Question: "How should I decide how much to tithe?"
Answer: The apostle Paul frequently taught the early church about giving. Jesus taught His disciples to give, as well. But neither Paul nor Jesus nor any other passage in the New Testament compels believers to tithe. Tithing is an Old Testament requirement for Israel to provide the Lord with one tenth of one’s income (the word tithe means “tenth”). The New Testament, while not demanding a tenth, does present several principles to help us decide how much to give to the Lord.
The first New Testament principle of giving is to give regularly, on a weekly or monthly basis, as Paul instructed the churches in Corinth and Galatia to do (1 Corinthians 16:1–2). We are to give as a regular part of our corporate worship. Practically speaking, it’s easier to give small amounts more frequently than large sums all at once. Likewise, the church has ongoing needs and financial obligations that require steady weekly support.
The second New Testament principle is to give in proportion to our income. Paul taught to give in keeping with how much we have prospered and according to our means or ability (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:2–3). If we have prospered significantly, we ought to give a more substantial amount. And if we have prospered only a little, a smaller gift is entirely acceptable.
Next, the New Testament teaches believers to give generously, and even at times sacrificially, but not to the point of personal deprivation (Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 8:2–3, 8; Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:17–18). Believers are instructed to give deliberately to meet genuine needs, with a joyful heart, and not out of guilt or compulsion merely to appease an urgent request (2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:7; Philippians 4:16). In other words, our giving ought to spring from our own free choice. When we see a fellow believer in need, particularly a minister of the gospel, we should try to meet that need if we are able (1 Corinthians 9:14; 2 Corinthians 8:12–14; Galatians 6:6).
According to Scripture, our greatest motivation for giving ought to be our love for others. Just as Jesus Christ died for the sins of others, we ought to give of ourselves for others (2 Corinthians 8:8–9). Another reason to give is that God promises to reward and bless us when we do (2 Corinthians 9:6; Luke 6:38). “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
These New Testament principles of giving are centered on one key factor: the believer’s relationship with God. Deciding how much to give to the Lord ought to be a matter of prayer. As we seek to know God’s heart through a consistent relationship with Him, we will discover the Lord’s will concerning how much to give. It may be the conventional tithe, or it may be some other amount.
Believers are to be willing to offer to the Lord whatever He may ask, whether it be 1 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent, or 100 percent. Through our giving, the Lord matures our faith and grows our dependence on Him. It has been said that financial giving is not God’s way of raising money but of developing character in His children.
As we recognize all that Jesus Christ has done for us, we will want to offer ourselves humbly and wholly to God as living sacrifices of worship to Him. Our giving will flow freely from hearts filled with gratitude and indebtedness, knowing that everything we have and everything we give already belongs to God. We own nothing. While the tithe may be an Old Testament concept, the New Testament requirement is radical and total obedience to the Lord, who guides every aspect of our lives, including our giving.