tithing vs giving

Tithing vs Giving

There is a distinct difference between tithing vs giving, and it all comes down to our motive. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular passages of scripture that are often misused to get church attendees to give money.

tithing vs giving 1

Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel were the first record in the entire Bible of someone bringing an offering to God. Remember this was long before the Law and the 10 Commandments were ever introduced, and they gave God an offering out of free will. There was no stipulation that demanded they should give anything to God or to the church, because the church didn’t even exist yet.


In Genesis 14 we have the first record of someone actually “tithing” in the Bible, and then he didn’t even tithe from out of his own possessions, but gave a tenth of the spoils from a battle he’d just won. Abraham had just defeated the four kings with his 318 men:

Gen 14:17 When Abram came back from his victory over Chedorlaomer and the other kings, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in Shaveh Valley (also called King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19 blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram!  20 May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised! And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered. (GNB)

There was no person nor any law that forced Abraham to tithe, because the Laws of Moses were only introduced 430 years later:

Gal 3:17 What I mean is that God made a covenant with Abraham and promised to keep it. The Law, which was given four hundred and thirty years later, cannot break that covenant and cancel God’s promise. (GNB)

Because so many ministries these days are facing financial difficulties, they often “encourage” their members to “give” generously to the work of the Lord. Unfortunately most of the time the Bible verses used and the motives given are Law-based. Note the following saying: If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill. If He leads He feeds.

If a ministry were really commissioned by God and the people established in Grace, the leadership would never have to preach on tithing because the members would automatically give out of a motive of love. They would feel they are actually contributing towards something significant and not feel they HAVE to give just to help their ministry’s struggling cause. When God really commissions a ministry He always provides for that ministry and its people supernaturally. God equips the called.

Malachi 3

Teaching people to tithe out of Malachi 3 is Old Covenant Law! Remember that the entire Bible was written FOR us, but not the entire Bible was written directly TO us. This section of the prophetic book of Malachi was written specifically to the nation of Israel who was still living under the Old Covenant Laws and had at the time turned away from God. The following is a short extract from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Book of Malachi: Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and is supposed to have prophesied B.C. 420. He reproves the priests and the people for the evil practices into which they had fallen, and invites them to repentance and reformation, with promises of the blessings to be bestowed at the coming of the Messiah.

The prophet Malachi was rebuking the nation of Israel for forsaking God and not keeping the Law of Moses, which included tithing. And what were the results of breaking these laws? Curse upon curse (see Deut 28:15 onwards). But we know that we are not under the Law of Moses and its curses anymore, because Christ became a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Now with this in our minds, let’s read these often misunderstood verses:

Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. But you said, “In what way shall we return? 8 Will a man rob God?” “Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, “In what have we robbed You?” “In the tithe and the offering!  9 You are cursed with a curse; for you are robbing Me, the nation, all of it. 10 Bring all the tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house. And test Me now with this, says Jehovah of Hosts, to see if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you, and pour out a blessing for you, until there is not enough room. 11 And I will rebuke your devourer, and he shall not decay the fruit of your ground against you; nor shall your vine miscarry against you in the field, says Jehovah of Hosts].

Often verse 10 (above) is used by preachers to encourage people to give and to “test” God’s faithfulness. This is Law-based preaching again because this teaches that only if people do their part then God will do His part. But actually God has already proven His love and faithfulness towards us:

Rom 5:8 But God has shown us how much he loves us: it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! (GNB)

In fact God never has to do a single thing again to prove Himself faithful, because He has already given his most treasured gift: His own Son!

And the most ironic thing is this: When people are recommended to “test God’s faithfulness, they are normally also given the bank account details or very conveniently told where they can deposit this money with which they intend to “test” God. Subtle messages are often passed down to church members through pictures like these:

tithes and offerings

What we should really be doing is to not even call it “tithing” in the first place, because “tithing” refers to the giving of an exact amount of money (10% percent of your income), turning it into a stipulation or law again. We can therefore clearly see the difference between Tithing vs Giving. If believers wish to give money to the work of the Lord, they are commanded to do so cheerfully:

2 Cor 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

If giving 10% of their income does not make someone cheerful, then they shouldn’t give at all! If giving 5% or 40% or even 1% of their income is what makes them cheerful, then that is what they should give. In the end, whatever a person chooses to give, it’s all about their motive. If somebody isn’t giving anything at all and they do so cheerfully, then that is their choice: they shouldn’t give just because the feel they need to give, read 2 Cor 9:7 again. So let’s not call it “tithing” but instead “giving”.

tithing vs giving

Giving in the New Covenant

So in the light of the New Covenant, where then does “giving” fit in? The answer is two-fold:
The first part of this answer relates to our positional standing with God; our identity in Him: Giving fits in exactly where holy living, obedience and loving other people fit in – it is something that happens simply because of who we are. Our inner nature, our born again spirit is now holy and set apart unto God and good works is something that just flows out from us as naturally as breathing. There is no effort or striving, but simply rest and a motive of returning love to the One who loved us first. His love for us is so complete that nothing we do can ever make Him love or accept us more. And if He cannot love us anymore than He already does, then giving money to the church to earn His love really becomes meaningless and perverted, just like all other works of self righteousness.
Secondly this answer relates to the natural realm, to our physical lives and the expansion of God’s kingdom here in the earth. God made the earth in the way that almost everything functions by means of money. Therefore in order to mobilize missionaries, build churches, resource evangelists, etc. the church needs financial resources to function. Paul preached that people, who put their lives into spreading the gospel, should be able to live off the gospel:

1 Cor 9:3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

And because this is true then it means that those who draw benefit from the message (the hearers) have a responsibility to care for the needs of the ones who are bringing the message. But even so, the most important thing is that it should be out of a motive of love and a cheerful heart. Believers are not supposed to be manipulated into giving for whatsoever reason. The amount we give should be “as we purpose in our hearts” as we have read in 2 Cor 9:7 (above). There are churches where people are “motivated” to give so much to the church that they take out second mortgages on their homes, whilst the pastor spends luxury holidays on his yacht. Come on!!! We didn’t give up our right to think logically when we became Christians; clearly there is something wrong with this picture!

Where should we give? The answer is most definitely in our local church or the place where we are fed (spiritually) in order to financially support those who feed us with the words of life. When we sow into a ministry that produces life and bears fruit, we become partakers and partners of that life because we have sown into it and the Word teaches that every seed brings forth fruit after its own kind (Gen 1:11). Offerings can also be given to people or ministries that we believe are making a difference in the world in reaching the unsaved and getting the gospel to the nations. And lastly alms are given to the poor and needy to the extent we are able to. The Bible further teaches us to give to apostolic fathers (like the churches that sent offerings to the apostle Paul to support him, see Phil 4:14-17) and to live a lifestyle of generosity and sharing (Acts 4:32-36 and also 1 Tim 6:17-18).

On the other hand when we are sowing into a ministry that is promoting Law-motivated living (that teaches God will not bless us if we don’t tithe, or where we are constantly made to feel guilty about our lifestyle or about this and that sin or for not giving enough), we are sowing into a ministry that produces death.

1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law.

We needn’t worry however that we will reap death or curse from such a ministry because Christ became a curse for us:

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree”).

However we will not reap life from this ministry either since they are not producing any life. It is always best to sow into the place where we are spiritually fed and where life is imparted to us; the place where we can see that people are being saved and healed.

We can trust that God is always good and that He will always bless and love us, regardless if we give our entire salary away or if we don’t give a cent. Will God not love and bless us the same and even more than He does the lilies in the field and the birds in the air that don’t even give Him anything?


  • Pingback: The Miracle of Tithing | Faith, Hope & Love

  • Chris Smit

    Some 30 years ago I was an elder in one of Durban\’s only \’grace\’ church. …The Invisible Church.

    Giving was always only \’freewill\’…most of the people were very poor and young.

    A couple came with us on a friday night excursion to preach on the beachfront….and they saw drunks sobered up and drug addicts being saved by the hands of God. The next day as I recall they came to the elders and said \’We have a house that we inherited and we want to give to support this work\’

    When people see God moving they DO respond ….and the required money will always be there when needed.

    I have NEVER seen this response under the Law.

    God\’s church needs to be \’out there in the real world\’ …rather than saying to the world…\’Come into our building\’ (and bring your wallets)


  • Past. Daniel F van Wyk

    It’s all about Grace.

  • Renita

    It’s so true that when we as human being are required to do something we instinctively rebel mentally as in the case of tithing. However, if we are told to give whatever amount willingly, we tend to give generously and with a cheerful heart.

  • Since tithes are a shadow but Christ is the reality, this means that tithe offering regulations have been completed in His earthly ministry. I heard a false minister telling people to offer to him the monetary value of a lamb for a sin offering to receive forgiveness of their sin. We know this is false because Jesus is the only sin offering that brings about our forgiveness. The sin offering is a shadow but Christ is the reality, this means that the sin offering regulations were completed in during the earthly ministry of Jesus. The Israelites were not allowed to pay monetarily as a tithe; however, under the old covenant law the people were required to pay tithes of the harvest of the produce and cattle grown in the land of promise. During the tithing ceremony at the end of every three years, the third year, the year of tithing, tithes were offered as a heave offering. A heave offering was an offering that had to be lifted up to God. We see how tithes are significantly shown to be a shadow of the sacrifice of Christ. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus began His ministry about 30 years of age and in John it records three Passovers during the ministry of Jesus, attesting to us that Christ preached for three years. At the end of the three years of His ministry, in the third year was the year He offered Himself up. The Lord went to Jerusalem at the end of three years of ministry as our tithe as a heave (lifted up) offering in the third year of His ministry. He was lifted up (the heave offering of the tithe) from the earth on the cross. The shadow of the tithe shows us that the Levites were to be physically sustained by tithes and offerings that came from the land of promise. The reality is the sacrificial offering of Jesus, that has been given to us from God, is the only sacrificial gift that is capable of keeping us sustained and nourished. This sustenance and strength, we are given in Christ, results in our maturity. The land of promise produced the goods that was to ensure the physical survival of the Levites. The land of promise is a shadow of Jesus; Christ is the promise that the entire Old Testament pledged. God promised a redeemer starting in Genesis and Jesus is the guarantee of God’s promise. Jesus is the authentic Promised Land of all Christians because in Him is produced everything we need for true and eternal life. This clearly shows that Jesus was the completion of the Old Testament tithe. As the priests in Malachi were robbing God of tithes and offerings and this was stealing from what was due to Him. Us not lifting up Jesus with the proper respect is the way that God is robbed of His due glory, because the modern false teaching concerning tithes and offerings is stealing from the glory of Christ’s sacrifice that is given to us for sustenance and life.
    Tithes: The Modern Circumcision:
    The book of Genesis and the first half of Exodus records historical information that was before the old covenant law of Moses was instituted. These books are contained within the Old Testament and are of the five books of Moses, also known as the Torah or the Book of the Law. All of these scriptures are alluding to God’s plan of salvation even before He had created anything, and this is the meaning behind Jesus being called the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. God knew we would be sinners and commit horrible acts against Him and against one another, but He had already determined beforehand that Jesus would come as the redeemer of us. These teachings about tithes turn the grace of God into greedy sensuality, because they twist it as a means to gain financial profit. Those who teach tithing are guilty of the same sin as the Judaizers in Galatians, because the false teaching concerning tithes of today is the same method that the Judaizers used concerning the false teaching about circumcision in the time of the New Testament. Let me show you the demonstration; the Judaizers in the New Testament were teaching the believers in Jesus that they had to be circumcised to be saved, but the Spirit condemned this boast of self-righteousness . Circumcision was a shadow of what God would do for us through Christ; it represented how the Spirit would cut away the hardened heart that we had against God and replace it with a heart wanting to do our Father’s will. The book of Galatians teaches that if you are circumcised as a way of acceptance before God, then you are obligated to keep the whole law. Galatians also warns that if you are circumcised for righteousness then you are severed from Christ and that you have fallen from God’s grace. Circumcision was also given to Abraham before the old covenant law of Moses was enacted, and it was the sign in their flesh of God‘s promised redemption. Circumcision was of such great consequence that God threatened to kill Moses, for he had not circumcised his two sons. This was already after God had ordained and was sending him to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery, and this was in Exodus chapter 4 before the old covenant law of Moses was instituted. The seventh day (Sabbath) in Genesis 2 was also called a holy day by God before the old covenant law of Moses was ratified. The New Testament teaches us that the Sabbath was a shadow of how we are to rest in the work of Jesus that fashions the new creation that we are in Him. Genesis and the first part of Exodus presents information that was before the old covenant law of Moses was instituted, but both belong in the Torah (the book of the law) since they demonstrate that which could only be revealed about Jesus to us from the Holy Spirit. Those teaching tithing from Genesis are no different than the Judaizers that taught circumcision , Sabbath keeping, and tithing to New Covenant Christians during the time of the New Testament.
    2Co 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 2Co 3:13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 2Co 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 2Co 3:15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 2Co 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2Co 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

  • Kevin

    Many men manipulate the congregation because they sit on the seat of fear. They forget that as we seek first the kingdom of God that he promises to provide for us. “Blessed” ministries may experience times of “leanness” because God may be pruning or teaching them to be faithful but we need not fear that God will abandon his own Work, and in doing so abandon us, his workers. Grace frees us and it also empowers us to walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. So let us walk in faith knowing that God will provide all that we need if we are seeking his kingdom first. God never gives seed to the “hoarder” he always gives seed to the “sower”

  • Bertie

    All you say is true an I am the biggest preacher of this. To the shame of many grace believers I must say that they are not giving as much as when they were under the law. In some stats I did I found that more than 70% of all grace believers don’t give at all and have stoped all giving. The rest of the people have unstable giving. Most in not all churches that go to grace in finances struggle tremendously after going to the freedom message. I think this is why many pastors will continue to preach the law

  • Tashie

    Hi – I also read somewhere recently that at that time in the OT there was no separation of religion and state like there is now, so the “tithe” was usually given to the government (King) in order to help run the state.
    These days we give tax to our govt for this. To separate out the tithe as something we *must* give the church is actually not in line with Biblical history.

  • Bertie Brits

    Blake I agree with you. The tithe was even a Babylonian tradition where you had to give 10% to the King. By doing that Abraham was saying I accept Melchisedek as my king. It is like we are saying with our mouths JESUS IS MY LORD. The tithing Abram did is fulfilled in you accepting Jesus. The tithe in Mal. 3:9-10 is fulfilled on the cross.

    Read this

  • Richard

    I think the whole issue of giving is burnt out because of the way it has been presented under manipulation in the past. In short, for the years I sat under law based everything, even breathing,I never saw a return on my giving because it was fear based giving on my end. As I have become saturated with the grace of God which is the gospel of God concerning His Son Christ Jesus, my entire motive has changed in giving. Grace based giving has caused me to give more cheerfully and frequently than the manipulative pushed ‘tithing’ ever did. The whole issue of giving (I spent alomost 2 years studying offerings & tithes & sowing)is that the mere ever increasing revelation of the love of God to me in Christ Jesus who forever settled our sin debt produces a love/response back to the One who paid it all. Call it whatever you want, tithing, sowing, giving or offerings, I want to because I love Him back with the revelation of His love for me. Im still baffled at how God cares for the birds who dont ‘give’ & yet loves me more than the birds. Simply put, Im growing in God being ‘in love with me’ because God is love, not because I am lovely. Love you all!

  • Blake

    About Abram and tithes.
    Abram had just given 4 kings a good hiding and was returning with the spoils of war. Not with the first fruits of his labour. He wasnt bring a 10th of his flocks etc. He was carrying home a war chest of four kings worth of goods. And he gives Melchizedek a 10th for two reasons. To understand this you need some understanding of history, biblical and secular.
    1) A tenth was a kings share (1 Samuel 8 verse 15 and 17) of the spoils of war, of your flocks, your crops etc. So while Abram did not live in Salem, by offering Melchizedek a 10th he was alining himself with the King of peace and righteousness and showing his submission to the king. In other words to Christ ( See Cornels interpretation of the bread and wine.)
    2) Sodom and the king there of are a shadow or a type of satan. He comes out and attempts to seduce Abram with wealth and immediatly Abram tells him where to get lost (Genesis 14 verse 21-24) In other words he was rejecting satan and what he had to offer TOTALY. He wasnt setteling for anything other than what God was willing to bless him with.
    So for those who are truely interested in grace walking with our precious loving Father go and read the Abram / Melchizedek encounter again. Its not about tithes its about giving.And we give as led by the Holy Spirit, that is part of us listening to the still small voice of God in our hearts and so we give cheerfully for the Lord loves a cheerful giver who is obidient and not sacrificial because our great sacrifice has been made on our behalf. That ties together a whole load of scripture. And actually if anyone preaches a 10% tithe they are not even fulfilling the law because there were 5 major tithes to the law plus others. So should we be teaching tithing, I dont believe so, we should be teaching giving according to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and out of love and gratitude to our Father and Saviour.
    And just to reiterate what Cornel said your giving is not going to twist Gods arm and make Him love you any more or conversly any less if you dont tithe. So give cheefully as the Spirit tells you to.
    In Grace and peace

  • Cornel

    To Joshua,

    Tithing is not a shadow of Jesus. Melchizedek was the shadow of Jesus. He was the King of Salem (Meaning King of peace and righteousness in Hebrew) He was the one who brought bread & wine to Abraham, signifying the New Covenant, just like Jesus did at the last supper. Abraham was under no obligation to tithe, but he did. Similarly, you are also under no obligation to tithe. Tithing was Abraham’s act of worship. Worship means to ‘lick the hand’ not to be stroked by the hand. Tithing to get anything back defeats the whole point.

    God doesn’t love or bless you based on how much you give, just as He doesn’t base His love for us on anything else we can do like read the Bible, pray, fast, sin less etc. He loved us while we were sinners, before we even tried to do anything right. He loved us the most when we were at our worst and gave us the blessing of all blessings, Jesus, when we didn’t deserve it whatsoever. In Christ you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Faith releases them into your life, not money.

    In Grace

  • Hi Joshua

    Before I answer your question, I would just like to ask: Do you believe in the message of Grace? Do you have a revelation of the fullness of God’s Grace yet? Have you read some of the other topics on our site yet? Because if you have, you would know that we did not imply what you wrote in your comment.

    Holy living, tithing, obedience, etc are all the fruit of the Spirit inside us. We love because He first loved us. It’s not by our own effort.

    In Grace
    Andre van der Merwe

  • Joshua

    Where in the Bible does it say we must tithe? If the tithe is a shadow of Christ and He is the fulfillment of it why do I still need to do it? Are you implying that if I love God I will tithe and therefore if I don’t tithe I don’t really love God? By the way love your neighbor is actually part of the Law – the Pharisees were asking Him what were the greatest commandments etc and He told them 2 of which love your neighbor as yourself was one of them. Holy living – please elaborate on what you mean

  • Admin

    Hi Daniel

    I think you pretty much answered your own question there. Tithing, just like other things such as holy living, loving your neighbour, etc. has been made into a law to put the fear of man and the control of man onto people. Teaching people that they have to tithe because they HAVE TO is law, and not in line with the gospel of the New covenant.

    On the other hand, teaching people they shouldn’t tithe is not Biblical either, because you see the pattern of people tithing right through the Bible, doing this is the same as telling people they shouldn’t love their neighbour either.

    We tithe to partner with God in what He is doing in the earth, to resource our local churches to advance the kingdom of God and to see the lost saved.

    The most important aspect of tithing (as with everything else we do) is our motive. If you are being made to feel guilty for not giving, you should probably question whether the person telling you to give is basing his doctrine on Bible truth, or on the ministry of death of the Old Covenant Laws (2 Cor 3:7).

    Yours in Grace
    Andre van der Merwe

  • Daniel F van Wyk

    I would like to ask the following question on financial giving. We believe that Jesus paid our sins on the cross and that there is no other offering that we can give for the remission of sins; in the same price He became poor so that we can be prosperous. Is it fare for us to preach that grace is unmerited, (you cannot do anything to deserve it), but in the same breath we tell people that God can only bless them if they tithe? Should our giving not be the result of His blessing; the blessing is not the result of our giving! Forgiveness was the result of His death not our repentance. Please come back to me on this matter! Are we making tithing just another law?
    Pastor Daniel F. van Wyk

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