Some Christians firmly believe that the Old Testament 10% rule is still in force for Christians today. They tell inspirational tales of someone who was struggling financially and could hardly find any spare change for the collection plate. Then they began to give 10% off the top of their income and, as if by magic, all their financial needs were supplied.
There are quite convincing arguments against the 10% requirement for Christians in the new dispensation. First, there is no command to tithe to be found anywhere in the New Testament. Second, it is argued, the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance in the promised land, thus the tithe was a tax to support the Levitical priesthood and is not needed in the present dispensation.
I believe these are entirely valid arguments. Does that leave Christians with no direction or guidelines on how much to give? If we are looking for a hard and fast rule, I don’t believe we are going to find it. What I read in the New Testament leads me to the gut-wrenching conclusion that God wants everything I have and everything I am.
The rich young ruler could not handle Jesus’ command to sell everything. Most of the rest of us would like to squirm out of it, too. We may blithely say, “Everything I have belongs to Jesus.” Would an impartial bystander be likely to believe that from the way we use our time and the material things that come into our hands?
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). If everything that we have comes from God and is only a loan to us, can we then give 10% back to God, use the other 90% selfishly, and consider ourselves free?
Here is how it looks to me — the most important thing is that God wants us to trust Him completely, not only for our eternal destiny, but for all aspects of our earthly life. He wants us to trust Him for our material needs, to trust Him to care for our family, our health, and to lead us in a way that will bring true happiness. “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
When faced with decisions regarding any aspect of our life, our prayer should be, “Lord, what couldst thou have me to do?” Asking that question, and waiting for the answer, will save us many heartaches.
I hope this doesn’t sound hopelessly idealistic. I believe it is eminently practical, but we make lots of mistakes in living it. I like the British expression of “muddling through.” I’m afraid that’s all that I am capable of, yet I believe that with God’s help I will be able to muddle through somehow. “ For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
Back to the question in the title, I don’t believe that the New Testament Christian is obliged to give 10% of his income. Many find it a useful guideline. Some give much less, according to their circumstances and stage of life. I know many who give several times 10%. Is it OK to give 20% of our income and 0% of our time? Perhaps the point is to never feel like we are doing God a favour by our giving. It didn’t really belong to us in the first place.