Tithing and Charities: My Response

by David Croteau

The problem I have with answering this question is that it assumes a certain view of the tithe that I explicitly reject. I do not believe that 10 percent of income is a requirement for Christians. Therefore, the short answer would be: Christians can take the amount they have decided to give and split it between their local church and other charities without fear that they are robbing God … with one major caveat.

First, the definition of the tithe must be clear. The tithe in the Old Covenant refers to Israelites giving 10 percent from the increase of their crops or cattle. It was always connected to the land of Israel (crops from the land or cattle that fed off the land) and never referred to income in general. It definitely was not 10 percent of income. Let me illustrate.

Leviticus 27:32 says “Every tenth animal from the herd or flack, which passes under the shepherd’s rod, will be holy to the LORD” (HCSB). So, if someone has 10 cows, the 10th cow that passed under the rod would be given as a tithe. 1 out of 10 is 10 percent. However, if they had nin9e cows, they would give 0, meaning 0 percent. If they had 19 cows, they would give 1, meaning about 5 percent. So, what percentage did they give? No one really knows because it was different for everyone. Also note that “money” is discussed numerous times in the first few books of the Bible before the tithing Law occurs in Leviticus 27. While Israel may have been primarily an agricultural society, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have money or deal in money.

Second, I need to discuss the one caveat I referred to above. I do believe that Christian giving should place the highest priority on their local church. It’s not that other charities aren’t worthy, but verses like Galatians 6:6 lead me to believe that when one joins a local church, they should commit to supporting the ministries of that church. If your local church is struggling financially, trim down your giving in other areas and increase your giving their. We give over 75% of our giving to our local church. The remaining 25% goes to missionaries or other charities. However, if our church had a shortfall and needed more, we would probably sacrifice more and give to our local church, rather than take away from the missionaries we support.

Conclusion: It is not “robbing God” to support charities, but your local church should not be suffering financially because of your support for those charities. My favorite quote about robbing God comes from John Piper: “My own conviction is that most middle and upper class Americans who merely tithe are robbing God.” The wealth of many (but not all) Americans means that the consistent application of the principles for giving explained in Scripture would result in giving that exceeded 10 percent of income.