"You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake." - Deuteronomy 15:10
"...give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” - Luke 6:38
"On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come." - 1 Corinthians 16:2
A number of people over the last few days have shared with me that they would benefit from some teaching on tithes and offerings. Perhaps it is too often assumed that people know how to give and therefore little is said from the pulpit. Let me offer this very short primer on giving and hopefully assist us in thinking through what giving to the Lord is about.
1. Giving is a part of worship.
Worship is composed of various parts: prayer, preaching, the reading of scripture, music, tithes and offerings, testimony, the Sacraments (Lord's Supper and Baptism). With each facet of worship there is a call for us to be actively engaged, and tithes and offerings are no different. If we don't ever give then we aren't truly worshiping. Giving is an expression of thanks to the Lord for sending the Savior who gave everything for us. Giving is rooted in joy. It is the testimony of a transformed heart.
2. Giving is biblical.
Tithe is a Hebrew word which means "a tenth part". In the days of the Old Testament, the Israelites were first taught to tithe at Mount Sinai. It was there that the Lord instructed the people to give the first tenth of their crops and livestock to the Lord. The tithes were given to the Levitical priests who then presented it to the Lord (Num. 18:26).
In the days of the New Testament, tithing is amplified to incorporate not just our income but every aspect of our lives. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." So, we see here that the Lord is interested in our lives being a constant testimony to His glory. Everything we are and everything we have is to be employed for the Kingdom, and tithing gets us thinking in that direction. Also, since we are no longer under law but under grace, the New Testament's vision for tithing surpasses that of the Old Testament.
3. Tithing is the beginning of giving - not the end.
This is a critical point. Tithes, a tenth of our household income, should go to support the work of your church. If there are ministries outside of the church that you long to support, then it is best to give beyond the tithe to those ministries. So, for the sake of illustration, if a household's yearly income is $70,000 the idea is to tithe $7,000 to the church and other ministries would be supported above and beyond that. Again, that $7,000 is a starting point to giving, not the end all.
4. Stewardship begins at home.
Tithing takes discipline and effort. From personal experience, I have found it best to tithe weekly. Weekly tithing gives me the best consistency for giving and also provides the church with a clearer picture of what to expect. I take my household income, take ten percent of that number, divide it by fifty-two weeks, and then I know what my weekly tithe should be. It takes discipline, but it isn't difficult. Some people tithe monthly and others tithe quarterly, but the best giving is weekly. Consistency is critical.
5. What if I can't tithe ten percent?
There are many reasons why people have trouble tithing. Perhaps expenses have crept up out of nowhere. Let's face it - life happens. Your home air conditioning goes out just when your vehicle needs new brakes and all of your kids just came down with strep. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Clearly, we are to look after our home and provide for our family. The problem is when inability to tithe is the result of an undisciplined life. Look at your expenses. Look at the things you spend money on. Are there things in life you can sacrifice so you can support the Kingdom more faithfully?
I hope this short teaching on giving will serve for greater, in-depth teaching in the weeks to come. We are a culture that spends very quickly and easily, often forgetting the church along the way. In the meantime, please pray about your giving. There is no greater investment than the church. If Jesus gave His life for her then it must be pretty special.