Is Tithing Christian?

Should Christians tithe? The New Testament’s answer may surprise you. I’ve found the following reflections from Don Carson to be clarifying and challenging.

The only passage in the New Testament that explicitly authorizes the tithe does so in a rather backhanded way: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices.... But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23, NIV).

So if tithing, specifically, isn’t a New Testament emphasis, how should the Christian think about giving altogether?

[T]he most penetrating New Testament passage on giving is 2 Cor. 8-9. Under severe trial, the Corinthians’ “overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in a rich generosity” (8:2).

Carson concludes with the convicting suggestion (and gospel grounding),

So why not aim for 20 percent in your giving? Or 30? Or more, depending on your circumstances (8:12)? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that... for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9).

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.