that we should consider it worthy of double honor to those who preach and teach the Word of God. They are to be esteemed, honored, and respected - worthy of their wages. When one does that, it means to provide for them financially so that they can give themselves to the work of laboring in the Word of God. In 1 Cor 9:6-14 the Apostle Paul tells us that the apostles had every right to refrain from secular work and receive support. He states that the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel – in other words, the people of the Church should give for the support of the Church.  In Phil 4:15-18 the Apostle Paul states that the gifts that the Philippians sent to support the Church in Jerusalem was well-pleasing to God. Their gifts were used to support the Christian workers – elders, evangelists, missionaries, and those in need.

There is no place in scripture that states that Christian workers should live in poverty or on the other extreme have excess to support a wealthy lifestyle.

That then puts the responsibility of giving on those within the local church. Those who give need to be good stewards of the monies that are given, and it must be used wisely for the Kingdom of God.

To meet the needs of the poor
The Scriptures direct us to use our money to meet the needs of the poor.

  • Jesus told us in Matt 12:50 that we are to give to the hungry, thirsty, and naked. When we do, we are giving to Him. 
  • Eph 4:28 commands us to use our hands in labor so that we will have something to share with those in need, whether or not they are a believer.
  • Jms 1:27 tells us that a pure and undefiled religion is to visit (meaning to give) orphans and widows in distress. If there is a need, we are required to give.
  • The more money and possessions we have, the more responsible we are to use it in a godly way. A prime example is the Parable of the Talents (Luke 19:11-27) and 1 Tim 6:17-19) where the Apostle Paul gives a warning to the rich to be very generous in sharing with others of what they have.
  • There are many examples where the Apostle Paul gave to believers in need. He also instructed on how to support dependent widows. It is, therefore, clear that one of the priorities of giving is to meet the needs of other believers.
  • In Luke 12:33, the Word of God tells us that we are building up a treasure in heaven by our giving. Luke 12:34 tells us that the treasure of our hearts are exposed by our deeds. In other words, our giving becomes an open testimony to all of our relationship with God.

Those who are poor should not feel guilty if they are unable to give. If their basic needs are not being met, they should, instead, be the recipient of the giver. While it is true that God will honor and bless the believer who gives sacrificially, we ought to be fully aware of those in need, and give of what we have.

We need to be generous in the sharing of our material possessions.    Again, giving is a heart matter, and a heart yielded to the Lord wants to give generously to the needs of others. When we see a need, we are to give. That should to be our standard of life and standard of giving.

Biblical Motive For Giving

We love the Lord
Christianity is a lifestyle of the heart. When one accepts Christ as personal Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit comes in to change a life. The heart of love is the number one key factor of a changed life in Christ. God gave His main command to the Israelites back in the wilderness 4000 years ago, and they were to love Him with their whole heart, soul, and mind. Jesus, under the New Covenant reminded us 2000 years ago of the first commandment to love Him above all else, but then He gave us another commandment – to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Mk 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

In these two commands, Jesus said that we fulfill the whole law. Love God and love others. The heart of a changed life in Christ is to please Him and reach out to others. In all we do, our heart is to please Him.

We belong to God
As believers, we were bought with a price – the precious blood of Jesus. We now belong to God.

1 Cor 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

Because we belong to God, this gives us more than enough reason to give.

We love others
The Bible tells us over and over in 1 John that others will know we are Christians by our love.  For those who love, they are the ones who give.

Jesus’ Command – Live By the Royal Law of Love

Jesus gave one command to His followers: The Apostle James called it the Royal Law of Love The Apostle Paul, right in the middle of his message on giving (2 Cor. 8-9), brought out that Jesus should be our prime motivation for giving. (For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.) Christ, though he was rich in His pre-incarnate existence in heaven, willingly gave up everything to become an earthly man and then gave that up to die for the sins of mankind. He sacrificially gave of Himself so that we might become rich in Him. As believers, we have inherited riches - forgiveness of sins, adoption into His family, justification before God, the indwelling power of the Spirit to guide, instruct, empower, and change, peace with God, access to the throne room in heaven, and last, but not least, eternal life with God.

Jms 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.

His command to love Him and others is repeated in John 15:12-13 and Luke 10:2.

Jesus commanded His followers to love each other in the same way that He loves them -- namely, by being totally committed to them. This kind of commitment includes the willingness to give of our resources to help one another. Jesus gave up all, including His very life for us. That is how we are commanded to love one another.

How Should We Give?

The Word of God teaches us several things on how we should give: 1) Voluntarily, 2) cheerfully, 3) expectantly, 4) anonymously, 5) sacrificially, and, 6) systematically.

The Word of God tells us in 2 Cor 8:3-4 to give of our own accord in the support of the saints. No one should manipulate or guilt anyone into giving. Again, giving is a matter of the heart – between the giver and God.

In 2 Cor 9:7, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are to give as we have purposed in our heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion. When we give cheerfully, God loves how we give. It comes from our heart. He doesn't want us to give out of a sense of compulsion, but rather from an attitude of joy and cheerfulness. If every believer got a taste of the blessings of giving, he would be like the Macedonian Christians who begged Paul for the opportunity to give (2 Cor. 8:3-4). Giving should be seen as a great privilege, not a heavy burden or joyless duty.

The law of sowing and reaping is a principle that God put within the earth as far back as Adam and Eve. As one sows, so shall he reap. It works whether one is a believer or not - it affects everyone. God designed it that way. In 2 Cor 9:6, it states that if we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly. If we give nothing or very little, we can expect little or nothing in return. If we, however, sow bountifully, that is what we will reap. In Luke 6:38, the Word says that when we give, it shall be given back to us - good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men then give unto us. For with the same measure that ye give, it shall be measured back. Again, it is a principle that God designed, and it works.

God created man to be vessels or containers. We will either be vessels for ourselves, which in reality are vessels for Satan, or we can be vessels for the Kingdom of God. When we get, we need to give. As containers for the Kingdom of God, we give out of our abundance of what we have received.

Sadly, there are many churches that preach "investment giving." claiming 30, 60, or even 100% return on your money.  If giving is done with the primary purpose of receiving back a greater harvest for personal gain, giving has become carnal.  In that, God is not pleased.  While God takes care of us even when we give sacrificial, our intent should never be "give to get."  The idea is to give so the Kingdom of God can grow.  Again, Christianity is a matter of the heart - it is a spiritual matter.  Our giving should also be a matter of the heart toward God.  What is it then that we can give to further the Kingdom of God?

2 Cor 8:8-11 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, 'He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, his righteousness abides forever .' Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

The Apostle Paul is stating that God will bless the generous giver by making all grace abound to him in order that he will have abundance for every good deed. His promise will multiply the giver's seed for sowing and increase the harvest of his righteousness. As we give, we receive not only our needs, but excess so that we can give back to others. We are vessels, like funnels that flow in and out. God blesses those who give so that they can give even more.

Since this is a principle God has given to mankind, the same can be seen in the Old Testament as well.

  • Prov 11:24-25 tells us that the generous man will prosper.
  • Prov 19:17 tells us that if we are gracious to the poor, God will repay the good deed. For every good deed, we also lay up treasure in heaven.
  • Jesus also told His followers in Matt 19:21 and Luke 12:33 to sell their possessions and give to the poor. In heaven they shall see their reward.
  • The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Tim 6:18-19 to be rich in good deeds, ready to share, so as to lay a good foundation for the future. By these scriptures we see that we are blessed both here on earth and in heaven.

The message remains the same throughout the Old and New Testament – give and it shall be given back to you. We need to be careful, however, to not give for the sole purpose of receiving. This kind of teaching appeals to the flesh, and promotes a spirit of greed and covetousness in believers. The blessings should be added rewards for a heart of generosity. We need to get to give, not get to keep.

In order to protect us from spiritual pride, in Matt 6:1-4 Jesus taught us that we should give our charitable deed in secret. God, who sees our secrecy, will then repay us. We can even make it a personal game to look for ways to meet a need without the receiver ever knowing who gave. God is the score keeper, laying up treasures in heaven for our generosity.

Giving sacrificially should cost us something. It doesn’t mean taking money away from the needs for our family, but giving up a “want” to help those in “need.” The Apostle Paul spoke in 2 Cor 8:1-5 of the churches in Macedonia – how they gave sacrificially. They had little to give, but they gave nevertheless.

Just as the New Testament believers gave to the needs of the Church, we today must do the same thing. As there is a need, there is a then the need to give. A careful review of New Testament giving reveals that our contributions should not only be to support our local church and ministries, but also meet the basic needs of our fellow Christians. Heb 10:25 reminds us that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Therefore, all Christians should regularly attend a local church and systematically give. Depending on the size of the church and its expenses, would determine how much is needed to support that ministry. We are responsible to systematically take care of one another.

How Did Tithing Enter Into the Church?

The Christians of the first four centuries did not tithe; instead, they gave free-will offerings in great abundance for the church and the needs of the poor. Church buildings were simple, because most of the funding went to help the poor and support the Church-at-large.

The giving of the tithe slowly came into the Church as a means of support for the “Roman” Church and Empire during the time of Constantine. Under the rule of the previous Emperor Diocletian, in the late third century, the Christians were unmercifully persecuted. When Constantine took over the empire in 325 A.D. as emperor, he freed Christians from persecution. In that, he made a rule that “everyone” could worship as they pleased; however, he claimed the empire as Christian. In doing so, most people took on the name of Christian, even though, in many cases, it had nothing to do with the heart.  Emperor Constantine enacted huge ornate church buildings to be built, developed hierarchy protocol church services, with him acting as the high priest of the church (he was earlier a high priest of the pagan sun god), and in order to do so, he excreted enormous sums of money from the people of the empire. In excreting money, he, as emperor, and many church leaders, became wealthy or wealthier.

By the time of the middle ages, between the fifth and sixth centuries, it was mandatory that all Christians tithe 10% to the Church. In addition, the state excreted enormous amount of taxes from the people. Since the church and the state were generally affiliated with one another, the pocketbook of one supported the other. By the time of the Renaissance and Reformation period, the Roman Church was extremely wealthy. The Protestant Reformation, however, brought changes within the Roman Church. As Protestantism grew, and Catholicism was forced to have their own reformation of changes, the giving of the tithe was slowly treated as mandatory and free-will offerings were re-instituted back into the Church.

Most mainline denominations today continue to ask for free-will offerings of support and offerings for building projects.  Many conservative churches, however, follow the tithe for support, with additional offerings for building projects, thus causing the tithe to still remain an unsure doctrine within the Church today.

How Should We Biblically Give to the Local Church

Since all Christians are responsible to be wise stewards before the Lord, even in local church giving, the goal should always be - the more that is given, the more those in need can be reached. The Scriptures are very specific in telling believers to assemble together with other believers. This is primarily done through the local church, with a pastor, or pastors, the needed staff, and a congregation of members. In that, however, there are expenses that must be met, which include the salary of the pastor(s) and staff, building, maintenance, and ministry expenses, missionary giving, and the giving out to the poor and needy. 

There is nothing stated in Scripture which tells the believers to only give to the local church.  We do know, however, that most of the giving to those in need is done through the distribution of the local church.  It only stands to reason then that most of our giving should be to the local church.  That then puts the responsibility of the giver to give to a local church that will use the money in such a way that would honor God and  minister out to others.    

While it is the heart of a believer to want to give, it is also the responsibility of a believer to give where the needs of the needy can be met in the most effective biblical way.  While most churches are very responsible to find and meet the needs of those in need, sadly, there are some that are not.  For instance:  

  • There are churches that allow the pastor(s) to live in luxury, which means supporting a lifestyle which not only violates the heart of Jesus’ command to love Him and others, but this kind of mentality promotes a lifestyle of greed and covetousness within Christian leaders. Never should a church support huge elaborate buildings and ministries, with pastors and church leaders having enormous salaries. Monies should be given to meet regulated salaries and church expenses, having the rest given to those in need.
  • On the flip side, there are churches that refuse to pay their pastor or church leaders a liveable wage.  They then have to find additional employment to meet the needs of them and their families.  Those leaders then cannot give their best to the needs of the people in the church.  
  • In addition, it is dangerous for churches to go into deep debt to purchase expensive ornate buildings.  While buildings are used to house the people of the Church - and that is important - it is critical that we do not elaborate on excess, having great expenditures, or going into deep debt to get what the congregation cannot afford. 

Our hearts then need to be sensitive to understand that the local church needs to be supported in order for it to function as the Lord intends.  Therefore, each Christian must earnestly look into his or her heart to determine where to allocate his or her resources.  Then the amount that is given can be given with a joyful heart, knowing that your giving is making a positive difference in your church and in the lives of other people.  That is reason to rejoice.

Click here to view #18 New Testament Conclusions



Written by Pastor Joyce A. Erickson

Believers Bible School, Founder https://believersbibleschool.com/