1] Tithing and generous giving are
biblical injunctions applicable to all people who choose to follow the
way of God. The dedication of ten percent of one's income to God is a
private act of worship and thanksgiving which recognizes Him as Creator.
It is by means of the tithes and offerings of its faithful membership
and interested co-workers that the scriptural commissions of the Church
of God are being fulfilled.
The entire universe belongs to God-He designed it and
created it; He sustains and maintains it. God, in fact, owns
3] God created the material universe,
including the earth and its resources, as a fit environment for an even
greater creation. It was here that God placed man and began the creation
of His own character in children eventually destined to be born into His
own family. Thus, this earth-and its vast store of animal, vegetable,
and mineral resources-is only a preliminary step in a much larger drama
unfolding progressively before mankind. It is God's purpose that human
beings should eventually attain an infinitely greater role in rulership
over God's creation by inheriting not merely this world and its
resources but even the entire universe (Hebrews 2:6-8).
Every human being owes his entire existence to God-his
very life and living. In designing man, God knew it would be in man's
best interest to worship his Creator in the fullest, most logical
manner. Prayer is an important vehicle for that worship. So is obedience
to God's Law, which is His system for governing man's proper behavior
and activities. Tithing is an integral part of that Law.
5] The biblical precepts of tithing
and giving are essential steps in accomplishing God's ultimate objective
for man. The tithe is established by scriptural command and example.
Since it is a recognized scriptural principle that "he that is faithful
in that which is least is faithful also in much," the steadfast tithing
of one's wealth, whether meager or abundant, serves to teach one a
profound spiritual lesson. If a man can learn not only to share his
substance for the benefit of others in a spirit of humility and
generosity, but also to acknowledge that God is the source of all
things, then that man shall be developing the very same spiritual
qualities required to properly handle the far greater wealth he will
inherit in God's Kingdom (Matthew 19:28-29; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
6] It is with this perspective that
the Church of God views the subjects of tithing and giving of offerings.
In seeking to more fully understand the mind of God in this respect, we
look to the Bible as the expression of God's will.
7] Tithing was ordained by God as one
of His ways of teaching man how to honor and worship Him. Tithing is one
of the most important ways by which a godly person of deep conviction
and dedication can express his acknowledgement of, and appreciation for,
God's blessings in his physical life today. Man, through tithing,
continuously acknowledges that God is the Creator and Owner of the
Universe, and as such has a prior claim on the whole content and produce
of our lives.
8] Tithing accomplishes two other
important goals in the Christian's life. Through it we build godly
character by developing a giving spirit. Simultaneously, we are using
our resources to share with others both the message and the blessings of
the Christian life. Tithing serves as a means of expressing one's love
towards both God and his fellow man. The biblical injunction of
cheerfully giving ten percent of one's own income is a physical
procedure designed to teach profound spiritual principles and lessons.
It is, indeed, in mankind's best interests.
9] Since tithing is biblically
enjoined upon all who are called to obey God, the Church of God strongly
teaches the overall laws, principles and basic administrative guidelines
for tithing as revealed in the Old Testament instructions of God. But
tithing, like prayer, is a very private and personal expression of an
individual's relationship with his God. It reflects one's faith in God
and one's appreciation for the blessings that He has bestowed.
Therefore, actual implementation of how one should calculate his tithes
is left strictly up to the faith and understanding of that particular
person. Tithing is a matter between a person and God.
10] God's Church has always been, and
shall always be, a work of faith-a work totally relying on God for
support and sustenance, as well as for guidance and leadership.
Nonetheless, the Work of the Church in the electronic age of the
century requires considerable resources. Gone are the days when
itinerant evangelists would walk from town to town preaching the gospel
wherever they could find an audience. The media utilized today are the
printing press, radio, television, the Internet and mass-audience campaigns. It is no
longer possible to be effective and still earn one's own necessary
expenses while spreading the gospel.
11] Moreover, the Church recognizes
its responsibility to help the poor, indigent and needy in (and outside)
the Church who are not always able to receive government help or
assistance from some other source.
12] Thus, based on biblical
precedents, the Church sees three basic financial needs for which the
membership has a responsibility:
1) Support of the Work of the Church-both in its
efforts to present the gospel to the world, and in providing for the
spiritual care and growth of its membership.
2) Attendance at the annual festivals.
3) Assistance to fellow Church members in
temporary or permanent financial straits.
13] These needs are met by a
three-part system of tithing on the part of Church members:
1) With some exceptions, all Church members
contribute a tithe of their income for the support of the Work of
the Church. This contribution is generally supplemented by various
voluntary offerings. This goes to carry out the first need indicated
2) Members are expected to set aside a tithe in a
special fund to meet the expenses of the annual festivals. This
money is saved by the individual and does not come to the Church
except for a requested small amount to help meet the expenses of
renting large convention sites, or in voluntary offerings given at
the Feast being observed. While those members who can are encouraged
to save the biblically stated ten percent of their income in this
festival fund, it is recognized that this is not possible for all.
Those whose tithe is more than sufficient are asked to provide help
for those unable to meet their festival expenses.
3) Members who are able have the
responsibility-based upon biblical precedent-to contribute to an
assistance fund to help indigent members (and nonmembers as well).
By these means, each Christian expresses his worship of God and
outgoing concern for his fellow man as he practices true
Christianity and develops character.
14] The practice of tithing long
predates the time of the nation of Israel. In the book of Genesis,
tithing is mentioned twice. In both instances, tithing is used as a
means of honoring God, of showing one's profound appreciation for the
blessings God has given. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek on the spoils
which he had gained from his slaughter of the five invading kings (Genesis
14:17-20; Hebrews 7:1-4). His grandson Jacob promised to give a tenth of
all that he acquired to God. This was after his dream of the "heavenly
ladder" at Bethel (Genesis 28).
15] A detailed tithing system was
introduced with the Levitical priesthood. The entire tribe of Levi was
set aside to carry out the sacral functions with the family of Aaron
functioning as a central priestly core. Numbers 18 recounts the basic
method of financing the Levites who were responsible for all the
priestly and temple services. Various types of offerings came to them,
including the firstfruits, redemption price for the firstborn,
firstlings, and portions of sacrifices. But the major means of
sustenance was the tithe. All agricultural produce was to be tithed at
the time of harvest and given
to the tribe of Levi.
The Levites in turn were to give a tenth to the priests. Leviticus 27:30-33 shows that livestock was to be tithed as
well as vegetable produce. Leviticus
27:30-33 shows that livestock was to be tithed as well as vegetable
16] Deuteronomy 14:22-27 describes
another type of tithe. In this case it was not to go to the Levites but
was saved by the individual to meet his expenses for celebrating the
festivals at the central location. This tithe was also levied on plant
produce but not on livestock. Instead the firstling* animals are
mentioned as being eaten at the festival site. This particular tithe is
not given a name here; in later Judaism, it bore the name "second
*A question arises about firstlings. The
firstling was a firstborn male; if the firstborn was a female,
there was no firstling offered to God from that particular
animal. According to Exodus 13:11-15 and Numbers 18:15-18, the
firstlings were to be sacrificed and given to the priests. One
solution which harmonizes the passages understands that the
priests did not receive the entire firstling but only those
parts which they received from other offerings as well, i.e. the
breast and right thigh. The individual bringing the animal could
then use the rest of the meat for his own festival enjoyment.
17] Every third year (that is, the
third and sixth years out of a seven year cycle) a tithe of plant
produce was set aside for the poor. It is not clear from the Hebrew
whether this was designed to be another use for the second tithe or
whether it was a totally new tithe in addition to the second. One
tradition of interpretation in later Judaism indeed envisioned two
separate tithes from Deuteronomy 14, making three in all when the tithe
to the Levites is counted. However, most later sources, in discussing
the question, see only two uses of the same tithe. That is, it was saved
to meet festival expenses in the first, second, fourth and fifth years
of a sabbatical cycle, whereas in the third and sixth years it was given
to the poor. (In the seventh year the land rested and no tithes were
paid. Presumably, the produce of four years was sufficient to meet the
festival expenses for the full seven years.) In any event there are
three distinct uses for tithes in the Bible: supporting the Work of
God, attending the festivals of God, and caring for the poor.
18] Tithing is mentioned in other
passages in the Old Testament. Several texts which describe the revival
of temple services after they had fallen into decay naturally mention
the priestly tithe, since the temple ritual could be maintained only
where the priests were sustained by tithes and offerings (Nehemiah
10:37-38; 12:44; 13:12; 2
19] In addition, two prophetic
passages mention tithing. Amos 4:4 sarcastically calls on the people to
bring their tithes and sacrifices, because these would obviously be of
little value in the state of moral degradation they were in. Malachi
3:6-12 is delivered in a different vein: it equates failing to tithe
with robbery of God. Curses result from failing to bring in the full
complement of tithes and offerings, whereas faithful tithing produces
"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.
But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and
"Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have
robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into
the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove
me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you
the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing" (Malachi
20] Many Old Testament scriptures
emphasize a responsibility to the poor. In addition to the poor tithe
discussed above, provision was made for them in other regulations having
to do with gleaning, leaving the corners unreaped and not returning to
pick up the forgotten sheaf (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-21). If a poor
man had given his coat as a pledge for a debt, he was to be allowed to
have it during the night to keep himself warm (Deuteronomy 24:10-13); the poor
hired hand was to be paid at the end of the day because he had no money.
21] One of the major provisions of
the sabbatical and jubilee years was the release of debts (Leviticus 25:2-17;
Deuteronomy 15:1-11). The Israelites were also forbidden to refuse a loan if
that refusal was based on the fact that the year of release was near.
Furthermore, they were not allowed to charge interest on loans to needy
persons (Leviticus 25:35-36).
22] Oppression of the poor was
considered a proverbial sign of depravity and godlessness (e.g. Job
20:19; 31:19; Proverbs 14:31; 19:17; 22:22; 28:3). It was the duty of any
person of means to help the less fortunate. It was the duty of kings and
rulers to give aid and protection to the widows, the orphans and the
helpless (Deuteronomy 10:18; 27:19; Isaiah 1:17). One's responsibility in this
regard was continuous. There was no reason to think that strict payment
of the poor tithe or other legal demands removed any need for an
ongoing, active concern.
23] Whereas the Old Testament
provides a definitive system forgiving and financial responsibility
toward one's God and fellowman, the New Testament concentrates on the
spirit and attitude behind giving. Christian giving is discussed a great
deal in the New Testament. The proper, godly use of money is an
important subject dealt with by Jesus Christ and the apostles. This use
has two aspects: The first concerns the responsibility of a Christian to
help the poor. Poverty was evidently a major problem in the early
Church, as it was in Palestine as a whole. Acts 4:32-37 describes a
period after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when the Church continued
together in Jerusalem living on voluntarily donated property and funds.
These donations were not compulsory, so when Ananias and Sapphira sold a
piece of property they were not compelled to donate the funds. As a
result, when they did, but only turned over part of the amount while
claiming to be giving it all, they indicted themselves. Their lie for
the sake of self-aggrandizement met with quick retribution (Acts
24] During a time of famine in Judea
the churches in the area of Antioch took up a collection to provide
relief. This indicated that those in Palestine were generally harder hit
than those further north (Acts 11:27-30). Even churches as far away as
Asia Minor and Corinth were encouraged to assist (1
Corinthians 16:1-4; 11 Corinthians
8:1-4; 9:1-5). This is only one of a number of examples.
25] A second aspect of Christian
giving is support of the work of the ministry. The apostle Paul was
willing to work with his own hands to earn his living on occasion.
However, this was only for the sake of expediency, because he did not
want to offend those sensitive to such things. I Corinthians 9 discusses
this in detail. In this passage, Paul is very strong in his comments. He
does not mince words; he does not apologize. He emphasizes that he has
an absolute right to be supported by the churches in his
evangelistic duties. He cites or refers to several Old Testament laws to
support his right in this regard, including the ones concerning the
threshing ox which was not to be muzzled, and the support of the priests
in the Temple. Those who devoted their time to preaching the gospel
should receive their living from this work. Those who had already
benefited from this preaching-those who had already been converted
through his efforts-were the ones who should make possible the
continuation of his work.
26] Paul also cites a precedent from
Jesus Himself. "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who
proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (verse 14).
This has reference to the time when Jesus sent out groups of disciples
preaching in Palestine. They were to preach only where they were
provided with hospitality (Matthew 10:5-15;
Luke. 10:1-12). Thus, Paul states
that Jesus Himself had commanded support of the work of the ministry by
the recipients and beneficiaries of that work. Paul himself had not
taken advantage of this right in the case of the Corinthians because of
their spiritual weakness with regard to this point (verse 12), yet he
gladly received help from other churches (II Corinthians
11:8; Philippians 4:14-16).
27] Many scriptures discuss one's
attitude toward money. It was on the occasion of asking for famine
relief that Paul wrote:
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly
shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall
reap also bountifully. 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. (II Corinthians. 9:6-8).
28] Similarly, Jesus stated, "give,
and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken
together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you
give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38). Obviously then,
generous giving of one's financial resources to do the Work of God is an
absolute command in the New Testament.
29] Money is considered to have
potential for either good or evil. It can be used for good, as some of
the scriptures mentioned imply. It can also be a source of oppression,
greed, egotism and an obstacle to the Kingdom of God. The "rich man" is
proverbial. He was generally expected to be arrogant, selfish and
despotic (e.g. Matthew 19:24; Mk. 10:24; Jas. 2:1-6; 5:1-6). The desire for
money is the immediate source of most evils and is easily capable of
leading even the faithful Christian astray (I Tim. 6:10).
30] Thus, a great deal of stress is
laid on the right attitude towards money. On the one hand, it is right
and even necessary to acquire money honestly to provide for oneself and
one's family (II Thess. 3:10-12; I Tim. 5:8). It is a means of assisting
the less fortunate and of furthering the spreading of the gospel. On the
other hand, it can be the cause of all sorts of wickedness and a major
stumbling block to proper Christian living.
31] Jesus made reference to the
meticulous tithing of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:23; Lk. 11:42). In one of
His parables a Pharisee is made to introduce careful tithing as one of
the signs of his self-righteousness (Lk. 18:12). In each case Jesus is
condemning the emphasis on judging righteousness by external rituals
rather than by the internal and true righteousness of the heart. To have
the one without the other is pure hypocrisy. On the other hand, care in
these outward matters is not condemned but rather encouraged, so long as
the "weightier matters of the law" are not omitted.
32] Consequently then, though it was
not His main point, Jesus instructed His disciples that people who want
to follow God should tithe when He stated "these ought ye to have
done" in reference to tithing (Matthew 23:23).
33] Another direct New Testament
reference to tithing is to be found in Hebrews 7. Here tithing is used
in an argument to show the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood to
the Levitical priesthood. Even though the Levites received tithes, they
had in effect paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham because
Abraham-who as their ancestor had had them in his generative organs, as
it were-had tithed to Melchizedek. Thus, even though Christ was of the
tribe of Judah, which did not have the priesthood in Israel, He obtained
the Melchizedek priesthood, a superior and perpetual priesthood, through
offering Himself as a sinless sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
34] Tithing as a subject per se
is not discussed in the New Testament. The question is, Why? The
explanation obviously lies in the historical environment. Tithing never
became an issue in the culture of the early New Testament church; it was
simply taken for granted.
35] The Temple and its related
service were still functioning until sometime after the beginning of the
war with Rome in 66 A.D. Faithful Jews of the general Palestinian area
would tithe to it. Since no discussion to the contrary is contained in
the New Testament, continued tithing to the Levites would have been
accepted by Christians in Palestine. Indeed, Matthew 23:23 confirms this
from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself, since it is safe to assume that
Christians in those first few decades would have followed what Jesus
Himself had stated so recently.
36] However, it was not considered by
the Judaism of the time that tithing was required for those living
outside the borders of Israel in the same way as it was for the Jews in
the Holy Land who had direct access to the Temple. Therefore, it was
probably in the diaspora that it first became customary to tithe to the
Church rather than to the Levitical priesthood. The fall of the Temple
and the attendant abandonment of the temple system must consequently
have produced a change in Palestine as well.
37] Unfortunately, our sources
outside the New Testament for the early history of the Church are rather
meager. We are not told how the Palestinian Church met the crisis of the
fall of the Temple or the exact system of financing the work of the
ministry throughout the Roman Empire. The change of situation evidently
required a new application of Old Testament laws.
38] Recognizing the importance of the
existence of the Temple during New Testament times is
extremely relevant for understanding why tithing per se was not
discussed as an issue. By the time Jerusalem and the Temple fell in 70
A.D., Paul had already written all of his epistles to the Churches. In
them tithing had not been an issue. It would have been a diametric
contradiction of Jesus' direct words that one "ought" to tithe to the
Temple if the apostles in Jerusalem had decided that Christians should
stop paying tithes to the Temple and start tithing to the Church
instead. It would also have been a severe affront to the priests of God
(whom Jesus Himself had supported), and would have resulted in great
additional accusations and persecutions against the nascent Church. Had
such a radical decision been made, had the Jewish Christians stopped
tithing to the priests and started tithing to the apostles, we would
surely have some record of it. But there is only silence. As a result,
the whole question of tithing as a general Church obligation could not
possibly have arisen until sometime after the Temple had been destroyed.
39] During the New Testament period,
Christians in Palestine tithed to the Temple and freely gave generous
offerings to the Church. Consequently, those who would use the New
Testament's silence on tithing as supposed "proof" that God's Church
cannot (or should not) teach tithing today betray their historical
40] But when the Temple was no longer
in existence, when the Levitical priesthood was no longer functioning, a
new situation arose. Then, as now, the responsibility of the Church to
make binding decisions in applying the laws of God to changing
situations became apparent.
41] In this context, it is worth
considering Paul's discussion of tithing in Hebrew 7. Jesus Christ,
though not a Levite, had a more fundamental (and ancient) right to
receive tithes, as "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" to
whom Abraham (the ancestor of Levi) paid tithes. Therefore, it is
entirely logical for the ministers of Jesus Christ to apply the
statements regarding tithing throughout the Old Testament, from the
example of Abraham to the powerful injunction of Malachi, in teaching
the Church membership that they should continue to worship God through
the same God-ordained system of tithing that God has always used, and
which Jesus Himself supported during His earthly ministry. Only now,
rather than the Levitical priesthood, who are no longer carrying out the
work of God, Jesus Christ empowered His ministry to accept the tithes of
the Church in order to continue the Work of God in this generation.
42] Yet when one
examines the intent behind the Old
Testament system, three purposes for tithing stand clear:
1) The Levitical tithe was a means of maintaining
religious worship and instruction. The theocratic government
envisioned for Israel was, of course, replaced by a monarchy. Yet
the original purpose for the priesthood and the Levites was the
fulfillment of many of the governmental and educational functions of
the country, as well as to supply its religious need. In other
words, in the theocracy of Israel, the Levitical tithe was used to
do God's Work.
2) The festival tithe made it possible to attend
worship services at the central altar during the annual festival
seasons. This was necessary for the maintenance of religious unity
as well as being necessary for individual worship.
3) The poor tithe was a major way of helping the
needy, even though other forms of aid were provided to supplement
43] The Church of God sees similar
purposes continuing today. Tithing, as established by God, is the most
equitable, honest and consistent method of establishing the necessary
income for the operation of the Church. This supportive responsibility
is shared equally by all. Thus, the freewill giving of tithes and
offerings-the biblically revealed system-is the God given responsibility
of all the members of His Church.
44] It should be recognized that the
Church becomes an object of disrespect when it receives only the dregs
of the incomes of its members. God should have the first place in a
Christian's mind-not the last-when it comes to the proper use of his
financial resources; God should come at the top of the list in the
allocation of one's income, not as an afterthought.
45] The Church of God reconfirms and
reemphasizes its adherence to the basic principle of tithing as
established and exemplified in God's Word. The Church teaches the giving
of tithes because it is the law of God. Consequently, the withholding of
one's tithes, which violates that law, is a sin.
46] Tithing is the biblical method by
which God finances His Work. Not only do members of the Church see the
examples of tithing and giving and the admonition regarding them in the
Old Testament, they have also seen and experienced the blessings which
come from faithful tithing and giving of generous offerings.
47] Many otherwise nonreligious
people have attributed their financial success to their own freewill
giving and philanthropic activities. They follow the principle of "it is
more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Conversely, history
and modern society are a witness to the evils of selfishness and
thanklessness toward God. The fiscal ruin of governments and nations
around the world is, at least in part, testimony to the results of
financial management without regard for God's laws and principles.
Calculating-Tithes and Offerings
48] Tithing is an act of worship; it
is a private matter between the individual and God. The Church does not
"enforce" or "police" tithing, but simply teaches the responsibility to
tithe. Each individual has the responsibility to honor the Lord with his
substance and with the firstfruits of all his produce" (Proverbs 3:9). God
has determined that the minimum standard whereby one honors Him is a
tithe of one's income. However, what is to be considered income is not
necessarily the gross amount taken in. In ancient Israel one tithed his
"increase" or produce because there were no tangible expenses. This is
not true in modern society. A continual tithing of one's investment
would erode the money-producing base. Therefore, it is recognized that
what is to be tithed is what comes in over and above the monetary
49] It is considered the
responsibility of each individual to determine what his "increase" is. A
businessman would naturally deduct the cost of doing business before
computing his tithe. If one invested an amount of money which had
already been tithed, he would not tithe the entire investment each year,
only the actual profits. These examples illustrate that only one's true
"increase" is to be tithed. To reiterate, each person should
conscientiously determine for himself what his increase is as an act of
worship and of obedience to God.
50] Some individuals wonder whether
one should tithe before or after government taxes. Here are some general
principles to consider.
51] First of all, it is not the tithe
that has become a burden, but skyrocketing tax rates. The "tithe" is
always a tenth, and never a burden. But taxation rates vary widely and
are subject to constant adjustments. A fundamental fact generally
overlooked is that in ancient Israel each individual head of household
was responsible for making his own decisions, before his God, as to what
constituted "increase." Nowhere in all the Bible are specific details or
regulations given. God's law provided each head of household with an
area of land on which he did not have to pay property tax-much, less
rent or purchase price (Numbers 27:11; 32:1-5, 33-42; Joshua 13:8ff., n.b.
v. 14). This was the acme of financial security.
52] Furthermore, when God gave
instructions about tithing cattle, He did not require the first animal
that came down the chute-even though He could have: He asked for the
tenth. If no tenth animal came through or passed under the rod, God did
not take anything. He simply did not claim the first tenth, only a tenth
(Leviticus 27:32-33). The conclusion is that the Israelites did tithe on the
bulk of their income. God allowed offerings to take care of that. We
follow the same practice today. The Church does not generate a whole
legal code governing the interpretation of "increase."
53] In Israel, under Saul, ten
percent was exacted from the people for human government in addition to
the tithe which was part of the tithing system God had instituted when
He had established the nation as His own. Many other burdens were
imposed by Saul besides the ten percent tax (1 Samuel 8:10-18). The
imposition of taxes in Saul's reign has an important bearing on the
question of tithing before or after taxes today. Did Samuel make a
ruling that Saul's tax was now deductible from one's increase prior to
determining God's tithe? No such ruling is anywhere recorded in
Scripture. The Church today has no biblical precedent for deciding that
all taxes withheld from salaries are deductible prior to figuring the
tithe. On the other hand, the governments of this world seldom limit
themselves to a ten percent tax structure. Many are collecting
twenty-five percent, thirty percent, forty percent or more in income
taxes-oftentimes without allowing any deductions for donations to
charitable or religious organizations. In effect, this suggests that
governments can exercise the right to a prior claim--prior even, to that
of God's-to one's earned income. This becomes obvious when certain
countries have legislated eighty to ninety percent tax rates for
individuals in the upper income bracket. For individuals in this
category to pay tithes on their gross income requires over one
hundred percent of their income, a self-evident logical absurdity.
54] Obviously, whenever any
government allows its tax rate to become prohibitive, it is proper for
the individual whose tax burdens are significant to seek relief from
that tax burden by modifying his increase or tithable base. The laws of
certain countries-the United States is the best example, permit the
taxpayer to adjust his tax base downward by the amount of his charitable
contributions. This mitigates the effect of the tax-especially for those
in higher tax brackets-and allows a person to more easily continue to
tithe on his gross income. In any case, the individual, not the Church,
must make whatever decision is appropriate. Whether in a general
situation or on any specific question, the individual himself is
responsible before his God and he alone must answer to God for his
stewardship. This is crucial.
55] Attitude is the key
factor. The Church's doctrine on tithing must not be used by members as
if it were a legalistically worded personal income tax form, hopefully
providing various "loopholes" to lessen tax burdens. No one shall ever
enter God's Kingdom with a miserly, selfish, grasping attitude of "get"
instead of the loving, sharing, helping attitude of "give." The
individual must know, in his deepest conscience before God, that he is
living in faith before God and is staying on the generous
side of his personally calculated tithing obligations.
56] It is the Church's and the
ministry's responsibility to teach the general principle and to provide
biblical examples as guidelines. With every nation having its own tax
laws, and constantly changing its law at that, there is no possible way
for the Church to make a definitive and equitable decision applicable to
everyone in the matter of tithing before or after taxes. The same
principle holds true for any other potential deduction used to determine
one's real "increase" or tithable base.
57] Before coming to a decision
regarding, whether to tithe before or after taxes, an individual needs
to consider several things: his own financial capacity, the tax rate,
the deductibility or nondeductibility of charitable donations, and the
benefits received from taxes. These factors vary from country to
country. For example, many countries have free education, free medical
care, child allowances, and many other systems of financial returns on
the tax dollar. How one figures his tithable base and what deductions he
makes, are both very personal, private matters between the individual
and his God. Any questions of conscience should be more than resolved
with the giving of generous offerings when one is able so to give. God
is calling us to be co-workers in His work today and preparing us to be
sons in His Family tomorrow. Our financial responsibilities toward Him
are a significant aspect of our stewardship-they are not part of a game.
God knows our minds and our hearts, and whatever we do or think is
obvious to Him.
58] Other factors may influence one's
decisions in determining the precise nature of his tithing
responsibilities. For example, in a situation where a converted husband
has an adamantly antagonistic mate opposed to tithing, the man may
consider his wife entitled to half the income. This means that the man
pays tithes and offerings only on one-half of his actual income.
Further, a wife whose antagonistic mate prevents her from tithing at all
should consider herself free of any obligation.
59] God's Church uses the tithes of
its members and interested co-workers to pay for the spreading of the
gospel to the world, which is the Church's commission (Matthew 24:14;
28:19-20). These tithes also serve to support the ministry whose primary
concern is care of the local congregations. These two broad concerns
cover a multitude of specific activities on the part of the Church.
60] Yet the basic tithe on income
does not fulfill one's obligation to God. It simply represents the
minimum of a Christian's responsibility. Most Christians freely give
offerings well above what is required.
61] In ancient Israel other dues were
also required (firstlings, firstfruits, redemption of the firstborn,
etc.). In addition, the Israelites were commanded not to appear
empty-handed at the annual festivals; they were rather to bring
offerings, each according to God's blessings (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). These
were offerings of animals on the altar. The material offering today is
monetary, and is contributed to help the Church do its Work rather than
being burnt on the altar. The amount is voluntary, to be determined by
each person on the basis of what he can afford and how he has been
blessed by God.
It is not the policy of the Church to take up offerings
at regular Church services. Normally, each individual sends in his tithe
and offerings privately. The only offerings taken up in services are on
the seven annual holy days in accordance with the biblical command.
62] Attendance at the annual
festivals is considered mandatory for Church members except under
unusual circumstances. Most holy day services are conducted in the local
church areas and do not require extensive travel or time away from home.
However, the Feast of Tabernacles is conducted at a few central
locations and generally requires some travel as well as necessitating a
person's being away from home for the entire eight days. Consequently,
one's participation requires planning ahead.
63] Based on the precedent of the Old
Testament festival tithe, the Church teaches its membership to set aside
an additional tithe for festival expenses. Since the calculation of the
festival tithe in the Old Testament was slightly different than for the
Levitical tithe (omitting cattle but including firstlings, which were
usually fewer than ten percent of a flock or herd), the exact percentage
of one's income saved for the festivals may be somewhat variable.
Nevertheless, the biblical standard is a tithe, even though it may be a
test of one's faith to set it aside. If one feels he is unable to save a
full tithe, he should save what he can and still attend the festivals.
64] The precise administration of the
festival tithe, in both its saving and its spending, is the sole
responsibility of each individual. Those who have more than enough
should make their excess available to those less fortunate who are
unable to afford to attend the Feast. This can be done by sending the
excess to a central fund which the Church maintains to help those with
65] The money each member saves in
his own festival fund is, of course, his to use-within biblical
parameters-for his own enjoyment of the festivals. He may wish to take
part or all of his holy day offerings from it, but any given to the
Church is done so on a voluntary basis. The festival fund is not money
for the Church, but money for the individual: to enable him better to
worship God, to learn to be a responsible and mature member of the body
of Christ, to enjoy the physical pleasures God has made available, and
to help others rejoice as well. Because part of the expense of the
central Feast of Tabernacles celebration is the cost of renting
facilities, the Church, as a purely administrative policy, may request
the members to send in a portion of their festival fund to help meet
this collective Church expense.
Assistance to the Needy
66] While the exact implementation of
the Old Testament tithe for "the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless,
and the widow" (Deuteronomy 14:29; 26:12 is not entirely clear, the Church
applies it in principle as a method of providing funds for the
assistance of the needy. A significant number of members either follow
precisely the biblical system of setting aside a tenth of their income
in the third and sixth years in a cycle of seven, or they apply the
intent of the law by averaging the amount of tithe over every year. The
primary goal is, of course, to develop the godly attitude of giving
cheerfully to help one's fellow man. Many people follow this today and
have personally experienced the additional blessings that come from so
67] One should be willing to help
others in whatever way possible, whether it be in time donated, in gifts
of goods or money to charity, or in one-on-one aid where needed. But for
the assistance of its own members who are in need, the Church maintains
this "assistance fund" to which those who can are asked to donate.
68] Of course, anything sent in to
this fund should be for the poor, not from the poor. It is
neither wisdom nor godliness to make one's own self and family destitute
in order to help others. It makes no sense at all for a person to
attempt to contribute to the Church's assistance fund when that
contribution is going to place his own family in need of assistance. A
person can give to the point that he destroys his base for producing the
income which allows him to give. This does not reflect the mind of God.
One has to be willing to sacrifice everything, even one's own life, if
necessary, in the service of God. Yet the time for such sacrifice occurs
only on rare occasions. To sacrifice one's health or to ruin one's
finances when the occasion does not demand it is foolish.
69] On the other hand, to withhold
aid when one has the ability to give, to help and to alleviate suffering
is often condemned in the Bible, Just as one's financial resources may
be a means of showing love to another person, so is excessive concern
about material possessions a way of showing un-concern, selfishness and
even hate. Over-generosity is seldom (never?) criticized in the Bible;
lack of generosity is often censured (Matthew 25:31-36). It is the policy of
the Church that the membership contribute to the assistance fund on an
individual basis according to their individual ability.
70] In the light of varying laws
regarding welfare, Social Security, national health programs, etc.,
which can be considered a part of our assistance to the poor since they
are supported by our tax dollars, there is considerable latitude in the
interpretation and implementation of this special "poor tithe."
Consequently a person can decide on his own what percentage of his
income he shall give to help the poor according as he is able and as God
has blessed him. Of course, it is meaningless for those receiving
assistance from the Church or government to try to aid others until they
are financially sound themselves.
71] Christians are to care for those
in need who are ineligible for government welfare, or who cannot subsist
on welfare alone. We must all, as much as possible, go above and beyond
the taxes we pay for welfare in taking care of the needy and the
handicapped. In fact, biblical law teaches that we must do more than
fulfill the poor tithe (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). Even the strict payment of a ten
percent poor tithe did not relieve Christians of their continuing
responsibility to be concerned for the poor.
72] In summary, it is the policy of
the Church to continue the tradition of the biblical "poor tithe" to
take care of its needy, with whatever modifications are necessary to
adapt it to our present economy. The Church has the God-given
responsibility to make such decisions based on biblical directives and
principles, and the individual member has a similar responsibility to
determine what his proper contribution should be.
The Law of Giving
73] Service to God consists of many
things. A multitude of people will voice the desire to serve God,
whether or not they really intend to seek out the means of doing so.
Perhaps no other area is more sensitive in this regard than the
financial one. But, as the book of James states, Christian love consists
of more than kindly words or sweet platitudes. One can, of course, serve
through encouragement, counsel and prayer. But the work of the Church
cannot go on in this modern world without the necessary finances.
Diligence in this area is often the test of one's real desire to serve
God, to discover whether one is willing to put one's full faith in His
Laws and His Ways.
74] God is the greatest giver. He is
the one who gives life and makes everything possible and enjoyable by
His wonderful creation. God has set the example of giving by supplying
what could never be repaid, and giving it to those who could never
return the favor. Giving is at the heart of Christian love. We all
receive; we show our appreciation by offering and contributing what we
can to God and to our fellow man. God, in His infinite love, gave us His
Son, setting the ultimate example of generosity. The biblical precept of
giving tithes and offerings provides man with the opportunity to emulate
this facet of God's character in a material as well as a spiritual way.
75] By establishing a minimum
standard of ten percent, God teaches us that we can give more to Him
than is "required"-and makes us inwardly richer in the process. Many
people have liberally given above and beyond what would be "required" in
order to do God's Work more effectively, and to assist the needy in
God's Church more fully. As a direct result, these generous Christians
have experienced the great rewards, both physically and spiritually, of
76] Tithing must be-and must so be
represented as being-a very personal matter between the individual and
his God. It must never become a case of some being more "righteous" than
others in determining their tithable base. The offerings of everyone
should be sufficiently above and beyond what is "required" (depending on
individual circumstances, of course) that any doubts about having tithed
fully and properly before God are obviated.
77] Everyone should be careful in
giving specific advice in matters of tithing to others. How one
determines his increase is a personal matter between that person and
78] The most important point to
remember is simply that tithing, like prayer, demonstrates the very
essence of one's own personal dedication to God, to the Savior, Jesus
Christ, and to the very Work of which Christ is the living Head. We
cannot enter into God's Kingdom by deception, either in our private
prayer lives or in our private tithing lives. We must beware of the
"leaven" of the doctrines of either extreme: of the Pharisees, who
tithed with rigorous, minute, painstaking and self-righteous effort; or,
conversely, of those who are careless with their income, think selfishly
and do not have a true spirit of giving. Christ commands us to "Give,
and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). Giving is commanded.
Nevertheless, God allows us to decide whether we will obey.
79] Never should any person attempt
to "check up" on somebody else concerning faithfulness in tithing. We
all should recognize that if a person is being unfaithful in tithing, he
will, in all probability and as a natural consequence, be slackening in
other equally personal aspects of private Christian life. The
attitude and the intent of the heart are the whole thing-they
are what counts.
80] It is not Church policy to
disfellowship a Church member for not tithing. When serious spiritual
problems emerge and tithing is one of several other deeply personal
matters which come to the surface, disfellowship may have to occur. But
neither the primary nor the covert reason for such disfellowship should
ever be the amount of one's contributions.
81] Those who hold, or seek to hold,
offices of spiritual responsibility in the Church should be judged by a
higher standard. The position of trust that they hold before the
brethren presupposes that they have been found fully faithful in the
area of tithing and generous giving. Those who teach others what to do
are required to first set the proper example in their own lives.
82] Far more important than an
individual member's wisdom regarding the manner in which he determines
his increase is his attitude toward it. A truly converted
Christian is full of the spirit of giving-and is not
filled with greed, covetousness, selfishness or resentment for having to
give to God's work. God looks on the heart, not in the pocketbook. It is
where Christ's ministry must also look-on the heart. And indeed, this is
what the Church stresses. The Pharisees tithed with punctilious
exactness, but it took a widow with two mites to illustrate generosity
of heart-she gave her all.
83] The Bible is replete with
financial admonitions, for example, in 2 Corinthians 9:5 Paul states:
"Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren..."
9:6-9 goes on to fully exemplify God's attitude.
"Remember: sparse sowing, sparse reaping; sow
bountifully, and you will reap bountifully. Each person should
give as he decided for himself; there should be no reluctance,
no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver. And it is in
God's power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you
will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every
situation, with enough and to spare for every good cause.
Scripture says of such a man: He has lavished his gifts on the
needy, his benevolence stands fast for ever." (NEB)
84] Tithing is a God-ordained means
of giving. It supports the Church, enabling it to become God's
instrument in performing His Work of giving that most precious thing,
knowledge of the way to salvation and eternal life. Tithing also makes
possible material help to hundreds and thousands of unfortunate people
who do not have enough. Tithing is a natural and living law of God which
is awarded in many ways, even though reward is not the object of that
giving. Many faithful tithe-paying Christians have learned that one
cannot out give God. The opportunity to tithe is considered a privilege.
Those who have dedicated their lives to God can testify that there is no
greater blessing than that which comes from the outgoing actions of
helping others. Tithing is an expression of honor, love and obedience to
God and His laws, and of outgoing concern toward both the brethren in
the Church and the people in the world.