Is it a sin not to pay tithes?

The question of whether it is a sin not to pay tithes is a complex theological issue that has been debated for centuries. In this article, we will examine the biblical basis for tithing, the different perspectives on whether tithing is required today, and the potential spiritual implications of not tithing for Christians.

What is a tithe?

The word “tithe” comes from the Old English word “teogoþa,” meaning “tenth.” In the Bible, a tithe was essentially a 10% offering given to the Lord.

Under Mosaic law, the Israelites were commanded to set aside a tenth of the produce of the land and livestock. As described in Leviticus 27:30-33, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” This tithe was given to the Levites for their service to the Lord.

An additional tithe was also set aside every three years for the disadvantaged – orphans, widows, foreigners (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). This was known as the tithe for the poor.

Therefore, the concept of the tithe has its foundation in the Old Testament law given specifically to the nation of Israel.

What does the New Testament say about tithing?

When we look at the New Testament, tithing is rarely mentioned explicitly. However, there are some passages that provide insight into how early Christians viewed financial giving:

  • Jesus affirmed tithing – In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for focusing on the minor aspects of the law but neglecting “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” However, he states, “these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” This suggests Jesus saw tithing as one of the aspects of God’s law that should still be practiced.
  • Give in proportion to income – Paul states in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 for believers to set aside money in proportion to their income on the first day of the week. He doesn’t explicitly mention a 10% tithe, but the principle of regular, proportional giving is emphasized.
  • Give generously and willingly – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 contains some of the most well-known verses on financial giving. Paul encourages generosity by stating that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” He stresses that gifts should be given willingly, “not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
  • Meeting needs – In Acts 4:32-37, the early church shared with those in need and even sold their possessions to provide for each other. While a tithe is not mentioned here, the passage demonstrates the priority the church placed on ensuring needs were met through sacrificial giving.

While the New Testament doesn’t explicitly command tithing like the Old Testament, it does emphasize cheerful, generous, and proportional giving to sustain the church’s mission and care for those in need.

Should Christians tithe 10% today?

Given the limited explicit mentions of tithing in the New Testament, there are differing perspectives among Christians today about whether or not tithing is required:

View 1: Tithing was an Old Testament command that no longer applies

Some believe tithing was part of the Mosaic law for the Israelites, but not required in the new covenant of grace under Christ. Supporters of this view argue:

  • The commands about tithing were given specifically to Israel under the Mosaic law and are not repeated as requirements for Christians.
  • Tithing is not explicitly taught as a command in the New Testament.
  • Christians are under grace, not law, and giving should be voluntary not compulsory.
  • Ten percent may not be the right amount for all; Christians should give generously based on their income and as the Lord leads.

Therefore, for those holding this position, while 10% can be a helpful guideline, tithing is not mandated as a baseline requirement for Christians today.

View 2: The 10% tithe continues to apply for Christians today

Others argue that the biblical precedent of the tithe establishes it as God’s standard for giving, even if not explicitly commanded in the New Testament. Reasons include:

  • The tithe was instituted before the Mosaic law (e.g. Abraham and Jacob in Genesis).
  • Jesus affirmed it as something that should be practiced.
  • Ten percent is a reasonable benchmark to encourage generous giving.
  • The tithe can be given freely and cheerfully, not legalistically.
  • It sets a priority on putting God first with our resources.

Therefore, those taking this position emphasize continuity between the Testaments and argue the 10% tithe provides a good baseline expectation for giving today, even if not mandated.

A third perspective: Focus on generosity and heart attitude

A third perspective stresses that percentages can divert focus away from the heart issues God cares about most – our generosity, willingness, and care for others:

  • The New Testament emphasizes generosity according to what one has, not a fixed percentage (2 Corinthians 8:12).
  • God cares more about the heart and motivations in giving than an amount (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • Giving is to be done voluntarily, not by obligation or compulsion.
  • Legalism over percentages can negate the grace of giving (Romans 14:1-23).

This view argues that while 10% can be a helpful guideline, the emphasis for Christians should be on nurturing a generous heart of voluntary giving rather than mandating a fixed amount.

Does not tithing equate to sinning?

Given these differing perspectives, Christians also disagree on whether not giving at least 10% is inherently sinful:

View 1: Not tithing is sin and robbing God

Some argue that since the tithe belongs to God (Leviticus 27:30), not tithing is effectively stealing from or robbing God. Malachi 3:8-10 is often cited, where God rebukes Israel for “robbing me” and calls them to “bring the full tithe into the storehouse.” From this view, not giving at least 10% is a sinful violation of God’s clear commands around tithing.

View 2: Not tithing may not always equate to sin

Others caution against proclaiming not tithing as an automatic sin. Several factors are highlighted:

  • The Malachi passage was addressed to a specific covenant people under the Mosaic law. It does not necessarily establish the same covenant requirements for Christians today.
  • Jesus affirmed the importance of the “weightier matters” of justice, mercy, and faithfulness as greater priorities than tithing (Matthew 23:23).
  • Heart motivations and attitude are emphasized in the New Testament more than specific amounts.
  • For the poor, giving less than 10% may be necessary and not sinful if they are giving generously based on their situation (2 Corinthians 8:12).

Therefore, from this perspective, not meeting an exact 10% tithe does not automatically equate to stealing from God or sinning for Christians today.

Third view: Focus on willing generosity, not mandated amounts

A third perspective stresses that the priority that honors God is not mandating an amount like 10%, but rather nurturing a heart of willing generosity in how we share our resources. From this view:

  • The emphasis is on cheerful, voluntary giving, not legalistic obligation (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • It is unwise to definitively proclaim a set amount as “sinful.”
  • Giving may look different depending on changing circumstances and sensitivity to needs.
  • The amounts are between the individual’s conscience and God.

Therefore, while generous giving is important, pronouncing any set amount as the definitive threshold for sin or righteousness is cautioned against.

Examining our motivations and heart attitude

Given these differing views on whether tithing is commanded and required for Christians, it can be easy to get preoccupied with percentages. However, stepping back, the overarching biblical priority around financial stewardship seems to be nurturing a generous heart of willing giving to resource God’s work and care for others, more than mandating a specific amount.

Here are some questions we can reflect on related to our motivations, willingness, and love in how we give:

  • Am I giving generously based on what I have – whether less or more than 10%?
  • Is my giving voluntary, cheerful, and sincere or done out of compulsion?
  • Do I prioritize resourcing kingdom work and meeting needs?
  • Is my heart eager to give freely as God has freely given to me?
  • Am I depending on and trusting God, not money and possessions?
  • Am I managing money wisely and avoiding excess that could be shared?

Examining our hearts and motivations before God is crucial. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Potential spiritual impacts of not tithing

Not making tithing a priority can potentially impact people spiritually in the following ways:

Missing spiritual blessings and rewards

The Bible connects blessing and reward with faithful stewardship. As Proverbs 3:9 states, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Similarly, Luke 6:38 states that in giving, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” From this perspective, not prioritizing tithes and offerings means missing out on spiritual blessings God desires us to experience.

Hindered spiritual growth and trust

Giving requires trust and dependence on God rather than money. When we don’t give faithfully of our first and best, it can reflect a heart that is not fully trusting God. As such, not tithing can potentially hinder our growth in faith and trust.

Robbing ourselves more than God

As John Chrysostom stated, “Not paying tithes is robbing God, who requires the tithes to be paid. But it is we who are deprived of the blessings that come from obeying God’s commands.” From this view, when we fail to tithe, we are ultimately robbing ourselves of joy and blessing, rather than God who owns it all anyway.

Missing the chance to partner with God

When we tithe, we have the incredible privilege of partnering with God to fulfill His purposes. We miss out on the joy and fulfillment of seeing how our giving contributes to lives transformed by encountering Jesus. As such, not tithing can mean missing the chance to join in God’s meaningful work.

However, the spiritual impacts always depend on the heart motivations. Giving smaller amounts with a generous willing heart may reap more spiritual blessing than a large tithe given reluctantly or legalistically.

Moving forward in grace and generosity

Differing views remain among faithful Christians regarding whether tithing is a mandatory expectation today. However, we can move forward in grace and generosity by:

  • Seeking the Spirit’s wisdom for our circumstances and convictions.
  • Being gracious towards those with different perspectives.
  • Striving for generous giving from a cheerful willing heart.
  • Making meeting needs a priority over maintaining lifestyles.
  • Seeking first God’s kingdom and trusting Him to provide.

The percentages can become a distraction. The priority God cares most about is our willingness to depend on Him, seek first His kingdom, and share generously with others out of hearts of gratitude for His grace.


The question of whether not tithing is sinful has been debated throughout church history and faithful Christians hold differing perspectives. However, we share a common calling to steward our resources generously to fulfill God’s purposes. Striving for faithful generosity out of love, while leaving judgments to God alone, provides a way forward that honors Christ. With the Spirit’s help, may our giving overflow from hearts of gratitude, bring joy, and reveal God’s immense love for our world.

Leave a Comment