I have always wondered about this tithing thing and I am a believer in it. Nearly a decade ago I realized that giving helped me handle my finances better. Or, having a heart to give motivated me to work on our family’s handling of finances so we could tithe. What has bothered me is a legalism about a number over the heart of what generosity truly is. I have known people who said that they were “growing in their giving” by increasing their tithe beyond the 10% only to see pride and comparison. It is as if we can simply do our duty and actually achieve a form of righteousness. This is what legalism does—it lowers God’s standards so we can say we are achieving them.
D.A. Carson, a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School wrote an article in Christianity Today entitled, “Directions: Are Christians Required to Tithe?” [Read more from the CT library] Carson makes the point that in Matthew 23:23 we see a correlation between tithing and social justice. This passage is the only explicit, albeit “backhanded”, New Testament mention of tithing.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23 (English Standard Version)
We see in this passage that you cannot separate the social aspects of justice and mercy from tithing. Jesus does not say to the Pharisees to stop one for the other. Simply to give a part of your income to your church and not be a part of the “weightier” issues in God’s law such as feeding the poor and loving your neighbor exemplifies a tin ear to God’s heart. To turn tithing into a numbers game wrecks the freedom to give without compulsion.
So, are we supposed to tithe? I think, like Carson does, that this is not an easy answer. What is better is to arrange your life so that you can both support the local ministry you are a part of and the social needs of people as God directs. If you are in a church showing mercy, you are at an advantage. You know that your money is being invested wisely. Here is something harder. It is easier to give when we can see the benefit to us whether a youth wing for the church or new ministries for our kids, but it is an offering when as an act of worship we realize that no benefit to us will come from the sacrifice. It is an act of worship to give when we know that it is not for extended brownie points in heaven, but simply out of love for our God. Who is keeping score, anyway?