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I cannot find in the New Testament an obligation on Christians to tithe 10% of their income. Instead I read that it is up the individual to decide:

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984)
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Is there a church tradition established by the early church to encourage everyone to tithe 10%? What was the early church's view on tithing?

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+1, everyone hears "tithe 10%", but I've never thought to check in the bible about that.. :) –  RCIX Oct 26 '11 at 5:44
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"to tithe 10%" is a bit like saying "to quarter 25%" (i.e. it is a tautology). Is the question here "are they called to tithe?" or is it specifically the 10%? –  Marc Gravell Oct 26 '11 at 7:37
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Since you disagree with the edits (which is fine, I've rolled them back), I'm going to have to close this as Not Constructive. Since this isn't asking about any particular doctrine or denomination, this question is too wide ranging as it stands. Please see this post on how to get your question reopened. –  Richard Oct 26 '11 at 13:56
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@Richard Perfectly good question, no less constructive than many on this site. Plenty of questions about practices that differ between denominations are allowed. Reopen. –  DJClayworth Oct 26 '11 at 13:58
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Read as the historical question (i.e. what did the Early Church think), this is fine: that's what I read it as and answered to. Read as a doctrinal question (what is the current thought) is fine too, although a bit broad. But restricting a current doctrinal question to only allowing answers that are based on Early Church teachings is misguided: no Church restricts their doctrine to just pre CE 100-200 teachings. –  user72 Oct 26 '11 at 14:05
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6 Answers 6

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The word tithe itself comes from the Old English teogoþa, meaning "tenth" - so technically, tithing is the giving of a tenth by definition. But of course that's not what you're asking!

The idea of giving a tenth comes from the Old Testament:

Leviticus 27:30-33 (MSG):

"A tenth of the land's produce, whether grain from the ground or fruit from the trees, is God's. It is holy to God. If a man buys back any of the tenth he has given, he must add twenty percent to it. A tenth of the entire herd and flock, every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod, is holy to God. He is not permitted to pick out the good from the bad or make a substitution. If he dishonestly makes a substitution, both animals, the original and the substitute, become the possession of the Sanctuary and cannot be redeemed."

Deuteronomy 14:22-29:

Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year. Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates for worship and there eat the tithe from your grain, wine, and oil and the firstborn from your herds and flocks. In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live. But if the place God, your God, designates for worship is too far away and you can't carry your tithe that far, God, your God, will still bless you: exchange your tithe for money and take the money to the place God, your God, has chosen to be worshiped. Use the money to buy anything you want: cattle, sheep, wine, or beer—anything that looks good to you. You and your family can then feast in the Presence of God, your God, and have a good time.

Meanwhile, don't forget to take good care of the Levites who live in your towns; they won't get any property or inheritance of their own as you will.

At the end of every third year, gather the tithe from all your produce of that year and put it aside in storage. Keep it in reserve for the Levite who won't get any property or inheritance as you will, and for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow who live in your neighborhood. That way they'll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work.

But, as you rightly say, in the New Testament we are instructed to give what we can, or to give whatever we feel is the right amount. Working out what that right amount is, is of course different for each person and therefore many have sought guidance on what the correct amount should be.

The passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy don't just give an instruction but give some reasoning too; by giving ten per cent of everything in worship to God, we still have enough left over to live comfortably on.

When we look at Jesus' teaching on giving, he calls us to give much more than 10 per cent:

Matthew 19:21 (MSG)

"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me."

Mark 12:40-42 (MSG)

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all."

On that basis, we might view ten per cent as the minimum we should be giving. The church I attend (a "New Church") teaches that we should give what we feel is the right amount, 2 Corinthians 9:7 indicates - but as a guideline 10% should be a starting point. (My church also practices what it preaches - 30% of income is given away to other projects and charities).

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Actually, the question was never about modern church doctrines. I've edited the question to more clearly show that he is interested in the historical perspective of the biblical and early church. –  Richard Oct 26 '11 at 13:20
    
@Richard Thanks, I'll reword that bit of my answer –  Waggers Oct 26 '11 at 13:26
    
@Richard, Waggers: I think I need help here. I was going to reply that Richard's statement was, "not true; my intention is to ask about modern church practice - does 10% apply to us, today? What does the Bible say and, if the Bible is silent, was there a precedent set by the early church?" However, I don't see how I can ask for a modern day interpretation without, as Richard stated above, either asking for either a doctrine or specifically about the early church... nice catch, Richard. –  Wikis Oct 26 '11 at 13:39
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@Waggers you make a good argument that the NT does not specify an amount, and that the tithing rules no longer apply, you then completely spoil it by making up your own rule - that 10% is the minimum. –  DJClayworth Oct 26 '11 at 13:56
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@DJClayworth There's a difference between a rule and a guideline; perhaps I haven't made it clear that the 10% minimum is a "best practice" / rule-of-thumb type thing as opposed to the hard-and-fast rule that existed before. I'll think about how I can better express that in my answer, thanks for pointing it out. –  Waggers Oct 26 '11 at 15:20
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Giving everything (or even 10%) is an evangelical counsel: it's not required for salvation. As you quote, the early Church only directed its members to give what they could, not a minimum amount (much less everything). Paul even writes, just before the passage you quote, in 2 Corinthians 5:5:

So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for your promised gift, so that in this way it might be ready as a bountiful gift and not as an exaction.

And while I'm no Biblical scholar, Matthew 19:21 ought to be read in context. Just preceding this verse is Matthew 19:16-17:

16Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
17 He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

That's it: the only thing required for salvation is to keep God's commandments, which Jesus enumerates in Matthew 19:18-19: poverty or charity is not listed among them.

Then taking the verses after and including Matthew 19:21:

21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”
26Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Jesus is saying in verse 21 that if you wish to be perfect, you ought to sell everything and give to the poor, but the verses that proceed from verse 21 explain how impossible that is for people without God.

The disciples' astonishment and query to Jesus in verse 25 speaks to this, essentially saying, "whoa, nobody's going to do that: does this mean nobody will be saved?" Jesus in verse 26 then specifically states that God will save human beings by performing the impossible task: saving those who couldn't normally be saved because they aren't perfect.

Or as the New American Bible explains:

Riches are an obstacle to entering the kingdom that cannot be overcome by human power. The comparison with the impossibility of a camel’s passing through the eye of a needle should not be mitigated by such suppositions as that the eye of a needle means a low or narrow gate.

Beyond that, the Didache, an early Christian writing that dates to around the same time as Paul, mentions one of the ways you could tell a false Apostle from a real one:

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

It wasn't until much later that justifications for tithing were formulated: the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions the first serious attempts to tithe dated to around 567 CE and 585 CE with the Councils of Tours and the Maçon, respectively.

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Here Jesus confirm the tithe in the NT:

Matthew 23:23 KJV
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

And here, author of Hebrews explains whom receives that tithe:

Hebrews 7:8 KJV
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

Another aspect is, in the Melchizedek era, before the law, Abraham gave the tithe Melchizedek, impling that that "rule" is transcending from laws.

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I thought someone would quote these words of Jesus. But these are written to men under the Law, not to Christians. –  Wikis Oct 26 '11 at 10:46
    
The second quote is recording the author of Hebrews words about Melchizedek: I don't think there is any doctrinal statement on tithing here. –  Wikis Oct 26 '11 at 10:48
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@Wikis: author of Hebrews - fixed. –  Click Ok Oct 26 '11 at 11:50
    
@Wikis: The author is doing a parallel between Jesus and Melchizedek. Here, he is speaking about "of whom it is witnessed that he liveth": Jesus. –  Click Ok Oct 26 '11 at 11:52
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Tithe was for the people of God before the Christian time. For true Christians, the Bible is very clear.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984):

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

This verse or any verse in the New Testament does not say "at least 10%". If you belong to the only true Church of Christ today and not of any man-made churches which were predicted also by the apostles, then this Biblical teaching of giving cheerfully from what our heart has decided continues to be in practice as a doctrine.

For more information/question about the true Church of Christ today, I invite you to see incmedia.org

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Welcome to Christianity SE! I agree, but this wasn't the question. The question was about the practice of the early church. –  Wikis Oct 6 '12 at 17:30
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As Wikis said, welcome to Christianity.SE. We do appreciate participation from any theological tradition, but we do have some structured rules about how answers need to match the question asked. I suggest you read up on our meta faq about answers when you get a chance. Also please note if you have any affiliation with the site you mention. Linking to outside resources is acceptable, but we'd like to see affiliation if there is any. –  Caleb Oct 6 '12 at 18:50
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Tithing was an obligation in the OT because there were Levites working at the temple and had no inheritance .all that was given as tithe was to make God's temple have abundance .one, to feed the temple workers and two to check on the compliance of the sons of Israel. We had a lot more of God's demands to the sons of Israel to check their loyalty but because they failed, it prompted God to send Jesus to the world as the reliever of these commands and requirements. Jesus unified the sons of God right from Israel to the gentiles thus the gentiles could not partake of these rules. secondly the gentiles redeemed by grace if they were to take part in the cultures, it would have been necessary for God through Jesus to illustrate and teach the gentiles to take part in it since this is not clearly communicated as God had sworn not to do anything before revealing to his people, the issue of 10% in in the interest of men not God.

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Welcome to C.SE. This is interesting information, and forms the nucleus of a good answer, but it doesn't actually answer the question being posed. –  Affable Geek Jul 29 '13 at 14:58
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Is simple impossible that the original church established by Jesus and Apostles have requested Tithing to it's members. Why? Very Simple.

The Levites Where a Life and in exercise of their functions under the law of Moses in those early days!

So asking for tithing will have been to violate their rights. The original members were also Jews.

This is why the church only asked for donations. But the real missionaries like Paul, worked with their own hands to provide for himself. Remember the one in Salarie, do not worry about the sheep but their salary.

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Welcome to C.SE. I'm sorry to say, I just don't understand what you are saying. –  Affable Geek Mar 11 at 3:26
    
Sometimes Paul worked to support himself, sometimes he relied on the financial support of others. He said in 1 Tim 5:17-18 that Christian workers should be paid. So although you're right that money can be a distraction from godly ministry, being supported can help protect you from the distraction of worrying whether you'll be able to feed your family. –  curiousdannii Mar 11 at 6:52
    
Paul did work with his own hands in one city, but he also received gifts, particularly from the Philipian Church. –  Narnian Mar 11 at 12:30
    
What I have been trying to say is that in the early Church of Jesus, the apostles would not be able to collect tithes. Why? Because the Levites where in full exercise of functions. so try to do so will be usurping levites rigths will be a sin against the Traditions of the Jewish nation, all early christian were Jews, Until Paul started to Convert Gentiles. and He does not mention the Use of tithing in His writtings, on the contrary, He defended the principle of no Moses law for gentiles. Lets hope is more readable now. –  Ivanc Apr 7 at 2:49
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