And most importantly, the tithe was not all God wanted from them! God required justice and mercy, as Jesus reminds the Pharisees who deign to tithe their produce but ignore the poor and oppressed in their communities. Justice and mercy are loftier pursuits, Jesus claims.

Where Does That Leave Us?

As Christians, we have a tricky line to walk when it comes to money. Biblically, the mandatory tithe is never expanded to the Christian or Gentile communities. But at the same time, we know it’s God’s heart for us to give and not withhold. In fact, it’s so much in God’s heart that even when there was a mandated tithe, it was as high as 20-25%! Today’s modern-day-Church-talk of “giving our 10% to God” seems pretty wimpy in comparison to the Mosaic Tithe, and incredibly shallow when we look at the lifestyle of giving that Jesus encouraged.

I believe Jesus taught that Christians should never live with a mindset of scarcity and anxiety. Jesus’ commands have very little to do with enforcing a specific numerical contribution to one’s local church. God’s goal is for his children to give, love, care for, and grow. Though we all have different strengths, different sized paychecks, and different needs, when we live in community and in generosity, I believe God blesses our efforts to care for each other.

All of us are sometimes the poor, the downtrodden, those who need desperately to be on the receiving end of Christian generosity.

Some of us are pastors, modern-day Levites, who rely on the generosity of (often small) parishes to support our families.

Some of us are in a lot of debt.

Some of us may be temporarily living off the generosity of our parents, or the government, or our friends.

It is my desire that every person in a safe Christian community can bold enough to call for help, and bold enough to answer when help is needed. For too long has money been a “sticky” and uncomfortable variable in our lives. There is abundance, if we foster contented hearts and learn to live with mercy and selflessness.

My final point is that, no matter what easy formula Churches latch onto, it’s honestly not that Christians have strict, or even very clear, “biblical rules” for tithing and money. It’s that Christians are called to live by a high standard of generosity.

Words matter. “A Lifestyle of Giving” paints a different picture than “Regularly Tithing.” Those words have different flavors and implications. “Regularly Tithing” means there’s a standard, a bar to reach, and unfortunately, often apathy once you get in the habit and you’re used to what it feels like to reach the bar.

“A Lifestyle of Giving” is boundless, measureless, and bottomless. It doesn’t ask, “have I checked off my to-do list?” Rather it asks, “How can I make the world better? How can I serve?” 

We are creatures of habit; we thrive off rules and structures. I believe that is why we have latched onto the tithe, even after all these years having the freedom to give so much more. We are called to give food, shelter, money, words of love, prayers, and practical help. We can and are meant to live with open hands.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com

Publication date: October 28, 2013