One of the main objections or confusions regarding giving tithes today is that since tithe (10% of your income) was a requirement in the Old Testament, the question goes: “Why are New Testament churches requiring tithes today?” It is true that nowhere in the New Testament does it say that Christians must tithe. While some churches misuse the text in Malachi 3: 10 to guilt people into giving with great returns, nowhere is there a command to give tithes in the New Testament. However, when the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he took a very different approach. To encourage the Corinthians to give generously to the Jerusalem church, Paul used the generosity of the Macedonians as an example to the Corinthians.
He wanted them to know (v. 1) “about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” Although these churches were (v. 2) “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” The grace of God they experienced overflowed in a wealth of generosity despite their extreme poverty (not prosperity). It was their “abundance of joy” in the gospel of grace that moved them to give generously. In other words, they gave more than tithes (which was an Old Testament requirement). As New Testament believers who have received so much grace, Paul said, (v. 3) “they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.” They exceeded tithes.
And instead of appealing to their guilt, or manipulating them to give at the level of their will power, Paul said, (v. 8) “I say this not as a command.” Rather, he pointed them to the riches of the gospel that they have already received: (v.9) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.”
In his reflection on the story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus in the New Testament, Tim Keller said that Zacchaeus, after having repented:
“promised to give away 50 percent of his income to the poor. This was far beyond the 10 percent giving that the Mosaic law required. Today, to give away even 10 percent of our income to charity seems an enormous sum, though wealthy people could do much more and still live comfortably. Zacchaeus knew that when he made this offer. His heart had been affected. Since he knew salvation was not through the law, but through grace, he did not aim to live by only fulfilling the letter of the law. He wanted to go beyond it........Did Jesus ‘tithe’ His life and blood to save us or did He give it all? ... We certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position of giving away less of our income than those who had so much less of an understanding of what God did to save them.“ (Tim Keller: Counterfeit Gods)
In simple words, if New Testament believers have received more grace than the Old Testament believers did, we have more reasons to give liberally. Our giving will always be in proportion to our understanding of the gospel of free grace. Our giving will either be motivated by self-congratulatory pride (“I give my tithes regularly”) or fear (“If I don’t give it will make me look bad”). But in the gospel, we can be motivated by the grace of God in Christ “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Jesus became poor in order that we might become rich eternally. God has deposited the riches of the gospel in our hearts and therefore we have more to give than anyone else living on the face of the earth.
This is why Paul says, “see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (v. 7). Let’s marvel at our rich King who gave His all for us, and let’s excel in this act of grace also.