Full-Time Ministers of the Gospel Should Not Tithe

Originally drafted April 23, 2023 and last tended May 16, 2023 by Matt McElwee.
(See Revision History).

Pithy intro...

Comparative Data

Below is a sample of a handful of Evangelical denominations and their requirements on tithing. The table is not exhaustive, though the data itself is sourced from current, primary-source documents of each of the denominations (usually bylaws or books of order).

It first asks if a denomination specifically describes and expectation of Christians or members within its fold to tithe. There are cases where this requirement on members to tithe is extended to the minister by virtue of their membership within the local church.[^members-minister] Finally, there is a case where ministers are expected to tithe to the district or national office, with dollar or percentage amounts specified.

Denomination Member Tithing Ministers as Members Ministers Tithing Specified
Assemblies of God Yes No Yes
Church of God in Christ Yes Yes No
Church of the Nazarene Yes Yes No
Christian and Missionary Alliance Yes No No
Presbyterian Church in America Yes No No
Evangelical Free Church No1 No No

A glaring exception would seem to be any representation from the Baptists. Baptists tend to be notably congregational with no imposition on ministers for tithing given. As such, a detailed study would need to be conducted of a representative sample of local Baptist church bylaws in order to evaluate the requirements of ministerial tithing.

As seen above, there are clearly two distinct ways in which a minister is expected to tithe. On one hand, as with the Church of the Nazarene and the Church of God in Christ, the minister is seen first as a member of the local church. Just as any member of the local church is expected to tithe to the local church, so to is the minister expected to tithe to the local church.

On the other hand, the minister is seen as being pastored by his district or national office.2 Therefore, their tithe is offered at some degree either in whole to the district and national office, or in part, typically giving the remaining share to their local church.

I will argue below that both of these approaches are immoral and offer an anemic reading of the Scriptures and Church history. While one can be seen as nothing more than an over-extension of the "priesthood of all believers," the other is nothing less than avarice and spiritual abuse.

The Biblical Data for Ministerial Tithing

I have developed elsewhere a greater treatment on the Biblical data of tithing. In short, the people of God following Sinai were taught to contribute between 23.3% and 33% of their profit year-over-year. Sandra Richter has pointed out that the Israelite community were predominantly subsistence farmers during this period.3 As a result, the a ten-percent tithe alone would have a significant impact on their ability to survive, let alone the anticipated 33%. Nevertheless, if we may adopt an interpretive mode, it is clear that יהוה sees the provision of priests, the observance of festivals, and the care for the quartet of the vulnerable4 as a need which prioritizes self-sacrifice or self-preservation.

A line of argument has then developed on this to this in more recent times which argues has largely argued that the tithe for the needs of the Levites (alternately called the storehouse tithe in reference to Malachi 3) 5

Theology and History

  1. Didache
  2. Who are the Levites?
  3. What about the other tithes??
  4. Worker is worthy of his wages


  1. The Evangelical Free Church has very little published online about giving in general, let alone any notion that their members are expected to tithe. While many denominations will include the tithe in a book of order or denominational bylaws, the EFCA has no such statement. It has been marked "no" for this reason.

  2. This is not actually backed by any specific document I have encountered through the AG. Rather, it is the most common defense by ministers within the AG for this practice.

  3. Richter, Sandra, Stewards of Eden: What Scripture Says About the Environment and Why It Matters, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020).

  4. This is a term developed by Tim Keller in his book Generous Justice.

  5. Croteau, David A., You Mean I Dont Have to Tithe?: A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving, (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010).