I’ve been doing studying on tithing lately. I’m planning on doing a sermon series on it come February. And to tell the truth, all my studying on it is driving me nuts! The stuff I’ve come across is either anti-tithing or it’s health and wealth prosperity theology. Even the main book I’m reading claims it’s not health and wealth prosperity theology, it sure sounds like it. I’m not even close to being an expert on tithing. I’m not an expert on giving. I struggle with it. We tithe, we give 10% of our income to the church. We support the ministries of the church through our monetary gifts and our talents and spiritual gifts.
But what about giving? What should we give? I was one time told, when I hardly had any money that 10% of nothing is still nothing but I can still tithe my time and talents. But does God only want 10% of us or does he want all of us? That’s a question I’ve been struggling with.
An oft quoted passage comes from the prophet Malachi, with God speaking
“‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–your whole nation–because you are robbing me. Bring in the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,‘ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:8-10
You catch that, “Test me in this.” No where else does God say “test me.” This is saying that if you do it, you’ll see God at work. You’ll see God moving. And you’ll get a blessing. That’s the problem I struggle with. Many people latch on to this and expect a monetary blessing. A blessing that means that if they invest in heaven, then they’ll receive a monetary blessing in return.
But that’s not right.
So why do we give?
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the giving of monies from the churches in Macedonia and encouraging the Corinthians to give. He writes:
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lore’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:12
In other words, giving is to help the needy. The churches in Macedonia were hurting financially yet they begged to be able to give (2 Corinthians 8:4). And give they did. Paul then is urging the Corinthians to give since they are able to do so much more than the churches in Macedonia were able to.
In the Old Testament, God had set aside ways in which people were to help out the needy, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the foreigner. God had set aside rules in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy (also called the five books of the Law). Land owners were to set aside parts of their fields to allow the poor to gather grain. They were to allow the poor and needy to gather grain that fell. There were to give a tithe, 10% of first fruits…the first of the harvest. But more than that, they were to give thanks offerings to God at the temple. They were to give offerings for the poor. In total, it was more like 30% of giving rather than just 10%.
So what should we give? That’s a good question. I was once asked if we should tithe off of gross or net. If we should tithe on gifts. If we should tithe on school scholarships. These are good questions. One book I read said that how much do you want to be blessed by? Then give that amount. That’s bordering on health and wealth.
In the Malachi passage, there is a promise of a blessing. But it’s not a monetary one. It’s a blessing of God’s presence. It’s a blessing of God’s work in our lives. One author stated that we’re placing our treasures up in heaven. And that is partially true. Where your treasure is, that’s also where your heart is (Matthew 6:19-21). What you focus on is what you work towards. Are you going to work towards doing God’s ministry or are you going to work on keeping what you have for yourself?
What’s your focus. What do you focus on. That is where your heart will go.
Paul writes in Timothy
“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10
When we love money, we focus on money and not on the ministry and kingdom work of God that our money can do. We focus on it and it becomes a type of god for us. We strive to keep it. We strive to work towards it. It’s all we want. It’s where the focus of our heart is.
Instead, live generously with what you have. Live in such a way that what you have is used for God’s glory. This includes monetary things.
So, what should we give? That’s a tough question to ask. And it’s something that I’ve been struggling with. It is true that it is all a gift, a blessing from God. What we have doesn’t belong to us but to God. And he asks for so little in return. So give to him what you have, give until it hurts. But give in such a way that you give joyfully.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Give what you can, what you’re able to. Give it all to God–your gifts, your time, your talents and your money. Give it to God and see what he does with it for His glory.