Malankara World

40 Questions Answered

By H.G. Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios

QUESTION 40. Should a Christian tithe?

Tithing was an obligatory legal discipline in the O. T. (Gen. 14: 20, Lev. 27: 31; Nu. 18: 24-28: Dt. 12: 6; Neh. 10: 37; Am. 4: 4; Mal. 3: 8-10; Lk. 18: 12). Those who were not tithing were robbing God (Mal. 3:8). That which was legalistic tithing in the O. T. is a part of Christian stewardship in the N. T. According to the N. T. all are only gifts of God and so are accountable to God for all of one's possessions. A Christian who tithes, but does not use one-tenth according to the will of God is not a true Christian. The trusteeship principle taught by Mahatma Gandhi is a Christian idea.

Did Jesus want us to tithe? He did not tell the Pharisees to stop tithing. What he told them is applicable to us Christians also: "Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done it without neglecting the others" (Lk. 11:42). The emphasis is on justice and the love of God. Christian tithing must be as part of these two Christian traits. As Christ says, 'these you ought to have done.' He is recommending tithing. Even if the verse is interpreted other way round, still He says that we should not neglect tithing.

Love of God and justice to fellowmen must be our main concern. Again, when Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the thing that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's " (Mt. 22:21), the Jews must have understood it as the need to give tithe, first-fruits etc. unto God. We know that everything we have is God's and we tithe as an expression of our gratitude for His multifarious gifts to us. The advantage of setting apart one-tenth for charity is that we will always have a fund to give to the needy without any heartache.

Christian giving should not be out of compulsion, but out of the joy of giving. (Read II Cor. 8 & 9). The one verse that Jesus said that is not read in the gospels, but only in the Acts is, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The idea is that happiness is more in giving than in receiving. If tithing is a legalism in the O.T. it is a dynamic joy in the N. T. If the Jew felt satisfied after having given the tithe, first-fruits etc., the Christian feels that he has not given as much as he should. The widow who offered all her living in the two mites that she offered in the treasury in the temple was praised by the Lord as she did not keep back anything for herself, but offered all what she had. Christ is not looking for the amount or quantity of giving, but the quality of giving. "God so loved the world that He gave......" We love our children and we give them as much as we can. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Lk. 12: 34). It also means where your heart is, there your treasure will also be. We will give to the poor and the needy with as much joy as we give to the children if our hearts are with the Lord and the poor.

The answer then is that the least a Christian should do must be tithing. As John Wesley said, "work as hard as you can, earn as much as you can, use as little as you can, and give as much as you can." This is what the parents do for the children and we must do the same for the Church, the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the jobless.

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