Is Tithing the Enemy of Generosity?

The idea of tithing (10%) as the standard for acceptable giving has so permeated the church that no one (including Pastors and Elders) even question it validity or application.  Many pastors and preachers, emphasize tithing in hopes that their congregations will increase their giving above the national average of 3% by evangelicals.  They believe that if they could just get everyone in their congregation to start tithing the church would have more money than it needed to do all that it wanted to do.  Consequently, they fervently teach tithing as the floor that every Christian ought to start their giving at – the minimum entry point.  Pastors are not really aware that while their efforts to promote tithing will increase giving for a few, it actually ends up doing more harm than good to everyone in their congregation.

Take any congregation that is being consistently and regularly indoctrinated with tithing as the giving standard.  Those who for whatever reason (good or bad) are not able or willing to tithe are made to feel guilty that they are giving less than they “owe” God.  So their giving is accompanied with feelings of guilt because they are told they are “robbing God.”

Then you have those who are tithing to the penny.  They are content to give exactly what they have been taught God has prescribed for them to give.  Their giving will only increase as their income increases.  Then there are those rare few who have broken over the tithe standard taught by the church  and are now giving over 10%.  They often look upon themselves with some sense of pride because they are actually exceeding the required, minimum standard of giving.
As soon as you employ some mathematical formula to determine how much someone ought to be giving – what God expects – you actually create a spiritual, psychological and emotional barrier to encouraging generous giving.  We are all fallen, sinful creatures and consequently we want to know what the “rules” are because we want to “please” God. So, if we are given a formula for giving, we will use it as the predetermined acceptable standard and no longer feel any need to seek out God’s will for our personal giving.

Our giving is to be arrived at by careful, personal self-examination and seeking the Lord’s direction in how much we should give as we evaluate this crucial area of financial stewardship.  Paul instructs in II Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give…” In other words, the amount of our giving proceeds from our heart, not from our calculator.  Our giving is to grow out of a personal relationship with Christ and not merely a prescriptive formula arrived at mathematically.

Many pastors I have talked with about generosity vs. tithing express a concern. They fear that if they tell their people they are not required to tithe, the church’s weekly offerings will collapse.  I disagree.  If believers were properly taught and really came to understand and live our the idea of generous giving by faith instead of legalistic giving by math, I believe that congregation’s giving would actually explode.  Once people really understand they need to go to their knees to decide how much to give instead of to their calculators, we will likely see another outbreak of generosity that might compare to the what the Israelites experienced in the construction of the tabernacle.  Their giving was so “over the top” Moses had to command them to stop giving. (Exodus 35:20-36:7).  Generosity is neither clean nor simple and requires genuine soul searching, faith testing and wrestling with God.  In our struggle to find an amount we might find ourselves feeling compelled to ask, “How much can I present to the Lord in order for my giving to be both generous and sacrificial?”

Jay Link is both an ordained minister and the President/CEO of Kardia, Inc.  Find out more at