Paul in 2 Corinthians does not support the concept of “tithing.” I am aware questioning “tithing,” which is giving 10 percent of one’s income to the church, is tantamount to almost heresy in some circles. But, I have two proof-texts for this notion:
1. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7).
The fact that each one must do as he or she purposes means that Paul does not have a fixed number, or percentage in mind.
2. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have (2 Cor 8:12).
Here, Paul says one ought to give in accordance with one’s means–this is inconsistent with a flat 10 percent.
Why write about this? Just like I have two proof-texts, I also have two reasons.
1. Tithing ought to be used as a principle, not as a rule. Of course Christians give alms, but they do so in accordance with their means (which, if we are honest with ourselves, are often much higher than 10 percent.) A Christian ought to be looking at the necessity of his or her purchases (vacations, cars, restaurants, etcetera) and ask which is better–self gratification or using the money for the sake of the Gospel?
2. It is hermeneutically dangerous to pick tithing from the Old Testament and say that it is binding, but than ignore other parts of the Law. Granted, Jesus taught that the Pharisees ought to still tithe, but let’s keep in mind–New Testament Jews still followed the Law. This would include tithing. However, we can see that Paul does not employ this same teaching with Gentiles, as they were under a different covenantal obligation.
When interpreting the point of the Law, we must remind ourselves that it is a guide to moral action and it is a tutor that teaches our need for Christ. Christians are not supposed to follow it to the letter, nor do they need to because the Law is written on their hearts. We must remember that the Pharisees sat on the seat of Moses and Christians were commanded to follow what they taught–not because we ought to follow the Law as the Pharisees taught it, but sitting on the seat of Moses they taught the Scriptures and rightfully understood they point us to faith in Christ.
So, to understand the Law as anything other than the preceding, and worse yet misapply it, will confuse the Christian as to what his obligations are before God. What is the work of God? To believe in the One whom He has sent and to do what He commands, which is to love the brethren (see 1 John 5:3). Tithing may be part of that, but it need not be if you cannot afford it–and it is far too little if you have two coats and give nothing to the brother with none.