Question: I was curious as to your thoughts on tithing. Is
tithing to be calculated on gross or net income?
After a personal study on tithing in Scripture, I am convinced that tithing is a Biblical command for all times. I was not raised with this understanding but once I become an adult earning a yearly wage, I was confronted with the question how much I should be giving to God and His Kingdom. In my first discussions with people on this subject, I was told that this is not necessary anymore. It was a Mosaic legislative issue that has ceased with the New Testament age.
That didn’t satisfy me for no arguments were supplied. So, as I should have done right away, I went back to Scripture itself. In short, here are my findings.
a. Abraham and Jacob tithed long before Moses legislated it in his days. So much for the argument that tithing was a Mosaic institution. From the beginning of time, God’s saints have understood that the ‘tithe’ is God’s in every circumstance. Abraham wouldn’t take a dime from the king of Sodom but he wouldn’t withhold the tithe from God out of the spoil he took. Here lies your first hint to the secondarily question you asked: must I take the tithe from the gross or net income? Abraham gave his tithe from the ‘gross spoil’!
b. Moses indeed regulated the command to tithe as he also formally legislated many others things that were done prior to Moses’ days, such as marriage, Sabbath keeping etc.
c. In each Biblical revival you see a returning to faithful tithing (Hezekiah, Josiah, and Ezra). In other words, each time God’s nation began to ‘love their idol money or luxury above God there was backsliding in the practice of tithing. We see the same through the history of God’s church post Bible times. I believe we shall see it again and again when God revives His people’s faith and obedience.
d. In the New Testament Jesus speaks about the practice of tithing in the context of hypocrisy in Matt. 23:23. But notice that after He pointed out that judgment, mercy and faith are the most important aspects of our spiritual devotion to God and moral obedience among men, that He adds, ‘and not to leave the other (i.e. tithing) undone.’ In vain will you find a NT reference where tithing is told to be ended. In 1 Cor. 16:1-2 Paul refers to the collections to be made on the first day of the week and his phraseology is in the spirit of tithing, ‘every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…” That’s exactly how the Israelite would do it each time there was another harvest or further income received. He would lay in store … until he went to the temple to pass it on to the Levites.
e. The OT ends in Malachi 3 with some fierce accusations of the LORD against His people. One of them is regarding tithing. Malachi calls it ‘robbing God’ when we withhold from Him the tithe. That is how serious God calls it when we withhold from Him what by right is His, even though ‘every cattle on the hills is His.’ Note also the promise in Mal. 3:10. Only three times is that phrase ‘windows of heaven’ used in the Bible. (In the Flood; in 2 Kings 7:2 with regard to food; and here in Malachi.) NEVER has God failed me in this promise. His windows of heaven have always been opened when I faced needs that were beyond the means He normally would give me or had provided me with.
This in short my view on tithing. Just as with every other duty in our spiritual obedience to God, we can make this work holiness. That God always condemns as hypocritical and useless whether it is almsgiving, prayer or fasting. (see Matt. 6).
The second question regarding whether we are to tithe from our ‘gross or net.’ My conviction is from our gross income. Taxes are a form of payment for services our government provides us. Whether we agree with all those forms of service is not to enter into this discussion. Samuel warned that if we would depart from God’s system of government (theocracy) and want to follow the ways of other kingdoms, the people would regret it. The king (government) would cost them more than what they were paying in tithing. So it is today. We may have corrupt systems of taxing or governing, but that doesn’t mean we now must tithe God on our net income. You know the only reason for this may be to feed our covetousness for it means we will have more money in our hand.
My friend, believe God’s promise. The windows of heaven would be opened for you if through your tithing you would not be able to meet your normal, daily financial obligations. Please, note that I mentioned ‘normal daily needs and obligations.’ To have a budget that includes payments for a luxury item, for an totally oversize house, for exciting vacations and loads of good food, a top line luxury car, etc. is something that doesn’t fit in Paul’s statement ‘having food and raiment, let us be content therewith.’ In other words, we have added so much to our ‘needs to have’ list that are nothing else by luxury items or unnecessary.
Faithful tithing when the bills mount, when the normal budgetary limits are stretched becomes therefore an act of faith and faith is obedience to Christ’s Word. He has promised to open the ‘windows of heaven’ to meet every need we face.
May God bless these few considerations.