Do we HAVE to tithe?
- Mel of Bowling Green
Re-framing the tithing question (Part 1)
Instead of asking; "Do we HAVE to tithe?" we should be asking; "Do we GET to tithe?" The word "have" implies obligation and "get" implies a privilege. Tithing is something God lets us in on, a special privilege to his beloved children. You don't want to miss out on it, believe me.
The word tithe means "tenth." It means giving back to God the first tenth of all that comes into our hands; usually our income or any financial gain. In the Old Testament, the Israelites tithed on three things: crops, the fruit of their trees, and herds and flocks. For the livestock, this is how it was done: as the animals passed out of the pasture, every tenth one was pulled to be given to God. That method insured that inferior animals were not selected or that God was given only that which would be desirable to discard.
Some people say; "Well, that's Old Testament; we are now in the new covenant and don't have to do those things anymore." Jesus does mention tithing in the New Testament. He says it in a way that assumes tithing is fully intact. He tells the hard hearted Pharisees: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, 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." (Matthew 23:23)
When we think about tithing, the most important thing is that we examine our heart. Do we have a giving heart? Do we want to give God our first and best? Not out of obligation but out of love. Just like a groom who wants to give his bride the most beautiful diamond engagement ring he can possibly afford, we should want to give God all the first fruits from our life.
Next: But what if we really can't afford to tithe?
I can't afford to tithe (Part 2)
I've heard this excuse often but let me tell you that tithing has nothing whatsoever to do with being able to "afford" it. I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior when my marriage broke up. My financial prospects were extremely limited and my annual income took a real nose dive over what I was used to in my marriage. I was raising two small daughters and it took everything I made to pay all the bills.
After about a year I began to watch a certain preacher on TV who introduced me to teaching regarding tithing. I listened for several weeks before it began to sink in that I needed to start doing this. My logical mind had trouble with it, though, because I could clearly see that I could not afford to tithe. If it took all I had to stay afloat now, how could I add the expense of a tenth of my income?
I talked to my cousin who was advising me spiritually and she laughed. She said; "Just do it and you'll see a new kind of economy. It doesn't make sense but it works." She referred me to Malachi 3:10; "'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.'"
Well, I took a deep breath - a very deep breath - and I started tithing. At first I only tithed on my net income after taxes. I made sure I always wrote the tithe check first, before I even considered what bills might be due. My cousin was right. The strangest thing happened; it was as if I had just as much money after I tithed as I had before. I never completely figured it out and didn't want to put a pencil to it. All I knew was that I could still pay all my bills.
As you consider tithing, remember that you can't out-give God.
Next: What if tithing is simply a starting point for giving?
More than tithing (Part 3)
Here are some things to consider as you wrap your mind around the concept of tithing.
God only requires that you give ten percent. You get to keep ninety percent which is certainly the lion's share!
God owns everything. All that you have has already been given to you by him, you are just a steward. Tithing is part of being a wise steward.
God wants you to tithe so you will get in the habit of being like he is - a giver.
God wants you to put him first and seek first his kingdom. If you say that God is your first priority; tithing is putting your money where your mouth is.
Tithing is more about faith and trust then it is about money. Trusting God in this basic area builds up faith and trust muscles which transfers to other issues.
Tithing helps you hold the things of this life loosely. We all know we can't take anything with us past the grave but we sometimes cling to worldly goods anyhow.
Tithing is being obedient to God.
What if we only considered tithing a beginning? Nothing says we cannot give more than a tenth. Some people give twenty, thirty or forty percent of their incomes into the work of God. What about offerings? Offerings are amounts above our minimum tithe. How about special causes such as funding mission trips, or contributing to organizations that spread the gospel worldwide?
Once you get in the giving groove it will be hard to stop you. You will always be looking around for places to give. That's exactly how it should be because God is always looking around for ways to give to you. Let the blessings begin!