• Tithing is not just an Old Testament principle because tithing is a biblical principle. The Old and New covenants are not mutually exclusive revelations of God.
  • New Testament instructs us not only to tithe but to do it with a cheerful heart. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Tithing is not just an Old Testament principle because tithing is a biblical principle. The theological dynamic of “progressive revelation” sits at the foundation of the answer to this question, “Is tithing only an Old Testament principle.” This is akin to asking, “Is Jesus only seen in the New Testament?” Jesus did not think so: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Yes, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), is seen more clearly, more fully, and more completely in the New Testament but He, certainly, is also seen in the Old Testament in the same way (Exodus 12:11-13) in the sacrificial lamb of the blood-soaked sacrificial system (Hebrews 9:22).
The Old and New covenants are not mutually exclusive revelations of God. They are not “different” in that sense. One is “better” than the other (Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6). It is not a totally other, other. They are revelations of the same God who works among men in the same ways, albeit, at different “levels” of clarity and completion. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). He is both holy and loving in both the Old and New Testaments. He calls His people to give all of themselves (including their money and resources) in both the Old and New Testaments. The difference is not in the principle. The difference is in its fullness.
It is true that the word “tithe” is seen 25 times in the Old Testament and only five times in the New Testament, all five of which are referencing the tithe of the Old Testament. So, then, there is no “tithe” in the New Testament? To the contrary. As Paul would say, “May it never be!” – “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Romans 3:31). May what never be? May it never be understood that not being under the Law is somehow an exemption from doing the Law. It is not an exemption; it is an enabler.
Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:14-18)
The key phrase in this passage is in found in verse 17 (“you became obedient from the heart). With the greater, clearer, more complete revelation of the things of God in the New Testament comes a greater, clearer, more complete responsibility (Luke 12:48). That greater responsibility is indicative of the greater enabling of the heart as opposed to the mere enabling of religious obligation. This is what Jesus was getting at with His rebuking of the Pharisees. Do I do the Law for show or to check off my legalistic boxes, or do I do the Law from the heart? The Pharisees were ones who demanded to remain “under” the Law, and yet the revelation of Christ offered them a chance to be over the Law; the same Law and the same doing of it, but doing it in a greater, clearer, and more complete way. And so, Jesus challenges us, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In one of the five New Testament passages that references the “tithe,” Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, not for doing the Law by tithing, but for not doing the “greater” Law “from the heart.”
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:23-28).
Although the tithe is a good place to begin in giving, it can actually put people in bondage and provide an excuse not to give more than they really could. The tithe was the minimum amount to give under the requirements of the Law. Thus, in the Church we continue with the concept of the tithe since the principle of giving has not been abolished. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). However, the New Testament offers very little evidence of the continuance of the tithe exactly as it was done in the less revelatory Old Testament. It does offer much evidence of a practice of giving that goes beyond the tithe (Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-3).
As New Testament people, we are no longer under the Law. This does not mean that we do not have to observe the Law; it means that we are now able to keep the Law and, thus, live over the Law. It means that we can not only tithe, but we can, from our hearts, joyfully give above the tithe which is the minimum requirement. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Do our needs really change that much when we are blessed with receiving more money? Is it a biblical principle that we must spend more money when we earn more money? Should the percentage of what we give stay the same when we prosper, or could we increase the percentage? Could we consider what might be called a “variable tithe.”

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, understood and applied the “variable tithe.” Wesley believed and practiced that an increase in income could result in a rise in the standard of “giving” as opposed to a rise in the standard of “living.” Wesley lived his life in this way. His needs did not change much. The amount he gave changed. He lived a simple life and gave away anything that was extra. The tithe is set forth clearly in the Old Testament. So too, it is included in the New Testament. The only difference may be that the tithe can be more of a variable tithe. You do not have to just give 10%. You can give more!

“The directions which God has given us, touching the use of our worldly substance, may be comprised in the following particulars. First, provide things needful for yourself: food to eat, clothes to wear, whatever nature moderately requires for preserving the body in health and strength. Secondly, provide these for your wife, your children, your employees, or any others who pertain to your household. If, when this is done, there be an excess left, then do good to them that are of the household of faith. If there be an over plus still, as you have opportunity, do good unto all men. In so doing, you give all you can. In a real way you give all you have (an excerpt from John Wesley’s The Use of Money”).

Is tithing only an Old Testament principle? Via progressive revelation, the Old Testament tithe points to a greater thing; that is, greater enablement yields greater giving. The Old Testament tithe points to a New Testament variable tithe.


And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:27
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17
We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very 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.  2 Corinthians 8:1-3
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7


The Bible and Money | Practical Theology 268

A thorough investigation of the biblical view of money with a focus on giving and stewardship. Special attention will be given to a natural ministerial outworking of a biblical theology of money; that is, a study of the nature and practice of the biblical mandate to help the needy.


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