Under the Old Testament people gave a tithe - 1/10 of their income.
Genesis 14:20; 28:20-22 - Both Abraham and Jacob gave tithes prior to the giving of the law at Sinai.
Leviticus 27:30-33 - Moses' law required Israelites to give a tithe (tenth) of their increase to support the Levites. In addition, Israelites also gave free-will offerings, taxes, and other gifts to support the combined religious service and civil government (Numbers 18:21-32; Malachi 3:7-10; Exodus 35:29; 1 Chronicles 29:1-19; Deuteronomy 12:5-19; 14:22-29; Nehemiah 10:34-39).
Hebrews 10:9,10 - The old law, however, is no longer binding since Jesus replaced it. This means churches today have no right to require Christians to tithe. (See also Romans 7:1-7; Colossians 2:14,16; Galatians 3:24,25; etc.)
However, the Old Testament can teach us useful lessons (1 Corinthians 10:6,11; Romans 15:4). We might want to consider that, if most Israelites were able to give at least 1/10 of their income to support religious work, why wouldn't most people be able to do the same today?
Nevertheless, the New Testament teaches a different principle.
Acts 11:27-30 - And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Note: Every man determined to give according to his ability. What can we learn from this?
1. Every individual must determine how much to give. It is not the responsibility of the church, the elders, or a preacher to tell any individual how much to give. Each one should decide for himself.
2. Each person should give according to his ability. Some people ought to give more than others because they have more ability. Others have less ability and so are not expected to give as much.
But this also means that, as ability increases, giving should increase. Some folks continue to give the same amount they have for years, even though their income has increased. (See also 2 Corinthians 8:12; Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 25:14-30.)
Furthermore, Bible principles of giving apply to Christians around the world and in every century, not just in twenty-first-century America. We may not be wealthy by our standards but, compared to people in other societies, the average American Christian has great prosperity, great ability, and therefore great responsibility to give generously. [Luke 12:48]
Have you recently given careful consideration to your ability to give? Is it possible that you really ought to give more because your ability has increased? Are you giving as God would expect of those whom He has blessed so richly as He has the people in this country?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2017
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