How should I give?
Way #1: Tithing
When I was a kid I used to go visit my grandparents for a few weeks during the summer. When I visited them I would always go to work with my grandpa. While I always enjoyed working and spending time with him, I also looked forward to the day he would pay me. I remember one summer when I was about 12 years old, my grandpa paid me $100. As you might imagine, as a 12 year old, I was excited to have so much money. When I got back home from visiting my grandparents, I remember talking to my dad one day about the $100 I had made and he asked me, “Are you going to give a tithe to the church?” I remember thinking, “Is he serious? I’m just 12 years old. I can’t believe he wants me to give some of my money to the church.” So I said, “Well, I don’t know. If I tithe on $100 it would only leave me with $90 and I have never had $100 before.” To which my dad replied, “Well Jeremy, God is the one who allowed you the opportunity and the health to even make that money.” I couldn’t argue with that. Talk about bursting a kid’s bubble.
I was frustrated at the time, but little did I know my dad was trying to teach me that everything belonged to God, He is the one who provided the money, and we trust in the Provider, not what’s provided. I was clinging to the money without giving a thought of who provided the money and ultimately to whom the money belonged. I had the “This is my money!” mindset and I am thankful my dad taught me how to think differently, as well as eternally, even though I did not understand it at the time. When I got older I finally understood that I am not the owner of any money I earn, I am simply the manager of it. My job is not to cling to money but to be obedient to my owner and sensitive to where he leads me to put his money. In this instance, I was learning the starting point of giving, which is the “tithe” which literally means “a tenth part.”
Here are some verses in Scripture that affirm the tithe:
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). This was a mandatory practice for the Israelites.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). God wants us to give him the first and best of everything we earn. This mean we should not buy everything we need or want and then see if we have enough money left to tithe. This means we should tithe first.
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:8-10). We have to realize that when we do not tithe we are actually robbing God. But if we will obey God out of faith, he will bless us beyond measure.
You may be thinking, “Sure it says to tithe in the Old Testament, but what does the New Testament say about tithing?”
Well, it does not speak of tithing as much as the Old Testament, but rather more about voluntary offerings and sacrificial giving, which we will talk about later. However Jesus does affirm the tithe in Matthew 23:23. It seems to me if Jesus affirmed the tithe, then we should obey it. But because the tithe is not specifically mentioned as a practice of the New Testament Church, many Christians do not believe they should have to tithe.
I have tried to be sensitive to this subject and have wrestled with it myself. When I was younger I remember researching tithing just so I could try to prove that it was not a biblical command to Christians. I did not want to have to give 10% of “my money” to my church, so I was looking for a way to get out of it without feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I also thought to myself that since we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, I should not have to give a tithe because God should accept me and love me for who I am. Unfortunately “who I am” was a selfish man looking to only build his own kingdom instead of helping build the eternal Kingdom. The root of my problem was not that I thought if I did not tithe then God would not love me. The root of my problem was self-centeredness. I wanted as much as I could get and I did not want to give it to anyone. Without knowing it, I was finding my identity in money and possessions and also trusting in them instead of God.
Take a look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1,
“…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” There were people in first century Rome who Paul said were worshiping the things God created instead of God, the Creator, himself. This is exactly what we do when we do not tithe. When we do not tithe or give any money, we are basically saying, “I trust money more than I trust God.” We have actually created an idol in this moment because we are expecting money to do for us what only God can do for us. We are expecting money to bring fulfillment to our souls but ultimate satisfaction is only found in God though his son, Jesus Christ.
So we must realize that everything is God’s and He is also the Creator of everything including any type of currency. So when we choose not to tithe or give, we are choosing the creation over the Creator.
But I also hope you will understand this fact: God does not need your money.
He is never in need. Remember as we saw before in Psalm 24:1 and Haggai 2:8 that God already owns everything. He actually asks us to tithe and give for our benefit which ultimately leads to the benefit of His eternal kingdom. When we tithe and give, we become less dependent on money and more dependent on God. This leads to freedom from worry and anxiety that stems from our finances. More importantly, the more dependent we are on God, the more he can use us to build his eternal Kingdom. The rich man who hoards everything for himself is of no use to God. Even if he claims to know Christ, his faith is only an inch deep because his trust is in his money, not God. So who does the rich man really follow? Who is really his God? To love God is to depend on God and we cannot depend on God if we are not practicing the spiritual discipline of tithing.
You may think at this point, “But we are under the grace of the New Covenant in Christ, so how dare you say that I don’t depend on God if I do not tithe?”
Should not each person be able to give what he or she chooses as long as they give something? Well, I am glad you asked that question! This is actually a very common one. I will answer this question by pointing you toward the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Here are a few things that He teaches:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
So now you may say, “Those are great words from Jesus, but what does that have to do with tithing?”
Well, let’s take a closer look at these statements. Jesus begins by saying “You have heard that it was said…” When He says this He is referring to the Old Testament laws that were given to Moses. These were laws that the Jews took very seriously. But after He says this, He follows each statement with, “But I say to you…” in each of the statements that come after the phrase, “But I say to you…” we never once see Jesus lowering the standard of the Old Testament law. Instead, in each “But I say to you…” statement, He follows it by raising the standard. But He does not just raise the standard a small amount, He raises the standard radically. So by examining the radical statements of Jesus in his teachings, and also the commands that God gives the Israelites to tithe in the Old Testament verses we considered earlier, why would we think Jesus would expect his people to give less money today than he did from the Israelites in the Old Testament? This would be completely against his character and would be inconsistent of the New Testament teachings of Jesus. Jesus would not raise the standard in everything and then lower the standard when it comes to tithing and giving. It is just too inconsistent to even consider.
So to answer the initial question, yes, each person should be able to give what he or she chooses.
We are under the grace of the New Covenant in Christ so we certainly do not want to become legalists when it comes to the 10%. But if you are using this grace in order to give less than 10% then I urge you to consider these teachings of Jesus. Many times we give less than 10% because we have yet to become totally dependent on God and it scares us to give up “our money” out of fear we would not have enough for other things. This kind of giving takes faith, but that’s what giving is all about. Trust God even when you are scared. Trust God even when it hurts. This will strengthen your faith more than you could ever imagine. Remember what is printed on your money: A bunch of dead guys who can’t even use it, which we should consider every time we look at our money. When we go into the grave, money will become worthless. But what is also printed are the words, “In God We Trust”. It is my prayer that this statement be the truth when you consider the great privilege of tithing to God’s eternal Kingdom.