I learned the value of tithing and giving very early in my Christian life. My dad was an alcoholic. He had lost his job and was deep in debt due to his alcohol problem. When I was 10 years old, I saw my father give his life to Christ and abandon alcohol forever. I made the decision to follow Christ on the same day.
My dad got a new job. But something he did got my attention. He read in the Bible that the tithe is the Lord’s, so he tithed on the first paycheck he received from the new position. He could have said, “When I get out of debt, I will tithe or give to the Lord.” He made no excuses. Out of the joy of his salvation, he began to tithe. It took him two years to pay off his alcohol debts and other bills, but he made tithing a priority.
God not only honored my dad’s commitment, He also taught a valuable lesson to a boy who was intently watching his father’s behavior. My brother and I had a paper route. We started tithing also. More than 50 years later, that commitment remains unchanged in my life.
We can argue all day and night about whether tithing is “scriptural.” Frankly I am amazed and grieved at the passion of some in their pursuit to keep people from practicing the tithe. Some believe they are delivering believers from a legalistic practice. Some have issues with anyone suggesting they should do anything with “their” money. They want no restraints on their financial hedonism.
I’m convinced most believers are scripturally untrained in this matter. They simply do not know the joy of scriptural giving or the freedom from the pressures of this world’s self-centered financial schemes.
Books on tithing and giving abound with ideas that are all over the map. Sadly, many sacrifice the truth in order to magnify the prosperity gospel. But some honestly present a biblical model of both the tithe and the grace-giving lifestyle.
I am thankful that in my lifetime God raised up Larry Burkett (now with the Lord), Dave Ramsey and other men of wisdom and faith who have grounded their teaching in an honest view of scripture.
There are some scriptural foundations I hold to be indisputable on this subject:
In the Old Testament the tithe was God’s plan for the ongoing support of His work among His people. It was 10 percent of God’s total provision for your needs.
In the New Testament Jesus never spoke against the tithe. He never condemned it. He never cancelled it. On the contrary, He affirmed the tithing pattern of the Scribes and Pharisee’s while correcting their negligent activity in other areas. In Matthew 23:23 he said, “These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” That is hardly a rejection of tithing, as some imply.
I affirm that “grace giving” is a superior level of generosity beyond the tithe. It is a New Testament model that advances tithing beyond a requirement. It expands – even completes – the joy of tithing.
Tithing is something we do together, and I am always in favor of believers working in unison. Being a “team” is critical to our mission. We need to be “one” in every way possible, just as Jesus prayed in John 17:11. This is easy, if we just get free from our bondage to the world’s material demands. Together we can channel our God-given resources into Kingdom goals and accomplish God’s Great Commission.
Tithing is like “kindergarten” for the believer. It is a great place to start, but not where we want to spend the rest of our life. We should aim to grow to the measure of Christ’s extravagant generosity.
It is my conviction that the tithe is not mine to designate or play games with. I believe it goes to the local church of my membership. I give to special offerings in the church and ministries beyond the church, but never at the expense of compromising the tithe.
Churches are struggling financially. Cooperative Program ministries at the state and national levels are hurting from the trickle-down effect of church financial woes. Charitable gifts have dropped significantly in the last 10 years. Giving in churches is now at its lowest level since the Great Depression. We need to reverse this destructive trend.
I believe 2014 is a pivotal year for churches in the matters of tithing and giving. We can continue the downward slide, or we can put on the brakes and have the resources to reach the world with the gospel.
We must do something!
The shortfall of ministry dollars at every level can be traced to the lack of tithing and giving in the local church. Local church leaders must abandon the fear of discussing this critical issue. God’s people must be discipled in the godly management of material things.
I’m a team player. I believe the concept of teamwork is quickly eroding. Let’s act now to change that sad state and commit ourselves to giving to our local church. Then we can give together to Great Commission ministries through the Cooperative Program and special offerings like the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.