Giving and Tithing
A "tithe" is the practice of returning to God 10% of our gross income.
The Bible teaches us a baseline standard for giving: the tithe. When we give the first 10% of our gross income to our local church, we put God first in our lives. When we give over and above to Kingdom Builder offerings, we demonstrate practical love for others and get a front-row seat in advancing God's Kingdom. Scripture teaches that the tithe belongs to God (Leviticus 27:30). That is why when we fail to tithe, we rob God of that which rightfully belongs to Him (Malachi 3:8-9). Stewardship refers to the fact that God made us managers, not owners. Everything we have belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). When God created humans, He placed them in a position of managing the earth, not owning it (Genesis 2:15). Understanding this is foundational to the practice of tithing because once we appreciate that God owns everything, it flows that we would return to God a portion of what He has given us.
Grounded in the concept of stewardship, tithing is a primary way by which we, as Christ-followers, can recognize and demonstrate that God has primacy in our lives. When we tithe, we are returning to God that which is already His.
Tithing, though, also has very practical implications which God described in Deuteronomy 14:22-29. These are:
- To honor and revere God;
- To provide for others; and
- To receive God’s blessing.
To “honor and revere God” means that when we tithe, we demonstrate that God is first in our lives, that He is supreme. We demonstrate that as stewards of all that God has given us, we are trusting Him, not money, and that we are confident in His provision (Matthew 6:19-34).
Tithing is the God-appointed manner in which His ministry on earth is funded. For the Israelites, tithes primarily supported the priests who did God’s work since they had no other income (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). Jesus directed His disciples to receive support from those to whom they ministered (Matthew 10:9-10) and He Himself was supported by several women “from their own means” (Luke 8:1-3). The Apostle Paul affirmed Jesus’ teaching outright (1 Cor. 9:14), was himself supported by the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 11:9) and took up offerings to provide for those in need in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 9:5-15; Acts 24:17). For a modern-day Christ-follower, tithing supports all that the church does, whether purchasing curriculum for children’s ministry, rescuing women from the sex trade, or planting a church in a new community to reach more people who are lost and hurting. Tithing funds everything God has called the church to do, and importantly, tithing plays a large role in determining the church’s ability to fulfill the specific vision God has for it.
God promises blessings when we tithe (Malachi 3:10; Proverbs 3:10). While such blessings may come in various forms, such as financial blessings, protection, favorable health, and the like, there is no limit to what this may mean. Indeed, being “blessed” quite simply means having supernatural power working for us. While God doesn’t “need” our money, we most certainly need His blessing.
Scripture teaches that when we return to God a tenth of our income, that we do so first, before we use our income for other purposes. Various scriptures refer to bringing God “firstfruits” or the “firstborn” (See Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 14:23; Proverbs 3:9).
This is in keeping with the understanding that when we tithe, we put God first and trust in His provision. Of course, it takes faith to give to God first, before we know if we will have “enough” money. Perhaps that is why God says to “test Him in this” (Malachi 3:10). Just as the Israelites would give the firstborn lamb before they even knew whether the ewe would produce more animals, giving God our “firstfruits” means we return to God the first of our income, not whatever is left after all the bills are paid. By doing so, we then actively trust Him to meet our needs.
Money is a primary means by which Satan can draw our attention away from God. It is likely for this reason that Jesus chose to teach on money in 16 out of his 38 parables. In one such teaching, Jesus unequivocally stated that we “cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24b). He made it clear that “where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The apostle Paul, in writing to his young protégé Timothy, advised that the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10a). This is not because money is inherently bad; it, in fact, is neutral. However, it is a tool that is used frequently to turn our focus away from God. It is difficult, if not impossible, to depend on God when we are trusting in money to provide for our needs. When we have a biblical and godly understanding of money and wealth, we can use the resources God has entrusted to us for His plans and purposes.
By definition, a tithe is 10% of our gross income returned to God and offerings are amounts we give in excess of that. A great example of a biblical offering is described by the Apostle Paul when he was collecting an offering from the Corinthian church to be taken to Jerusalem to support those in need there (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:5-15). This would be akin to a modern-day church taking up a special offering for benevolence, to provide for the poor or individuals with particular needs. While tithing refers to a set percentage of our income, offerings have no numeric limit. Paul only advises that they be given with generosity and cheerfulness.
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