Do you tithe?
Not many people do. Some believe that tithing isn’t taught in the New Testament, so it no longer applies to us. They explain that we’re living under grace, and tithing is legalistic. Others insist that all Christians are supposed to tithe, because of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. I’ve heard many sermons on Malachi 3:10, where the pastor explained that the local church is the “storehouse” and we must bring our entire tithe to them, with any other giving counting as an “offering” above and beyond our mandatory 10%.
Clearly, there’s lots of room for interpretation regarding tithing. Matt, at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com (one of my favorite blogs) recently wrote about tithing. I think he gives us a lot to consider, and urge you to read what he has to say. Matt inspired me, thus today’s post.
First of all, I need to make it clear that I don’t know who’s right. I don’t know if we’re supposed to give 10% of our income to our church, or if that’s an out of date law. I don’t know if the money we give to missionaries and other ministries counts as part of this 10%, or if it’s extra. I’m not sure I’ll ever know, until I can ask about it face to face in heaven. And I’m okay with that. As Matt wrote in his blog, I think we’re looking at the whole issue from the wrong perspective.
Too often, discussions about tithing cause us to focus not on how much we should give, but on how much we can justify keeping for ourselves—and that misses the point. It all belongs to God. We’re accountable to Him for how we spend 100% of our income—and not just of our money, but of our time and other resources as well. While I’m sure we all already know this, and totally agree, putting it into practice is a bit harder.
That’s because money has a way of enslaving us. Money discloses the selfishness, coveting and greed hiding in our hearts. As the often misquoted verse says, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
On the other hand, God’s purpose is to free us from this old nature. He wants us to turn to Him instead of our credit cards and bank balances. Instead of selfishness, He fills us with compassion. Instead of greed, He fills us with generosity. If we have to stop and calculate whether our giving adds up to 10%, I think we’ve already failed.
Actually, the whole idea of tithing reminds me of the rules about public displays of affection on some campuses. Instead of asking, “How can I treat members of the opposite sex with respect and purity,” we want to know, “How far can I go?” And instead of trying to give ourselves away, we’re trying to hold on to as much as we think God will allow.
Pete and I aren’t perfect, and our finances vary greatly from month to month and year to year. We don’t dare put our trust in our income or savings. They keep disappearing! We’re not there yet, but our goal is to view a tithe as just the starting point. As God blesses us, one of our first questions needs to be, “What is this for?” Are we to be a conduit for the flow of resources to someone else, or are we to use it for the work He’s called us to do? The answer doesn’t always make sense from our limited human perspective, but if we’re obedient, God always, always meets our needs. It’s all pretty humbling!
God has provided the church with all the finances we need to walk out our faith in the world. Imagine the impact we could make if everyone gave as much as they were able!
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)