When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we surrender every part. This, of course, includes our money. If discipleship means anything it means we joyfully submit all aspects of our life to Him. Our deepest desire is to be conformed into His image (Ro 8:29). To accomplish this we rely on the inner work of the Holy Spirit and our obedience to Gods Word. But the subject of money is particularly confusing. Some teachings about it are legalistic, some encourage greed, and some imply that by giving money we can purchase the blessings of God. And because many ministries need money to pay their bills its talked about a lot. So much so, that many people view the church as a group who are just after my money. Some leaders react to this criticism by avoiding the subject altogether, but thats not the answer because it doesnt teach Gods people how to give and that ignorance can damage their lives. The real path through this confusion is to listen carefully to what Jesus Himself said about giving. What does He expect of His followers? What must we do to become more like Him? After all, thats the goal of a disciple (Mt 10:25).
1) Tithe: giving one-tenth
2) Priests: descendants of the high priest Aaron who was himself a member of the tribe of Levi. The priests received parts of the offerings which were not consumed, firstborn of flock and herd, and a tithe of the Levites tithe (Nu 18:26).
3) Levites: the other members of Levis tribe; they were primarily supported by the tithes of the people.
1) Abraham: Gn 14:20
2) Jacob: Gn 28:22
3) Moses: When Israel entered the promised land one tribe was dedicated to the Lords ministry. The Levites were not given a portion of the land to support themselves, but rather their portion was to be given support by the tithe from the other tribes. They were also given permission to reside in 48 cities set aside for their use (Nu 35:1-8). This included small pasture lands around those cities.
a) Regular tithe (Dt 14:22-29) One tenth of all harvests, flocks and herds were brought to the Lords sanctuary each year. If the distance was too far an equivalent amount could be purchased near Jerusalem. Some of the tithe each year also went to the Levites who lived locally.
b) Third-year tithe (Dt 14: 28, 29): Every third year the entire tithe was distributed locally among Levites, landless foreigners, orphans and widows.
C. Jesus Words
1) Mt 23:23 With tithing as with other areas Jesus said the religious leaders focused on the wrong thing. They tried to prove their zeal by making tithing a tedious exercise in self-denial. Meanwhile they ignored the attitudes God looks for in the heart. Jesus command here seems to expect His followers to keep tithing, but to do so for the right reason: the desire to see justice done for the abused, to extend Gods mercy to the lost and hurting, and to walk in faith in Gods promises (Micah 6:6-8).
- Legalism focuses on inactivity for the Sabbath, denial for tithing and hunger for fasting.
- In fact: the Sabbath is meant for fellowship, tithing should express compassion and thanks, and fasting is designed to enhance communication with God.
- God is never pleased by heartless religious duty.
2) Mk 12:41-44 As a model for giving Jesus chose a poor widow who He observed giving only two small copper coins. He said she gave more to God that day than all the wealthy.
- To God it isnt how much we give but how much we keep for ourselves.
- Whey would this woman give all that she owned? Was this an irresponsible act that would result in starvation. Or, was she making a bold step of faith? (1 Kings 17:8-16).
D. Is a Christian obligated to tithe?
No, we do not earn our righteousness by good works, but instead receive Jesus, righteousness by faith (Php 3:9). However, when the new birth takes place the Holy Spirit changes our heart until we become like Jesus. And since Jesus is generous, we too are becoming generous (2Co 8:9). And since at least as far back as Abraham the people of God considered one-tenth to be a minimum expression of faith and thanks as Christs disciples we will also be at least this generous. Furthermore, in practice there seems to be a threshold at 10% which still releases Gods miraculous provision. Giving below 10% does not seem to bring this blessing.
E. Promised blessings
1) Malachi 3:10 Remember tithing was Gods plan to care for the Levites (Nu 18:21), and the storehouse would have been the sanctuary in Jerusalem (Dt 12:11), except every third year when it was distributed locally (Dt 14:28, 29).
- Note: God promises to open the windows of heaven and rebuke the devourer (Haggai 1:6, 9-11; 2:17).
2) Proverbs 11:24, 25;19:17
3) Luke 6:38
4) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
God supplies the generous with resources so they can continue to give generously.
F. Why does God care about money?
1) Money is an indicator of the affections of the heart.
- Lk 16:11 God uses it to test for spiritual maturity
- Jas 2:15, 16; 1Jn 3:17 love will compel us to give
2) Money is transformed into ministry when it is given for the right reasons.
- Jn 6:1-13 five loaves and two fish
- Blessed money vs. plain money: money loving placed in Jesus hands versus money paid like a tax.
3) Money is an opportunity to discover the power of God.
- 2Co 9:6, 10
- A collection for the poor in Jerusalem
- How much spiritual fruit we produce depends on whether we sow sparingly or bountifully.
- We arent compared to others, we are compared to our potential.
4) Money is a substance that can produce demonic addiction
- Mt 13:22 We need to weed our hearts regularly
- Lk 12: 15-21 Building bigger barns
- Lk 12:29-31 God will provide miraculously for disciples
G. Practical Concerns
Q: What if I cant afford to tithe?
1) Get help to form a budget
2) Evaluate your lifestyle
3) Faithfully pay your debts
4) Give something from the amount you have to live on
5) Increase giving as you are able
Q: What if my spouse bitterly opposes tithing?
1) Give from whatever expendable income you are allowed to control
2) Give in non-monetary ways
3) Know the Lord understands your situation