I’ve been mulling an idea around in my head for weeks but I’ve been REALLY spacey lately so I’m just getting around to putting it on…paper?
I’ve been thinking about tithing. The less money I have, the more I’ve thought about this. I’ve also found out that a surprising number of people don’t actually believe in tithing. So I looked into some verses. I think most people think of Abraham in the Old Testament when they think of tithes. In Genesis 14, Abraham tithed a 10th to Melchizedek. What I actually found is that there are numerous types of tithes in the OT. But once you move into the New Testament, tithing really isn’t mentioned (except a couple times by Jesus which we’ll go over.)
And here is where people split off in two directions. You can be in Camp A where tithing is just an OT thing and Jesus did away with it when he came, or you might be in Camp B which decides that since a common tithe in the OT was 10% that’s a good guideline to follow for life.
I think I’m going to have to pick Camp C unfortunately. What did you really expect? Hear me out:
Camp A has some serious flaws. Jesus did do away with several things when he came to earth. But he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 3:31) We don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, but in Romans 12, we are commanded to offer ourselves as LIVING sacrifices. Also, Jesus does uphold the concept of tithing in Matthew 23:23-24 as he tells the Pharisees that they tithe but neglect to show justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He tells them that they ought to have done both. So I really have a hard time just throwing out tithing altogether simply because it’s not mentioned explicitly in the NT.
However, Camp B also has flaws. I would have a problem picking ONE of the tithes in the OT and declaring that that is the one we should all follow. I think if you add the OT tithes together you actually get about 23% of a household’s income so I’m not sure why we don’t use that figure? (Don’t bet your life on that math.)
My point really is this. The NT actually does say quite a bit about tithing but it doesn’t use that word. Is that really what is tripping people up? Besides all the times that Paul took up collections for the saints in various places, here are just three of the passages I found:
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Are you catching the drift here? I would contend that the NT is a huge proponent of giving BEYOND what you think you can afford. Now I’ll be totally honest, some weeks I look at my bank account and think, “Gee Lord, 10% seems like a WHOLE heck of a lot!” I get that! And other weeks I know I can do more. That what I love about that last passage. What you have decided in your heart. A question I ask myself a lot is, “Okay, I give regularly to my church, but am I giving generously??” That’s a challenge for myself and for you and you are going to have to decide what that looks like.
Another thing I’ve come across personally and I’ve discussed it with others is that sometimes it can be much more fun to give to things besides your church. Organizations that are good, you love, and you are passionate about. Oh, that’s a struggle for me. I think both are important but I cannot give to the organizations and neglect my church. I’ve heard the argument that you’ve been burned and now you don’t trust your church with your money and I would say that you first need to examine your heart and motivations for giving. Are you cheerfully giving or coming up with an excuse not to? And secondly, if you REALLY don’t trust your church financially, that’s a problem that you should address with your leadership.
I love that the believers in Macedonia gave beyond their means and begged Paul to take it for the saints. What a precious blessing that must have been for them! And what a great example for us.