Is Tithing Legalism?

It’s common for those who disagree with tithing to accuse me of legalism. They claim that by saying Christians should tithe, I’m trying to get believers back under the law that Christ died to free us from. I’ve always been amazed at the confidence of overnight seminary students who want to get out of being obedient.

There’s no denying that we’re saved by grace, not by works. Praise God for that! But like Paul said in Romans 6:1-2, that doesn’t mean we can live however we want. Reinforcing the command to tithe isn’t legalism—but is encouraging a good work that results from your salvation.

Faith Alone Saves

Legalism is probably not a term you use every day. It means faith + works = salvation. If someone is being legalistic, they believe you’re saved by faith in Christ in addition to extra good works. For instance, in Paul’s day, some Jewish Christians were saying that you can’t be saved unless you add an extra work (circumcision) on top of what Christ has done. Paul wrote the letter of Galatians to put an end to this heresy.

By encouraging tithing, in no way am I saying or have I ever said that tithing will save you. The thief on the cross never tithed a day in his life, but he believed in Christ, and Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Tithing won’t make God love you more. You won’t go to heaven by giving away your earnings. It’s not a means of salvation.

The only way to heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and following him. Romans 3:28 says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Faith in Jesus alone saves. Not works, and not tithing.

Tithing and the Law

But what about the law? Naysayers argue that Christ abolished the law and did away with it, so we no longer have to tithe.

I disagree. Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law because the law was not good. No, he came to fulfill the law perfectly because in our own efforts we could never live up to it.

The law shows us how weak and sinful we actually are. God gave us the law to prove we could never obey it on our own without Christ. This is why we don’t throw the moral law out because of grace. No, imagine if we said Jesus has arrived, so now we don’t need the ten commandments? Jesus referenced the ten commandments. He referenced the righteousness of the law. He referenced tithing (Matt. 23:23) and elevated our thinking about giving—that we should live our lives as a sacrifice sold out to God no matter the cost.

We’re saved by grace and, therefore, free to give abundantly as an overflow of receiving what he did for us on the cross.

A Saved Person is a Changed Person

James was a leader in the early church and Jesus’ half-brother. He wrote, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). He wasn’t saying that works lead to salvation, but that salvation leads to a transformed life which produces good works.

Encouraging believers to tithe is not legalism. There are hundreds of commands in the New Testament, and our salvation is not in keeping any of them. Rather, they are how we live out the Gospel. They are fruit of our salvation. Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7.20). He means a saved person is a changed person.

Following Jesus means you’ve been transformed, and you start to see everything differently—including your money and possessions. When you start viewing your money in light of eternity, you don’t think, “What’s the least I can give and still be obedient?” But you start asking, “What’s the least I can live on so I can invest more in the kingdom of God?”

If you’re saved, there will be evidences of the grace of God in your life. Generosity is one of these evidences. Tithing and giving are fruit of a mind, heart, and life that have been transformed by the Gospel.

At the end of the day, tithing is not necessary for salvation. God doesn’t need your money. But you need to give it to show what you’re truly worshipping.

Ready to Take The Next Step?

For more information about any of the products and services listed here, schedule a meeting today or register to attend a seminar.

Or give us a call at 850.380.9558