Tithing and Stewardship


I have been hesitant to write about tithing and stewardship because it is an uncomfortable topic and I am aware of the deep seated disputations on the subject.  On the one hand, those who argue for the tithe in Christian context claim that those who do not support tithing are greedy, unfaithful and unwilling to give back to God.  On the other hand, those who argue against the tithe argue against the perceived legalism inherent in specifying a rate of giving.

Tithing, the practice of giving a tenth of one’s income to the church, has been a staple in many Christian communities for a long time.

My own position is that tithing can be legalist and limiting, but the issues are far more nuanced than they appear on the surface.  I think the underlying principle is stewardship and I think that many on both sides of the discussion do not really think deeply enough about the implications of stewardship of the things that God gives us.  It is really a question of whom we serve, God or Mammon.

For a detailed theological read on the subject, I recommend that you read “Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views”.[1] The book contains four quite different perspectives on tithing.  The only one of these views I find really objectionable is Gary North, who I feel reduces tithing from a conscience matter to a do or die, transactional perspective.  I really do not accept his highly legalist view.

Underlying issues

Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li[2] note the decline in church giving in recent decades.  Where once, giving to religious causes totalled 40-50 percent of all charitable donations, this has now declined to less than a third.  As the economy seems to tighten once more and of course, with cost-of-living pressures increasing, the rate of giving will take a hit.  It’s inevitable.

It is understandable of course that churches will then start preaching more and more about the tithe.  It makes sense.  The underlying issue is that churches provide a valuable service to their membership and the general community and this must be funded. 

The principle of ensuring that services to the community are properly funded is mentioned first in Deuteronomy 25, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain”.[3]  It is expanded upon by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9.  Paul makes it clear that God set this law in place as a general rule for all.  The preacher who sows spiritual things among us is entitled to a material claim on us.  In simple language, church members must pay their way according to their financial means.

Biblical Tithing

I think one of the principal issues to resolve is, what actually is biblical tithing.  David Croteau[4] points out that there are three major passages in the Mosaic law related to tithing (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:20-28 and Deuteronomy 14:22-29).  These explain the function of the tithe in ancient Judaism.  He points out that the tithe related to agricultural produce rather than money[5] and that there were three tithes.  The three tithes mentioned are the Levitical Tithe (that was in turn tithed to the priest class) (Lev 27:30-33; Num 18:25-28), the festival tithe (Deut 12:17-19) and the charity tithe which was offered every three years (Deut 14:28-29).  Thus, the actual value of the tithing was twenty percent every year and thirty percent in every third year[6].

Of course, we are not subject to the law of Moses as Christians. We are therefore not responsible to the Tithing laws.

Pre-Mosaic Tithing

Some reference pre-Mosaic tithing as a foundation for tithing outside the law and therefore something that Christians might be subject to.  Abram’s tithing to Melchizedek is a very different kettle of fish to the later tithing associated with the Mosaic law.  It was directly related to a vow rather than as a practice of giving, though it was similar to other ANE practice.[7]  It was ten percent of the spoils of war (Gen 14:17-24 cf. Heb 7:4). 

We therefore need to be very careful not to conflate the practice of tithing under the Mosaic law and Abram’s devotion of ten percent of the spoil to Melchizedek.  This has more to do with the concept of Herem (Devoted Things cf. Josh 7:1) in the conquest of the land than Tithing.  It is a recognition of the sovereignty of God as represented in the person of the priest Melchizedek.

Jacob’s “tithe” is even more straightforward (Gen 28:22).  It was a vow to God that in return for safety and peace (particularly in relation to Esau) he would give a tenth of all that he is blessed with.  There is no record as to who he gave the tenth to.

Malachi, Tithing and Stewardship

Malachi 3 is a call to repentance and a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  It is addressed not to Christians but to Israel before the advent of Christ.  It has however been taken out of its covenantal context where the keeping of the law resulted in blessings, to a modern-day false teaching of prosperity.  I won’t get into the discussion of the prosperity gospel here.  I will save it for another day.


Stewardship of our resources has everything and nothing to do with tithing.  We are not called to give a measly ten percent of our income, but to give all that we are.  The motivating force behind a generous giving must not be a rule about percentages, but the desire to glorify God.[8]

“The earth is the Lord ’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psa 24:1).  Everything we have is God’s, but he has given us dominion over it (Gen 1:26-28).  He has not given it to us so that we can exploit it.  We have this gift in stewardship.  Matt 25:14-30 illustrates stewardship in the parable of the talents.

God Cares about Stewardship

God cares about how we spend time, income and talents given to us by him.  The problem with tithing is that we think of it in terms of ten percent of our worldly income.  On a Sunday, we are reminded to give this fixed portion as a tithe of our wealth and stop there. 

Instead, the true prosperity model for a flourishing servant of God[9] is one where all of our being is wholly devoted to God.  This requires prudent cultivation of the blessings of God towards Shalom, peace with God and flourishing under his gaze.  Jesus’ return as prince of peace is not about coming back and stopping all the fighting, but as the great reconciler.  Jesus will reconcile us to God in peace so that we might finally flourish into physical, emotional, social and spiritual relationship with God.[10]  This speaks of an alignment of all that we steward with God, our persons, our emotional alignment, our social activities and spirituality.

Honouring God in Stewardship

We are to honour God with our wealth by stewarding it well (Prov 3:9-10).

At its core, stewardship means that we make choices that further the purpose of the one who has given us stewardship.  The gift of grace should generate a desire to give more and more of ourselves.[11]

Reggie Kidd[12] in commenting on Clement of Alexandria’s “The Rich Man’s Salvation” says that we are called differently. Some of us are called to divest ourselves of everything and follow Christ.  Others are called to stay home and invest our talents in our families whilst others are called to minister as itinerants.  Our giving is to either be by going or by staying, giving freely and giving prudently.  One thing is certain, however, whatever our giving, we must do so as a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). [13]  We are, after all, accountable for our stewardship (Rom 14:12; Luke 12:42-44)

Godly Choices

Stewardship therefore is a matter of Godly choices.  Choices made in faith, according to the Spirit and directed to the furtherance of God’s will.  These choices mean that we direct all of our efforts to those things that in our spiritual judgement will best accomplish the purpose of the Divine Spirit. 

Part of that is being certain that we are ensuring those that minister to us are properly remunerated for their efforts.

I will let Reggie Kidd[14] have the final say here:

“When I first trusted Christ, someone gave me a tract about ‘one priceless pearl’ (Matt 13:46).  In the tract, heaven (or a relationship with God) was portrayed as a possession so valuable that to try to purchase it would diminish its value and insult God who wishes to give it freely.  Nice lesson about God’s grace.  But that is not what the parable means. 

The parable says the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who finds one valuable pearl (apparently in some marketplace) and goes, sells all he has, and purchases it.  In the parable, there is ‘one priceless pearl’ up for purchase.  The question is, what is it going to cost you, and are you willing to pay it?  The pearl doesn’t cost 10 percent.  It costs everything.  The question of a measly tithe pales beside the realisation that Jesus’ coming presses the more important questions of justice, mercy and faith with respect to our money, financial assets, and possessions.”

It’s a radical choice of faith we make, to turn ourselves over to the acquisition of this pearl of great price.[15]


[1] David A. Croteau, ed., Perspectives on Tithing : 4 Views, 1st ed. (B&H Publishing Group, 2011).

[2] Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics : Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do about It (Grand Rapids, UNITED STATES: Baker Books, 2019), 18, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/dtl/detail.action?docID=5899490.

[3] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved

[4] Croteau, Perspectives on Tithing, 58.

[5] Croteau, Perspectives on Tithing, 59.

[6] Croteau, Perspectives on Tithing, 59–61.

[7] Francis L.C. Rakotsoane, “Is Tithing a Justifiable Development in the Christian Church?,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77.4 (2021): e1–6, https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6243, http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6243.

[8] John K. Brackett, On the Pilgrim’s Way: Christian Stewardship and the Tithe (Ridgefield CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1996), 1.

[9] Tanweer Akram and Salim Rashid, Faith, Finance, and Economy : Beliefs and Economic Well-Being (Cham, SWITZERLAND: Springer International Publishing AG, 2020), 36, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/bst/detail.action?docID=6135411.

[10] Akram and Rashid, Faith, Finance, and Economy : Beliefs and Economic Well-Being, 37.

[11] Brackett, On the Pilgrim’s Way, 6.

[12] Croteau, Perspectives on Tithing, 89.

[13] Francis L.C. Rakotsoane, “Is Tithing a Justifiable Development in the Christian Church?”

[14] Croteau, Perspectives on Tithing, 90.

[15] Brackett, On the Pilgrim’s Way, 48.


Akram, Tanweer, and Salim Rashid. Faith, Finance, and Economy : Beliefs and Economic Well-Being. Cham, SWITZERLAND: Springer International Publishing AG, 2020. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/bst/detail.action?docID=6135411.

Brackett, John K. On the Pilgrim’s Way: Christian Stewardship and the Tithe. Ridgefield CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1996.

Croteau, David A., ed. Perspectives on Tithing : 4 Views. 1st ed. B&H Publishing Group, 2011.

DeYmaz, Mark, and Harry Li. The Coming Revolution in Church Economics : Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do about It. Grand Rapids, UNITED STATES: Baker Books, 2019. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/dtl/detail.action?docID=5899490.

Francis L.C. Rakotsoane. “Is Tithing a Justifiable Development in the Christian Church?” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77.4 (2021): e1–6. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6243, http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6243.

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