Generosity is not relative to 10%!

There was an old system in chemistry that was used to determine the weight of atoms. The weights of atoms were basically calculated relative to hydrogen, the lightest atom with a weight of 1.00. Thus nitrogen which was six times the weight of hydrogen had the weight of 6.00. This system has since been replaced though.

Generosity on the other hand cannot be determined through relativity to a standard measurement of 10% as no such standard exists anywhere even in the bible! Generosity is an individual thing!

Some misguided overzealous individuals propagate the so-called 10% as a standard for generosity and claim that this has been set by God. So as far as they are concerned, anyone who fails to give up to 10% of what they earn is not being generous. These people fail to consider the dynamic nature of human beings and the world we live in.

The Old Testament tithes cannot be used to measure generosity as this was a system of taxation which was compulsory. And as with every system of taxation, there were guidelines. I will use the system of taxation in the UK as an example.

In the UK, there is a certain percentage of one’s earnings that is tax free, anything beyond this is taxed. This same system was evident in the tithe-tax system of the Old Testament – agricultural produce had to be up to ten before one could tithe. So 9 sheep, no tithe but 10 sheep, the tenth was the tithe. This was not 10% neither was it held up as some sort of generosity standard for both the Old and New Testament.

Generosity is determined in relation to what one has and not what one does not have. In effect, giving just 10% of what I earn when I can give much more does not show generosity on my part. And on the other hand if all I can afford comes to less than 10% of what I earn but is a huge sacrifice on my part, I can be called generous. I don’t have to give to the extent of being destitute in order to please God and be called generous!

A legalistic approach Christianity is to blame for this mess. Man-made standards for determining those who are good Christians have been set up. Some introduce dress codes, others use commitment to the local church and yet others have added a 10% rule which is completely absent in the bible as a standard of generosity, setting the tone for legalism. Those who genuine cannot afford to give up to 10% are left feeling guilty while those who give 10% feel superior and self-righteous, a bit like the Pharisee in the book of Luke.

Generosity is not relative to 10% as there will always be people who can give way more than that and people who can give way less. At the end of the day though man is not the judge, God is and He alone knows the hearts of people and rewards everyone accordingly.

I only just realised I missed out the most important part of generosity – its definition.

I quickly did a search on Google and came up with this definition on Wikipedia – “Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. It can involve offering time, assets or talents to aid someone in need. Often equated with charity as a virtue, generosity is widely accepted in society as a desirable trait.”

In the light of this definition, it will appear that many Christians who give including those who tithe religiously are not at all generous! This is because of their give to receive mindset.

That hardly qualifies as generosity!

Does God truly require the New Testament church to give beyond the Old Testament tithe?

There is the general belief in some Christian quarters that Jesus raised the bar or increased the standard for the New Testament believer. This belief is fuelled by Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5

This is quite commonly used as proof that God instituted the “tithe” as the starting point of giving because Jesus’ above statement seems to raise the game a little bit. But the problem is, this statement was made before the church came into existence. His audience was always the Jews. Anytime He spoke to the gentiles, He always reminded them that their time had not yet come even though He did some miracles in their midst. This was simply because the law still existed and it alienated the gentiles from the commonwealth of God as Jesus had not yet gone to the cross.

The shedding of His blood promptly made way for the gentiles to be partakers of salvation and thus the church was born. All of this was in line with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Therefore the standard of the New Testament believer is not the Old Testament law. Whatever was required from those of the Old Testament is of no relevance to the New Testament because Jesus fulfilled every requirement of the Old Testament on behalf of the New Testament church. We are no longer required to observe all 613 laws of the Old Testament because they were all fulfilled on our behalf by Jesus Christ.

The standard of the New Testament church is the Holy Spirit and scripture makes it crystal clear that those who are sons of God are led by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us live right, He helps us know and obey God’s will. When it comes to giving, God has not instituted the Old Testament tithe as the guide or “training wheels” for the New Testament church; He gave us the Holy Spirit in its stead.

Those who proclaim that God requires the New Testament church to give beyond the Old Testament tithe are definitely not speaking for God. As this is not taught anywhere in scripture.