Tithing to Our Detriment
I find it shocking that so many churches advocate a very narrow concept about the tithe. If we would simply do some good Bible study, we would easily see that it was so much more. Alarmingly, too often the truth about the tithe has been twisted. Many pastors and church leaders have, for the most part, unknowingly hoodwinked their members regarding tithing. Unfortunately, they insist on receiving ten percent from their members, not realizing that it’s to the detriment of their members and of God’s work being fully implemented.
Tithing Was so Much More
What they fail to mention is that tithing in the Old Testament supported a social system that was carried out by the Levites. The Levites held many different offices of service that were for the benefit of the people. Among them were lawyers and judges who handled cases of dispute and assault. This included maintaining cities of refuge, which were places of safety for people who were innocent of murder. Others were teachers, social workers, temple workers, gatekeepers, craftsmen, singers, song writers, musicians, spiritual leaders, and even health inspectors. Some of these offices included a range of services. For example, health inspectors advised on skin issues and mold in people’s homes.
How often do churches place their worship teams on the payroll? How often do churches offer their members free legal advice or medical care? When our governments offer these services, then don’t our taxes form part of what was intended by the tithe in the Old Testament? Clearly, our modern concept of the biblical tithe falls short of what God intended it for.
Interestingly, there was also a tithe of a good harvest that was to be enjoyed by the whole assembly. In other words, not every tithe was exclusively for the Levites. The people brought the good harvest tithe to eat before the Lord. If they couldn’t carry their tithe portion, then they were instructed to sell it and bring the money before the Lord and there buy any kind of food they wanted, including wine or other alcoholic drink. You can check it out for yourself in Deuteronomy 14:24-27!
Certainly, many churches are doing more than just paying for their building’s upkeep and the pastor’s salary. Churches that are evangelizing, discipling, and doing acts of service are carrying out the Lord’s mandate to see God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. They need their members’ support.
So, who should we give our tithe to? Firstly, the tithe is not a New Testament concept. As New Testament believers, we should be thinking beyond that ten percent that was required in the Old Testament. Giving financially is just one of the many ways that we can be involved in bringing His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Nevertheless, the principle of giving by way of love offerings continues.
What about that Bible verse on giving that so many people like to quote at collection time, the one that says to give and it will be given to you (Luke 6:38)? If we look at verses 27 to 42, we see that the focus of the passage is more about our attitude than about our money. These verses are telling us how to treat people. We are instructed to love our enemies, to not judge, to forgive, and to lend without expecting anything in return. However, at collection time, we keep being reminded of giving money to the church, so that God will bless us. What about giving money to others? This passage is not about giving to the church per se. The theme of this passage is about giving to others in a Christ-like way and God will bless us in return.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:6-11 NIV).
To be a generous person doesn’t require a substantial bank balance. It’s an attitude, a lifestyle. Jesus said that He’ll reward the person who gives a cup of water in His name (Mark 9:14). This promise is reflected in another verse found in the Old Testament:
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Prov. 11:25 NIV).
As I’ve stated before, it’s often the little things that count. Moreover, what motivates you to give is important to God. There’s no joy or freedom attached to guilt. There’s no reward for pride. We are to be motivated by love and compassion, not by any other unhelpful feelings.
Remember, God loves a cheerful giver. So, continue giving to your churches, where you are fed spiritually, but also give to missionaries, nonprofits, and wherever God leads you to give. We should be good stewards of the money and talents that God has entrusted to us by putting them to work.