Most Bible believing churches in our generation practice what is called “storehouse tithing.” This means church members consider it a responsibility to give one tenth of their income to the church, and the leaders of the church then use these funds to pay the salaries of the various ministers and to invest in other ministries, including missionary endeavors, Christian school programs , and especially construction and upkeep of church properties. The income of the church is the visible power of the church, so church leaders naturally seek more funds to accomplish even more. Freewill offerings above the tithe are also encouraged, and many churches practice fund-raising activities, especially for radio and television ministries. When practiced honestly and wisely much good has been done by the church’s financial power wielded by spiritually-minded church leaders.
Nevertheless, even in the best case, this system is not scriptural. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find church members tithing to a church. There are no church buildings or properties mentioned in the New Testament, and if any did exist no emphasis is placed on raising funds to build or care for them. No church leader was ever hired by the church, or paid a salary out of church funds. And the Bible states, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal” [2 Corinthians 10:4], implying we are not to look at our material possessions as the source of our power. The apostles considered financial decisions to be a hindrance to their ministry [Acts 6:1-4]. Jesus said the wealthiest church was actually poor and miserable and blind [Revelation 3:17]. And he even warned us about hired ministers [John 10:12,13]. The New Testament, in fact, shows us a more excellent way.
Tithing was God’s arrangement in Moses’ time to separate out a tribe to serve him, namely the Levites, who received no inheritance of lands, and whose occupation was to care for things of the tabernacle and the written law. To compensate the Levites for their service, and to fund their spiritual ministries, God commanded the other tribes to separate one tenth (or the tithe) of their income and to bring it at specified times to the “storehouse.” When the tribes failed to tithe to the Levites God accused them of robbing him, and refused to bless them with abundance until they complied.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. [Malachi 3:10]
Jews were still tithing to the Levites as late as New Testament times:
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: [Hebrews 7:5, see also Luke 18:12, Matthew 23:23, etc.]
Besides the tithe to the Levites the Hebrews were expected to give freewill offerings out of their increase, bringing them to the sanctuary to give to the priests, including the very first return of their investments, the firstfruits of the land and firstlings of the flocks, and of whatever they produced, oil, fleece, wine and wood.
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: [Proverbs 3:9]
Centuries later the Jews would deposit money offerings in a chest with a hole bored into it, placed accessible to the public on temple grounds. [2 Kings 12:9] This continued all the way into New Testament times.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. [Mark 12:41]
Jews that believed that Jesus was the Christ did not stop tithing as Jews, even after the beginning of the Church. Their nation depended upon this income, like all nations depend upon taxes imposed to fund necessary government functions. Christian Jews continued to tithe and bring offerings to the temple to support their nation.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. [Acts 24:17]
But the first Christians had another interest besides their nation. They were interested in the gospel and in the church. After Pentecost many Hebrews from other countries who had believed the gospel remained in Jerusalem to be a part God’s great work, but this left them under a financial burden, with no permanent residence in Jerusalem, and many without a livelihood. The local Jewish believers responded with extraordinary generosity, many of them selling their own inheritances and laying it at the apostles’ feet. [See Acts 4:32-37]. The apostles used these funds to provide for those families specially in need. [See Acts 6:1]. This situation in Jerusalem lasted a few years, until persecution became so severe the original church was largely dispersed, and providentially these believers found themselves spread out over the rest of the empire, taking the gospel with them. The example they had seen, however, was not of believers tithing to the apostles or to the church, but of brethren so committed to the work of God they were ready to give everything they had to supply a special need. Over the years the churches in other cities followed this early example, raising funds by freewill offerings to supply the special needs of the persecuted church in Jerusalem.
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. [Acts 11:29,30]
But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. [Romans 15:25,26]
The apostles themselves left ordinances to the churches among the Gentiles to be generous toward these special offerings.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. [1 Corinthians 16:1,2]
Furthermore, the churches among the Gentiles were taught to contribute generously toward the ministers of the gospel, supplying the needs of local pastors and teachers. This was taught as a principle, that those who receive spiritual blessings should respond with material offerings.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. [1 Corinthians 9:14]
It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. [Romans 15:27]
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? [1 Corinthians 9:11]
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. [Galatians 6:6]
And the principle even emphasized that those who ministered well in the word and doctrine should receive more than others.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. [1 Timothy 5:17]
The churches were also taught to give generously to evangelists carrying the gospel to other people. One way they did this was by raising funds to help evangelists passing through, to pay their passage to the next towns.
And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [Acts 15:3]
Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. [Acts 28:10]
Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. [Romans 15:24]
And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea. [2 Corinthians 1:16]
They also were encouraged to send offerings to those ministering afar off, especially to those ministers who had once ministered to them.
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. [Philippians 4:15,16]
But it is noteworthy that these offerings were never offered as a tithe to any church. They were freewill offerings designated for specific purposes. Men, called “messengers of the churches,” were chosen to carry these gifts to their respective destinations. [See 2 Corinthians 8:23]. Storehouse tithing, as practiced by many congregations, was unknown to the churches in the New Testament. From the beginnings of the church in Acts to the end of the New Testament there is no example of a tithe being given to any church, or any Gentile believer tithing at all. It is also noteworthy that there is no example of an offering plate being passed. There is no record of anything being sold by the church, or any other fund-raising method. Modern financial practices among the churches today are without any Biblical foundation. However, there are many Bible exhortations to give – purposefully, generously, and willingly.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. [2 Corinthians 9:7]
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. [2 Corinthians 8:12]
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality… praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift. [2 Corinthians 8:2-4]
He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; [Romans 12:8]
For these reasons, to follow the scriptural example, in our church we do not practice Storehouse Tithing, but use a system of Designated Offerings instead. Find out more also in our Church’s Financial Policy.