I’m preaching about generosity at my church this weekend and money always stirs up lots of questions:
Should I tithe? what is a tithe? Where do we get that idea? How much should I give? Where should I give? Do I live to lavishly?
I know full well that my sermon this weekend will not be able to deal with all of the questions and concerns surrounding money. Here are a few answers that would line up with what I believe the Bible teaches about giving. I hope that they are and that the Holy Spirit continues to grow in you a heart of generosity.
Questions and Answers about Giving from the CVC “Your New Life” Class
1. Isn’t the tithe an Old Testament law that Jesus never taught?
Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day. They tithed but neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
You are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things (Matthew 23:23, NLT).
It’s not either “Give the tithe” or “act with justice.” It’s both/and. Do both. The New Testament standard is always higher than the Old Testament standard. When Jesus talked about OT principles, he always raised the bar. He said, “Adultery isn’t just the deed; it’s the thought.” Jesus raised the bar over and over. Why would we think He would lower the bar when it comes to our giving?
2. So, are New Testament believers supposed to tithe?
We’re saved by grace through faith and we ought to give by grace through faith. We should give out a heart of joy and gratitude. If you can’t give that way, then don’t give. But ask God for the grace to give out of a grateful heart. And realize if you don’t give, you are not tapping into the Law of the Harvest, the Law of Reciprocity. If you don’t give generously, then you really can’t claim the promise from Malachi 3 about the windows of heaven opening up for you.
Having said, that, we must keep in mind NT teaching.
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income (I Corinthians 16:2, NIV).
He’s saying, “Give individually, regularly, methodically, proportionately.”
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:6-7).
He’s saying, “Give bountifully, intentionally, willingly, cheerfully.
Whatever you decide to do about the tithe, make sure you give individually, regularly, methodically, proportionately, bountifully, intentionally, willingly, and cheerfully. Don’t give because it’s a rule.
The NT pattern is to recognize that all that we have belongs to God. We are managers of His money. If we’re 2% givers, maybe we should ask God for the grace to go to 4. If we’re 5% givers, maybe we should ask God for the grace to go to 8. If we’re 10% givers, maybe we should ask God for the grace to go beyond. And some people who have extra extra should grow way beyond the 10%.
If you aren’t giving 10%, then the tithe is a good goal to aim at. If you are giving 10%, then the tithe is a great pad to launch from. We’re supposed to grow in giving just like we’re supposed to grow in other areas of our lives. We’re supposed to grow in love, in service, in devotion, in the fruit of the Spirit, right? Well, shouldn’t we also grow in giving, in generosity? If you have been giving 10% since you were 5 (giving from an allowance) and you’re still giving 10% 50 years later, then something’s wrong with your growth in this area of my life.
3. Where should I give the tithe?
Remember that Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” So, another way to ask this question is “What is the storehouse?”
The storehouse in OT times was the place in the Temple where products were stored. The people were supposed to bring their goods—the produce from their fields, the grain, the olives, the olive oil—and it would be stored in rooms, in kind of a warehouse in the temple. The resources were then used support full-time servants of God – the Levites, prophets, and priests, to meet the expenses for worship at the Temple, and to bless the lives of the needy. So, basically, the people are being told, “Bring the whole tithe to the Temple.”
Are we supposed to follow this practice of storehouse giving?
Pastor Rick Duncan says, “I can just talk about what I’ve seen and practiced over the years. Even before I became a pastor, Maryanne and I gave 10% to our local church. And we supported other ministries after we gave to the church first. We trusted the leadership of the church to use the money to pay salaries of missionaries, of pastors, of leaders in our church, to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people in our community and world.
“I used to serve on staff in a para-church ministry for four years – the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And we always told people, ‘Give first to your church. If you have available funds to give after that, then support this ministry as God leads.’ The best para-church ministries say the same thing.”
If you are involved in a good local church with a variety of ministries that engage in evangelism and discipleship and missions and that cares for the poor and needy, then give to your church first.
4. Isn’t tithing your time and talent enough?
Suppose a husband said to his wife, “I’m going to give you my time. I’ll talk to you all day and all night. I’ll listen to you. We’ll take walks together. My time is yours. And I’m going to give you my talent. I’ll fix things around the house. I’ll write you songs and poetry and love letters. My talent is yours. But, you know, you can’t have any of the money. That’s for me. I’m never paying for anything or buying you anything.” Would she feel honored with that?
This is one area where we have to bat 1.000. Time. Talent. And Treasure. It’s a three legged stool. You’ve got to give all three.
5. Should I tithe on my gross or my net?
It all depends on whether you want God to bless your gross or you want God to bless your net! Remember II Corinthians 9:7, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his own heart, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The cheerful giver says, “How much can I give?” The fearful giver says, “How little can I give?”
6. Should I tithe if my spouse says “no”?
I Peter 3:1-6 gives instruction to wives with non-Christian husbands. They are to win their husbands by their chaste, respectful, and submissive behavior. A Christian wife who insists on tithing when her husband says “no” may actually be setting up an obstacle keeping her husband from being open to the gospel. (“All that church wants is your money.”)
Respect your spouse’s position. Don’t force the issue. God knows your heart.
Larry Burkett was a Christian financial consultant. Here’s his suggestion. “Ask your spouse if you could give something, maybe $50 a month. Then, as a couple, evaluate whether or not you’re better off or worse off financially. If you’re worse off, you’ll stop. If you’re better off, you’ll give more.” Who knows? You may ultimately end up tithing. Burkett said that he found this was the first step in many unbelieving spouses coming to the Lord.
Some would say, “Well we are not under law. We are under grace.” True. But who should be the most grateful and, therefore, the most generous? Those under the law or those under grace?
We should want to go beyond the tithe.
R.G. LeTourneau was the father of the modern earthmoving industry. He was responsible for 299 inventions; like the bulldozer, portable cranes, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration. During World War II his company produced 70% of all the army’s earth-moving machinery. He called God the Chairman of his Board. His life’s verse was Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” LeTourneau went way beyond the tithe. He gave 90% of his profit to God’s work and kept only 10% for himself. LeTourneau was convinced that he could not out-give God. “I shovel it out,” he would say, “and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.”
Does God Command Christians to Tithe?
- An answer from John McArthur
- An answer from John Piper – audio
- An answer from Randy Alcorn and Wayne Grudem – video
Why Should I Give to the Church?
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