Stewardship –April 2020


On the topic of stewardship, one of the most common questions a person might ask is not whether a Christian should give to their church. Everyone knows this. Of course, Christians should give to their church.


The most common question: “How much should I give?” But what they really mean is this: “Should Christians give a tithe of their income to their local congregation?” So, let’s look at why you should or should not tithe.


Following are some reasons often offered for why Christians shouldn’t give a tithe to their church.


Some say you shouldn’t tithe because it isn’t expressly commanded in the New Testament. Lacking that command, there is no “Thus saith the Lord” and no “should” for giving a tithe to your congregation.


Others say that Christians give to their congregation in ways much broader than money. They give of their time and their talents, and these, together with treasures (money), add up to more than a tithe.


Still others say they give of their treasures to other things besides their congregation, and they want to support those things alongside their church.


And there are those who think Christians shouldn’t tithe because of fear. If they tithe, they are afraid their gift will be misused, and they are afraid they won’t have enough to get the things they use, want, or need.


Following are some reasons for why Christians should give a tithe to their church.


Even though the New Testament doesn’t specifically command Christians to give a tithe, the Old Testament people were commanded to tithe and did. On top of this, St. Paul often describes the giving Christians are to do in similar terms as a tithe: a regular and generous proportion of the first fruits of their income (1 Cor. 6:1–2; 2 Cor. 8:7–23; 2 Cor. 9:2–7).


But here’s another way to think about it. What was the point of the tithe in the Old Testament? Where did it go? The reason for the Old Testament tithe was to support the full ministry of the Levites. They were not given any land because they had no time to farm; their full-time job was the ministry.


What does it say in the New Testament? “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). This is the verse that Luther put in the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties to cover what Christians owe to the support of the ministry.


It seems clear from both the Old and the New Testaments that the tithe is the goal of Christians in their giving. But what if we’re not there yet? How should we handle this? What are we to do?


Let’s answer this by asking a different question about something entirely different. What would you say to your adult children who only attended church quarterly or once a month? There, is after all, no passage in the New Testament that requires Christians to go to church weekly. Hebrews 10:25 is the closest we have, and it states simply for Christians to not neglect gathering together. Even though there is no passage that commands Christians to gather weekly, that is the implicit expectation throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is the goal.


So, what would you say to that son or daughter? I’d expect that conversation would be something like this: “I’m glad you’re still going to church. It is a wonderful blessing to hear God’s promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and to receive His gifts in the Word and the Sacraments. But you can do better, and it will only be a blessing to you. There is a better way, and I’d really like you to try to attain it.”


This same conversation is how we should approach the topic of the tithe. It’s not specifically commanded in the New Testament, but it sure seems like the implicit expectation of both the Old and New Testaments. So, the church is ecstatic that you’re giving when you’re giving in all these ways – time, talents, and treasures.

© 2020 St. Paul Lutheran Church
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