I can’t think of a topic that pastors hate preaching about more than giving. It appears like they are just taking their 30-minute sermon time and holding out their hat in their hand and rebuking the congregation for not doing enough. But in fact, no pastor would be declaring the whole counsel of God, if they didn’t, at least every two or three years, broach this difficult and sensitive subject.
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, for several reasons, not all of which we’ll get into here. Andy Stanley uses the term I prefer, “percentage giving.” Others teach that the requirement to tithe ended with the Old Testament era, though the Apostle Paul seems fairly clear about supporting those who teach you, and about giving to widows and orphans.
For the rest of today’s consideration of offerings and tithes, we turn to Trent Griffith, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, Indiana, where this appeared on his blog as The Truth Behind The Tithe. Be sure to read the introduction carefully so you’re following the rest of the piece.
Tithing is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the bible. Giving ten percent of your income is certainly noble and would be a worthy goal for every Christian. But if you think 10% is God’s and 90% is yours, you’ve missed the truth behind the tithe.
The Old Testament teaching on tithing was more akin to our modern tax code than generosity. There were actually 3 different tithes required in the Old Testament to fund the theocratic government. One was to be paid every third year. So if you follow the pattern of the Old Testament tithe you would actually be paying 23.3%. But remember it was more like paying your taxes. What is the biblical teaching on giving? Pay your taxes AND give generously to the Lord from your heart.
I believe the Old Testament teaching on the tithe reveals 10 truths BEHIND the tithe that every New Testament Christian must embrace BEFORE he can consider himself an obedient giver.
1) Give with pre-determination. Rather than asking, “What should I give?” every time God gives to you, decide now. Just like you budget for recurring expenses, predetermine where and how much you’re going to invest in funding ministry before it comes in.
2) Give as a priority. God’s priority is always give, save, spend NOT spend, save, give. When you have the right priority your giving will determine your spending. When you have the wrong priority, your spending will determine your giving.
3) Give a percentage. Don’t get hung up on 10%. Some can’t give 10% but can still give generously in faith. Others can give 10% without exercising faith. Generosity is not determined by what you give. Generosity is determined by what is left over after you give. Whether you give 10%, 11% or 1%, give something that stretches your faith. Giving a percentage of your income forces you to look at all of your income and expenses from God’s perspective. Do you know what you make? Spend? Give? If not, how can you determine if you are being generous?
4) Give the first and best of what God provides. Quit feeling so generous when you drop off your old underwear at Goodwill. God doesn’t want your leftovers. Give God your best stuff. Give off the top of everything you take in. Write the check for ministry before you write the check for the mortgage and groceries.
5) Withholding what belongs to God forfeits God’s presence. In Malachi 3:6-9 God tells his people why He had left them. They had stolen what rightfully belonged to God. If God seems distant to you, you might to see if you have His money in your bank account.
6) Bring what you give to the place of worship. In the Old Testament, God’s people brought the tithe to the place where they worshipped. Today, God’s people should bring their gifts to the local church where they worship. The local church is God’s plan to reach the world. Other ministry giving should be above and beyond your responsibility to fund the ministries of your local church.
7) Giving is a test God loves to prove He can pass. In Malachi 3:10 God invites you to test him in your giving. Leonard Ravenhill said, “You have an incredible opportunity to be the first person in the history of the world whom God has every failed. So test Him.”
8) Giving acts on the promise that God has plenty. Only when you believe that God can open the windows of Heaven to supply all your need will you give at a level that demonstrates faith.
9) Giving invites God’s protection. Malachi 3:11 promises God will “rebuke the devourer” for those who honor God in their giving. Times of economic hardship are the worst time to hold out on God. You can’t afford to go without God’s protection during difficult times. Get God’s money where it belongs now, before God sends the devourer to collect it!
10) God delights in blessing people who give in faith. Do you want God to bless the things you care about most? When you give God’s way He will ensure that you become the object of His blessing so others will take note of His ability to provide. God has no greater delight than showing off His glory in those who trust him with their finances.