The Paradox

One of the great paradoxical mysteries of the church’s teaching on tithing is that the tithe, although required by God, is considered a generous gift from the tither. A Christian, filled with the Spirit of God, will want to honor God by tithing, thus negating the fact that it’s required and negating the fact that it’s a debt.


A tithing article on my church’s website says that “you can’t owe God” is one of the hardest truths about Christianity for the author to wrap his mind around. I would argue that owing God nothing in return for salvation is an incredibly easy truth to wrap one’s mind around. The real difficulty comes in trying to simultaneously wrap one’s mind around God’s concept of free salvation and the church’s concept of required tithing.


According to the IRS, if you earn income and choose not to pay taxes, then based on the IRS Tax Code there are penalties involved and you’ll suffer the consequences. Accordingly, a reasonable person would conclude that, per the IRS, taxes are required. No matter how generous and honorable you feel when paying your taxes, no one in their right mind would consider it a gift. Your emotional state when you pay your taxes has no bearing whatsoever on the situation. Taxes are required, so taxes are a debt.


According to the church, if you’re a Christian and you choose not to tithe, then based on Malachi 3 there are penalties involved and you’ll suffer the consequences. Accordingly, a reasonable person would conclude that, per the church, tithing is required. No matter how generous and honorable you feel when tithing, no one in their right mind should consider it a gift. Your emotional state when you tithe has no bearing whatsoever on the situation. If tithing is required, then tithing is a debt. And if it’s a debt, then salvation is not free.


Don’t confuse the church’s view on tithing with your desire to honor God and support the church. When God blesses you for giving, you’re not experiencing Malachi 3’s blessings in return for tithing, you’re experiencing 2 Corinthians 9’s generous reaping in return for generous sowing. Support your local church, but remember this: There is no minimum requirement. Give from your heart; that’s all He truly requires.