I’ve heard a lot of questions and statements lately regarding giving in the Church. I wanted to take some time and address some of these issues.
Here are some of the questions I’ve heard asked:
What is tithing?
What is giving?
What are first fruits?
Is giving still relevant in today’s culture?
Do I have to give to the Church?
Jesus did away with the Law so we don’t have to tithe anymore, right?
What should we give?
To be honest with you, these questions kind of hurt my heart because it shows how poorly we discuss God’s Word and how immature we are in Christ.
Let’s look at tithing first. Tithing literally means a tenth. There is no changing that and it is not open for interpretation. Bluntly stated, if you are not giving a tenth, you are not tithing.
I’ve heard it said before; “You should never be ashamed if you can’t give 10%,” and “If you can’t give 10%, start at 1% and work your way up.” These might sound as if they are non-judgmental and supportive, but they are enabling behavior linked to faulty thinking and endorsing ignorance concerning both money and God’s Will.
I’ve heard someone else say, “if you can’t give 10% then just pray to God to give you a number.” I’m pretty sure God is not a respecter of persons, so why would He intentionally go against His Word and command just for one person? How is one person’s financial situation so significant as to allow God to negate His command just for them?
Let’s look at scripture. Genesis 14:18-20:
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
This is the first instance where a tithe was given. I think a significant aspect here is that a priest of God blessed Abram and his response was to give this priest a tenth of all he had. Notice that is wasn’t a tenth of simply the spoils he had just acquired when he recused Lot (see verse just prior to 18), but rather a tenth of all.
Next, we have Leviticus 27:30. Leviticus is the Book of the Law so this is where Moses was bringing forth God’s Will in the form of the Law to the Children of Israel.
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.
Being that this was a command, or Law, it was mandated to all of Israel. I think a significant aspect of this is that it wasn’t just money but rather everything the people had to offer. Also, I think it significant that God calls the tithe “holy” and not just a mandatory “church tax” or the like.
I think another important thing to note is why God commanded a tithe and that the tithe specifically goes to the priests of God. When God brought the Children of Israel into their promised land, He gave property to each of the tribes as an inheritance. That is, all but one tribe; the tribe of Levi. The Levites had a different type of inheritance, for theirs was the work of the Lord. So, because of their lack of land and ability to raise livestock themselves, God issued the concept of tithe as a provision for His priests.
Keep this in mind as you read the first part of Malachi 3:10;
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house…
It makes a little more sense when we understand the “why” of a command. I know as kids when we’d ask why about something, we would hate it when we are told “Because I said so!” How much better when God provides understanding to His commands!
So, how does that relate to us today? Did Jesus abolish the Law and do away with the mandate of tithing? Let’s see what Jesus said about tithing in Matthew 23:23;
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Granted, He’s putting the Pharisees in check with this statement, but He actually endorses tithing here. I don’t think it was coincidence that He states specifically that justice and mercy and faith where weightier issues than tithing. It reminds me of another scripture found in Hosea 6:6;
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Realize that this is in the Old Testament. The same Old Testament that set the requirement of the Law—the same Law that included burnt offerings and tithing. It would almost seem as if the Old Testament were contradicting itself, but it is not. God is speaking to His people years after the Law had been given. They understood the Law well enough and because they understood the Law, He could teach them something new based on the Law they already revered.
He was teaching them how to pursue His heart.
Burnt offerings were a requirement, but what God desired was mercy, not simply the fulfillment of the Law.
Jesus, in the New Testament, quotes this passage in Matthew 12:7, further emphasizing God’s desire to have His children learn a different understanding about the Law. Jesus did not come to do away with the Law or the Old Testament; He fulfilled it. Using His own words in Matthew 5:17;
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
So, when people have the attitude that the Old Testament is irrelevant for today’s Church, I want to scream. Yes, a lot of the requirements of the Law were fulfilled through the offering Jesus made in Himself, but the purpose and reason behind the Laws still remain. Specifically, I would like to challenge our mindset concerning giving.
Let’s look at something Jesus taught about money. Matthew 19:16-22;
16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The lesson is this; we tend to want to purchase justification through acts of righteousness. This man asks Jesus what good thing he had to do to gain eternal life. Fundamentally his question was flawed, for eternal life is not something to be bought, or even earned, considering our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but it is inherited from God based on His grace.
The question Jesus indirectly asks here is what holds the highest value in our lives; wealth or God? The treasures we’ve build up for ourselves here on earth or the treasures we’ve build up for ourselves in heaven?
When people say they don’t make enough money to tithe it actually bothers me. We’ve seen that the tithe is not the last portion, or the leftovers from everything else, but rather the first fruits of what we have to offer, and it’s considered holy to God.
If tithing is the first thing we do with our pay check then we will always have enough money to tithe.
Are our bills and our debt more important than God?
We seriously have to change the way we think about money.
1 Cor. 9:20 says the we are not our own but we were bought with a price. If we were bought, can we possibly own anything for ourselves? Does not Romans 6:22 say we are slaves to God? Do slaves have rights and property? No. The fact that we have a job and income is a blessing of God. In fact, the very breath we breathe is a part of the new mercies He grants us each morning (Lamentations 3).
It isn’t that we are paying God, as if any of our money were actually ours, but rather we are giving back to God, a reflection of our heart through generosity. Giving is a heart issue. Just as we love because He first loved us, we give because He has given so much to us.
Now, let’s look further at Malachi 3. I wanted to emphasis that giving is a heart issue before we looked fully into this passage so we understand the point without getting religious and dogmatic about it.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 “And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.
God starts off by asking if man will rob God. What a silly thought, that man could rob God. Yet we do, and we have, because our stubborn hearts would rather hold on to our money, as if it could save us. And God tells us that we are cursed with a curse because of our stubborn hearts.
This is the part where people say we are no longer bound by the Law and the curses associated with it. The issue here isn’t our lack of fulfillment of the Law but rather our heart’s reflection of how we steward the resources He has given us. Instead of giving tithes and offerings, we rob God to pay debt. And through it all, we never question whether or not we would even be in debt had we bothered to learn the lesson He was teaching us through tithes and offerings.
The next part as of that passage is the one place in the Bible where God tells us to challenge Him. In fact, He tells us to test Him in regard to tithes and offerings and see if He will not bless us beyond our ability to receive it.
Now, I will not tell you that if you do not give tithe and offerings that you will be under a curse, but I will tell you that if you feel as if your finances are cursed and you are not giving tithes and offerings, this might be the reason why. Personally, I’d rather test God and received blessings than use Jesus’ sacrifice as a bargaining chip in an attempt to escape a curse due to not giving tithes and offerings.
I understand that this passage is used a lot, especially concerning tithing, but I think how we got to this passage is important too. Let’s look at it.
2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. 4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the Lord, As in the days of old, As in former years. 5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien– Because they do not fear Me,” Says the Lord of hosts. 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
You may have read that and wonder how this is relevant. Even in the Old Testament, this is seen as a heart issue. You can tell because He said we turned away from Him because we do not fear Him. That’s a heart issue. Then when we inquire how we turned away by asking in what way shall we return, He tells us that we have robbed Him. In fact, in verse 5, He likens those who are unfaithful financially to sorcerers, adulterers, etc.
Now the question stands of where to tithe. Because the Levitical priesthood doesn’t operate here in the USA in 2016 as it did when the Law was written, there is a bit of a difference. I’ve heard some people say to give where you are fed. I’ve heard some say to sow into your local body of believers or community. I think there is merit in both those concepts. However, I would not say that tithing must 100% of the time go to a church.
Matthew 25 Jesus tells a story about the talents. In the parable He teaches us an important lesson about stewardship. As His stewards, we are charged with a task of providing a return on what He has given us. The amount is not what’s important but rather that we wisely invest it to yield a return. As such, a steward must have discernment in regard to determining what ground is fruitful enough to sow seed into. Our tithes and offerings are a seed we are to sow. Our relationship with God through the Holy Spirit should be strong enough that He can direct us where to sow the seed of offering we present to Him.
My attempt in this was not judgement or condemnation. I’m not casting stones for those who don’t give. My attempt is to present understanding and a challenge. If you are not tithing, I would challenge you to tithe. If you are tithing, I would challenge you to give offerings, which is above and beyond tithing. God can’t bless what He doesn’t own and He doesn’t own your finances if you can’t even invest a tenth of it into His Kingdom.