Over the past couple of years four readers have submitted Spiritual Conundrums to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life about tithing. First, a reader named Lisa:
Lee: I belonged to a Christian church for thirty years which was fundamentalist. My husband paid to the church the tithe of our income and he also contributed with other expenses. My husband wanted a new life and we went to live to another country. Now we are very happy. I found Swedenborg by accident on Internet and we are reading his books. We don’t go to any congregation, but we practice our faith in family. The minister of my old congregation sent us mails asking for the tithe, according to him we are heavily in debt. For several years we have saved the tithe for sharing with the neighbor. My question is, what does the Bible say in the New Testament about the tithe? Is it true that it belongs to the minister? Is there any chance that Swedenborg answered this question in his letters? Thanks for your opinion.
Then a reader named Ada:
Do u have to pay tithes?
Then a reader named Allison Scott:
What does Jesus really teach about tithing and/or giving?
And most recently a reader named Bamboo:
Hi Lee. I have been wondering a lot about tithing and church offerings. Does Malachi 3:10 suggest that the people who do not tithe will not be blessed? And do tithes and offerings have to be in monetary terms? Thanks.
Here’s the short version:
A “tithe” means a tenth. In Bible times, this meant a tenth of the harvest and of people’s flocks and herds—or of the firstborn animals of their flocks and herds.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to bring tithes and offerings to the priests at the temple each year. Tithing was mandatory, not optional.
The New Testament mentions tithing only in passing. There is no clear commandment in the New Testament saying that Christians must tithe. And 2 Corinthians 9:5–7 suggests that for Christians, giving is not mandatory, but voluntary:
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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.
In other words, Christians are not required to tithe, but are encouraged to give generously as their heart moves them to give.
And Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) doesn’t say anything at all about literal, in-kind or monetary tithing. But he does explain the spiritual meaning of tithing.
Let’s take a closer look.
For more on tithing, please click here to read on.