I am probably about to wade into one of the most controversial issues that effects the church and it's because it is a very personal issue for most people. The situation that has been burning in my heart for two days has to do with tithing and what scripture says about it. Yes I know that for many people this is a sacred cow and something you don't want to hear anyone preach on because you see it as a personal issue between you and God and I will agree with you that it is. However, God calls us to find wise counsel about personal issues all the time and how we use our finances, time and personal abilities are areas that I believe fall into that category. So let's take a quick look at the subject of tithing.
A tithe is defined as one tenth of what you have or earn that is set aside to give to someone else; as a means of support or obligation. In a Christian context it is the financial means by which the work of the church is done. Its tradition with in biblical context predates the law and is first recorded in Genesis 14:17-20;
17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (ESV)
Without any requirement set forth we see Abram give a tenth of all he has with him to the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Who is said to be the priest of the God Most High. It is not out of duty that Abram gives this tithe to Him. We understand that Abram was a God-fearing man, honorable in all things who sought to do the Lords will in his life and bring honor and glory to God's name. I may be wrong but that sets a precedent for why we pay tithes today. It is not out of obligation but out of a desire to honor God for all he has done for us just as he blessed Abram and showed him grace we also are recipients of that same grace.
Now I can hear the arguments in my head as to why people chose not to pay tithes as a Christian and the number one argument I hear is; it is an Old Testament practice that has been adopted by the church to ensure operational expenses are met and you might be right. However, scripture records that they practice of God honoring, God-fearing men gave to support the work of the temple and then when converted these same people gave to the Church often giving far more than a tenth of what they had received; an example is found in Acts 4:37 when Barnabas sells a field and gives the money to the early church. We see that the practice was continued in order to advance the gospel of Christ.
Another of my favorite excuses, "Well Jesus never taught on tithing" and yes he never directly tells us that we are to pay tithes to the church. However, we see a few examples of what can be described as His view of it. There is recorded in scripture a moment in time that might seem out of place if we fail to recognize that Jesus used every opportunity to teach His followers the ways of God. It's recorded in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44 and is the story of the widow and her two mites. This is not a parable but something that was witnessed by Jesus and His disciples that Jesus used to help them understand giving.
1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)
To be honest tithing was not something I have always understood and before I was saved it was a constant struggle with my wife who was saved and understood the principle better than I did. Often she would write a tithes check out and we would fight about it. However as I have grown closer to God and began to trust Him more and have recognized the grace He shows to me every day I understand tithing better than ever before. Some will argue that it is required of us to pay tithes basing it upon this statement form Jesus found in Mark 12:17 and we need to give God what is his. Just remember He already owns it all He is just allowing us the stewardship of it.
17 Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at him. (ESV)
However, I believe the tithe God really desires is not limited to a percentage of what we have but what we are willing to give to Him in a God honoring manner that shows our understanding of who He is and what He has done for us. When we determine to only give ten percent when we could give more do we limit what we think about God? When we are unable to give a tenth and decide that if I can't pay a proper tithe I won't give at all do we recognize our failure to honor God with what he has given us. It's not all about money when we tithe it is also about our time, God given gifts and abilities. Are we giving those things to God in a way that brings Him honor and glory? Tithing is a controversial issue by all measures of the word but as Christians it is important that we understand that God honors our sacrifices we make for His kingdom not that he needs what we have because He gave it to us to begin with. But because we have used it to honor Him in the world we live in. I challenge you to examine your view of tithing if you still don't see the need than maybe it's time to examine your relationship with Jesus. Have a blessed day as you walk in the light of God's Word.
Rev. Brian H. Mathis CSC
Ordained Minister Church of God, Cleveland TN
Currently serving as the Associate Pastor of Discipleship at Westminster Baptist Church
Graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary MDiv in Chaplain Studies
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