Tithing or Cheerful Giving?

“My rich dad gave money as well as education. He believed firmly in tithing. ‘If you want something, you first need to give,’ he would always say. When he was short of money, he gave money to his church or to his favorite charity.”

– Robert Kiyosaki, RICH DAD, POOR DAD

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

-Jesus Christ (Acts 20:35)

Robert Kiyosaki believes in tithing (or at least his rich dad did). I don’t know if Kiyosaki is a Christian or not, but I do know that many Christians don’t practice tithing. (If they did, we won’t have that many financially struggling churches and underpaid pastors!) They may pay it lip service, but actually practicing it? I doubt many do. So what do they believe and practice? Cheerful giving – and the lesser the giving, the more cheerful it is! Sarcasm aside, there’s actually a theological basis for thinking that Old Testament tithing is not required of New Testament believers. I remember reading a book a long time ago entitled Decision Making and the Will of God. If I remember correctly, this book teaches that tithing in the Old Testament was a form of taxation for the nation of Israel, and that the tithe reached up to 33% of one’s gross income. So even if we give 10% we’re still not practicing tithing according to OT standards. Moreover, Christians are no longer under the law but under grace. They’re freed from the law of tithing and are free to practice cheerful giving instead. Of course, there are those who disagree with this view and who insist that the law of tithing binds New Testament believers. They’ll point to verses in the NT that mention tithing, as well as raise the practical issue that if people don’t tithe, the ministry will suffer.

Each side has points in their favor, but this isn’t the place to delve deeply into this debate. However, I should confess that when I was young I was exposed to some detrimental teaching regarding tithing. At least the way it was taught sounded like blackmail to me. I remember listening to a sermon about two farmers: one tithed and the other didn’t. A storm passed by and destroyed the non-tither’s crops; the tither’s crops, however, were miraculously spared. Take-home lesson: tithe or else! On the other hand, the problem with some (many?) Christians who believe in cheerful giving in lieu of tithing is that the cheerfulness might be there, but the giving leaves much to be desired.

Does one really have to exclude the other? Isn’t it possible to tithe (and beyond) cheerfully? Whether one believes in tithing or not, there is no question that we ought to be generous. And even if we say that we are no longer under the law (of Moses) but under grace, being under grace doesn’t remove us from being under the law of love. And love is willing to give more than the law requires, not because it is legally obligated to do so, but because it delights to do so. So give cheerfully. And tithe cheerfully too. This doesn’t have to be a case of “either-or”. It can be “both-and”.

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