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There’s no denying that when it comes to Church and money, many people become skeptical. Money is always a hot topic and the church is not excluded from this discussion. When many hear the word tithe, they associate it with money grubbers, embezzlement and dishonesty. However, the purpose of tithing is far from earthly desires of the heart. Tithing itself is a humble act of inward motivation to give back to God through the church for the purpose of advancing His Kingdom. It is a willing financial sacrifice done with a joyful heart.
What it Means to Tithe
Depending on what church experience you have, tithing may have a certain connotation. Whether good or bad, the Bible is simple in it’s explanation for what tithing is, it’s purpose and how it should be conducted. In the Bible we see many examples of tithing, and it’s mentioned throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
- Proverbs 3:9-10
- 2 Chronicles 31:4-5
- Deuteronomy 12:5-6
- Mark 12:42
Tithing has been long practiced for thousands of years, and is now a regular observance in most Sunday morning services. Tithing is the active choice that a person or a family makes to give 10% of their pay to the church. This money is used to support the church, bills, pastors salaries, equipment, missions trips, outreach programs and to hold community groups or Bible studies for youth and adults. The term tithe literally means to give back. It is the act of giving back a portion of what the Lord has gifted to us. The phrase “to give back” indicates that the money which we have received was never truly ours to begin with, but rather a gift from God to be used wisely.
To better understand tithing it’s important that we differentiate tithing and donating. Tithing is to our church, while donating may not necessarily be financial and not exclusive to faith based organizations. We donate to Goodwill, or a local shelter and it’s also not based on a particular percentage. The importance of tithing is that the money is being used in a God glorifying way through the church and in line with His word.
Why We Tithe
Money is a hard subject for most people, and even in Church it can be an uncomfortable subject. When the plates pass from hand to hand some may feel obligated to put in a couple dollars, while some may abstain from tithing at all. Many people I have encountered over the years have demonstrated skepticism when it comes to giving money to the church. Some don’t tithe because they feel like the church is begging for money. Others have had unfortunate experiences with the tithes being abused by church leadership. This unfortunate pessimism leads to many doubters questioning the purpose of tithing. While it is important to ask questions and know from your church where the money is being used, it’s also necessary to not neglect God’s calling to tithe based on past experience or personal doubt.
Please don’t read me wrong, tithing or not tithing does not diminish your salvation. But as James reminds us in James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Being Faithful Through Tithing
Tithing is a statement of faith. It is a declaration that you are serving God through the money He has gifted you. God has given us a simple condition for all that we receive, and that is to give back a small portion of what we have accepted from Him. How then can we justify receiving, but never giving? We can’t, there is absolutely no justification for that action, and is warned to us in Matthew 6:21 “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also“. We can follow this up with Matthew 6:24 “You cannot serve both God and money“. When we are self- seeking with our money it is a direct reflection of our hearts. The willingness to give it to God is our opportunity to serve God with money, and demonstrating our understand that God is greater than money itself.
Faithfulness in tithing is not only in the action of giving back monetarily, but committing to giving 10%. This is a struggle for many, myself included! “But Lydia it would be so much easier for me to give if I had more to begin with“. I get ya, I really do. But something I heard a bit ago in church convicted of this same thought. Our pastor lovingly charged us with the idea that if you aren’t willing to serve God with what you’ve been given now, you most likely will not serve differently when given more. Matthew 12:41-44 gives us a beautiful illustrations of giving greatly even when it seems you have little with The Widow’s Offering.
In this passage it becomes clear that whether or not we tithe is not based on the amount of money we have. It’s no sacrifice to tithe 10% on a 6 figure income, but faithfulness is represented well with those who have less, yet still continue to give more. It is the act of trusting God, that no matter how little you have, He will provide exactly what you need.
And that is always what He promises and never fails to deliver. Last year, late summer my husband and I had very little in our account. It came time to tithe and we questioned whether or not we could afford it. But together we felt convicted and gave 10% of what we had, which left us with less than our total for bills. We knew to most others this action would sound idiotic, but to us we knew it was faithfulness and trusted that God would deliver us through that financially burdensome season. And as promised (Matthew 6:31-32) He did, and left us with even more adoration, faith and awesome wonder of His character.
Being Humble in Tithing
The act of tithing is not a means of flaunting what we have to give; oppositely it is a demonstration of deep humility. It is a declaration to God that we know we are not worthy of what we have, and we desire these gifts to be used for something that IS worthy. The money we tithe is for the purpose of advancing God’s kingdom and bringing Him glory. Without the devotion of tithes, the church would not be able to afford a pastoral team, host Bible studies, youth groups, church services, promote missions and further outreach programs.
In our desire to serve and worship our amazing Creator, we tithe with humility.
How to Tithe
For many, tithing is has been a habit in their church for as long as they can remember. The pastor open up tithes and offerings, a song is played, the plates are passed and money is dropped in. But understanding how to tithe is equally important to understanding what tithing is. How we tithe says a lot about the condition of our heart. Are you giving the first-fruits of your paycheck or just putting in leftovers? When you tithe is your heart joyful to give, or are you reluctantly going through the motions?
Giving Your Firstfruits
Within the Bible there are many references to firstfruits, Proverbs 3:9, Deuteronomy 26:2, Nehemiah 10:35, being just a few. In each passage the writer refers to first-fruits as the first part of a whole. We use these references within the church to understand tithing and what we are called to tithe. In the Old Testament tithing often appeared in the form of the firstborn calf or a portion of the first harvest. Today our first-fruits aren’t our herds of sheep, the best grain or fattest calf. Our first-fruits are references in modern culture to paychecks.
Just as the ancients gave their first-fruits to God as a sacrifice, we are called to give the first-fruits of our paychecks. This 10% of what we tithe is not simply what is left after paying bills. It isn’t what money is left in our pocket after groceries or date night. The 10% tithes are the first way in which we should spend our paycheck. It is the first fruit, not leftovers. The reason we are meant to give our first portions in tithes is because tithing should be our priority. Amongst all we do, this is a sincere form of worship. It is a statement that declares “God you give me more than I could EVER deserve, but I want to work in your kingdom by dedicating this money to bringing other’s the great news of your living sacrifice“.
By giving first-fruits back to God, tithing is acknowledged as a priority. It’s an action of putting God before ourselves, regardless of what we have to give.
Our Heart’s Posture
When tithing no longer becomes a priority it turns into a heart issue. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says it well when Paul wrote “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“. When we tithe it should not be out of force or coercion. Tithing should be out of desire, love and done with a joyful heart. A gift given freely is so much sweeter and meaningful to God than a gift given out of compulsion. We have this example in Jesus, who willingly gave himself as a sacrifice to us, out of love and desire.
To a God that has given SO much, our tithes in comparison are very little. When we put into perspective God’s goodness and greatness, tithing in turn becomes a joyful action rather than a reluctant task.
The action of tithing is so much more than simply putting money into a basket each week or each paycheck. Tithing in practice is a joyful action, done with humility and reverence for God. We are called to tithe in faithfulness, trusting that God is great and will use our money for His glory and to spread the Gospel. It’s a choice to give our first fruits, knowing that even if budgets are tight, God will follow through with His promises to always provide our needs.
Take the opportunity to tithe as a chance to worship our amazing God. The One who gives us everything deserves so much more than reluctance or compulsion. This week I am going to challenge you to write down your vow to tithe, faithfully and fully without hesitation. If you are not currently in a church or perhaps your church isn’t transparent with it’s tithes, be prayerful. Ask God where you can tithe and He will always provide the answer.