Tithing: Answers to Your Questions

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Tithing: Answers to Your Questions

2 April 2014 Hits:29206

Money, especially the giving of it, is one of the most often-mentioned topics in the Bible. It is also one of the most controversial and likely to provoke a response, which is often a negative one. Many years ago I attended a Christian financial seminar in which the speaker presented some simple but powerful truths about handling money. I have put his “two basic rules” into practice ever since: (1) Spend less than you earn; (2) Tithe on the first fruits on all your increase.

Tithing is the Biblical principle of giving one-tenth of all our increase, income or possessions to the Lord, so that His work can be accomplished in the world (tithe = tenth). About tithing Dr. Billy Graham wrote, “God’s blessing upon the nine-tenths helps it to go further than the ten-tenths without His blessing!”

The most frequent objection to tithing is that it’s part of the Old Testament Law that doesn’t apply to Christians today. I’ve found that this statement is often used as an excuse not to tithe. But tithing predates the law. The first mention of tithing in the Bible is Genesis 14:18-20 in which Abraham willingly gave King Melchizedek 10% of all his increase. Where did Abraham learn this principle? Did he just pluck 10% out of thin air, or was he privately instructed by God on a universal principle of life? I would suggest the latter because God later included the tithing principle in the Law of Moses. The final mention of tithing in the Bible (Hebrews 7) refers back to the first mention – to the story of Abraham and Melchizedek. Here the writer relates this mysterious King- Priest to Jesus the eternal King-Priest. As Abraham willingly paid tithes to Melchizedek we willingly pay tithes to Jesus.

It should also be said that Old Testament truth is still applicable to us today unless the New Testament presents truth that supersedes it. For example, Jesus cancelled the Old Testament food rules in Mark 7:17-19, but did not present truth, which superseded tithing. In fact He endorsed it. Have a read of Luke 11:42 & Matthew 23:23.

The New Testament actually increases the conditions of the law (read Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in which He increased the definition of murder and adultery amongst other things). If a tenth was required under the law, no less than a tenth is required under grace.

What God taught Abraham about tithing was adopted 400 years later in the Law. The Law of Moses presents truth on tithing that, if implemented today, gives excellent advice on giving and saving. Under the Law there were three tithes:

  1. The Lord’s tithe: 10% of gross income that went to support the priesthood and temple (Numbers 18:21).
  2. The Family tithe: the next 10% that was saved for the future support of the family (Deuteronomy 14:22-27).
  3. The Poor tithe: every third family tithe was given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

It’s fascinating to note that 4% of the American population today is Jewish and yet they own 40% of the wealth; the reason being that many of them follow these principles. Revivalist John Wesley put it this way, “make as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can.”

Another question people ask about tithing is, “should I tithe on my gross or net income?” Jesus often answered a question with a question so I’ll follow in His footsteps: are you looking for a way of giving more or less to God? I have always made it a practice to tithe on my gross income because I believe it is the right thing to do. In any case this is only a question because of our taxation system. Until just over a hundred years ago people were paid their full wage and were then responsible for paying their tax. It’s still this way in some countries today. The question that flows on from this then is “who should be paid first – God or government?”  Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:13-17). He also taught us to seek God’s Kingdom FIRST (Matthew 6:33). That leads onto the next question, how should I tithe? Three principles should be followed when tithing:

  1. The First: as mentioned above, we are to put God first in our giving, “honour the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9). Throughout the Bible the first of anything was sacred to the Lord.
  2. The Best: in Old Testament times the people of Israel often fell into bad habits. One of those was to start giving to God lame, blind and imperfect animal sacrifices. This was as displeasing to God as an imperfect gift given as an afterthought would be to any of us. Lamb sacrifices were always to be a firstborn, unblemished male (Exodus 34:26; Numbers 18:12-13; Ezekiel 44:30). This flows through to God’s sacrifice for us in Jesus, the firstborn sinless Son. God gave His best for us, should we not offer Him the same out of pure appreciation and love?
  3. The Lot: out of any increase we receive we are to give a tithe to God first – salary, lump sum payments, inheritance, superannuation pay outs, gifts, holiday pay, share dividends, bonuses and so on. God calls us to honor Him with the first fruits of ALL our increase. Any less dishonors him.

Where should I give my tithe? As mentioned already, The Lord’s tithe (10% of gross income) went to support the priesthood and temple, “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house  (Malachi 3:10).  God expected His people to provide for His work that they and others would benefit from. Nothing has changed. In the New Testament Book of Acts people brought money and laid it at the apostles feet (Acts 4:34 – 5:2). The placement of the gift “at the apostles’ feet” was an indication that the money was for the work of the church and not meant to be a personal gift. Both the Old and New Testaments teach that God’s people have a duty to give to God’s work through the leaders He has placed over them (1 Cor. 9:9, 14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). These leaders in turn will be called to account for the way they have distributed this finance in order to further God’s kingdom on earth.

Why should I give a tithe? We tithe out of gratitude for the past. “God, I realise that everything I’ve achieved up to this point, anything I have, all belongs to you anyway. I want to give 10% back to you as an act of gratitude.” We tithe to keep our priorities right in the present. Deuteronomy 14:23 says, “the purpose of tithing is to teach you to put God first” (TLB). It’s a reminder that God is really first in my life, and it helps me set my priorities.  We tithe as a statement of faith for the future. When I tithe I’m saying, “God, you’ve taken care of me in the past, so I trust you and I’m giving this to you as a demonstration of my faith that you will provide in the future.”

Tithing is a great floor but a lousy ceiling. Giving the first 10% of our increase to God’s work through our local church is a good place to begin, but this principle is meant to be freeing rather than restrictive. C.S. Lewis used to give away 2/3 of his income. R.G. LeTourneau (Mover of Men and Mountains) gave 90% of his. The more God blesses us the greater percentage we should give to him.  Finally, J.D. Rockefeller wrote, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.”  It’s got to start somewhere and at sometime.  Why not start today?

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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7 replies on “Tithing: Answers to Your Questions”

Cameron Bouchersays:

Hi Rob, Firstly let me say that I really enjoy a lot of your posts. I find that many of them are thought provoking and inspire me to keep digging into the word. Tithing is something that I was never brought up with (having grown up in church), it was always a ‘free will’ offering. One of the things I struggle with is this concept. Often when pastors preach on this subject, It seems to be done with an air of ‘you should be made to feel guilty if you’re not doing this’. In fact almost all messages I have heard on tithing, never mention the verses in Numbers & Dueteronomy at all. Why is this? Why do most people never mention these verses? They usually start with Malachi – with a guilt trip or a offer of false hope that when we give 10% to the church that essentially God will make us rich in return (yes I have heard people talk like this) They all mention Abraham, but it the word tithe isn’t used in this passage. As it was the spoils of War it seems like it was just a once off. Is it really accurate to offer this up then as an example? Tithing is mentioned in Deuteronomy as being once a year, and as food to be eaten in the presence of God. Can this really be accurately interpreted that we’re to give 10% to the church? Why is it that most churches aren’t very open when it comes to how the tithes are being spent? I have never seen this shared in church? What is the churches responsibility to its congregation who may be under financial hardship? I have had a very negative experience with churches regarding this. There have been times where we have simply been unable to give (due to job loss, and business not earning anything) and we have had to choose either buy food for the family or give 10% to the church without question. Even when the Church knew we were in a desperate situation, they turned their back on us (in more ways than one) – not even one person made offer to cook us a meal or anything – this has left a sour taste in my mouth regarding tithing & in fact left me very hurt at the time. Even more recently when I lost my job (which was a very nasty case that ended up at FWA) our church gracefully provided some vouchers, but as weeks went by before I could get access to centrelink payments, we approached them and asked for some bread & some fruit for our kids lunches and we were told ‘We can give you budgeting advice’. This was incredibly hurtful. So needless to say I am sceptical about most teaching on tithing that ‘its what the bible says so you have to give it to the church’ . Why can it not be given to help the poor ie towards many of the great organisations that help those in third world countries? As some churches incur debts as they borrow to build bigger buildings better sound systems etc (and another topic altogether is the topic of debt. I’ve never heard a message about what the bible says about debt) You brought up the topic of giving from our Gross income. Given that most people have 20-30% tax taken from their pay before they receive it, how can this apply? Does this not contradict the principle of ‘first fruits’? Now I’m not against giving. I’m not against giving 10% of my income (if I had one, currently I’m not earning as I’m a stay at home parent). we have a very tight budget which my wife is magnificent at managing. We have very little room though for anything outside this. We struggle like a lot of families.The cost of Living seems to keep climbing. I admit that I have been a very poor steward of finances at times. I would love to be able to be in a position to give, and give regularly. I have heard people in finance talk about the 10:80:10 principle. (save 10%, Living 80%, Giving 10%) This is a concept I would like to work on in our lives. As I have said, there has been a bitter taste in my mouth for a while on this topic, and I struggle with it. Especially given our current situation. With all this though, I must say that not once has God ever let me down. He has always held us in his hands, and provided for us. Please don’t take my comment as one of criticism. I get a lot out of your Facebook posts, and your segments on Light FM. I would be happy for you to email me with your answers to my questions. I hope you wont mind though if I have 1,000’s more to ask back. Kind Regards, Cameron.

Elizasays:

Dear Rob, I want to cry hearing your testimony, may God restore to you the true faith in all it’s purity and love that He wants you and your family to enjoy. The blessing of God rest upon you and your family.
Eliza

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Hi Cameron,

Thanks for your comments and questions. I would encourage you to listen to the message I preached on tithing at our church a couple of weeks ago as this will help answer some of your questions. The link is here: http://baysidechurch.com.au/message/refresh-series-the-floodgates-of-heaven-ps-rob-buckingham/

In answer to your comments: I agree with you that no guilt should be associated with tithing. I too have heard some simply awful teaching on this subject over the years. I hope I’m never guilty of spreading guilt.

The word tithe is used in Genesis in connection with Abraham. It is translated “tenth” in the newer versions but it is the same Hebrew word for tithe.

Thank you for sharing your story with me. Your current situation sounds very difficult and it seems your church has been less than caring in the middle of your difficulty. It is important though not to limit God and His Word because of personal circumstances. For example, I had shingles recently and God did not instantaneously heal me. Should I then come to the conclusion that God doesn’t heal? My encouragement to you and your wife is to start where you can with generosity. I like the fact that you aim to do the 10:80:10 principle but that’s a goal that you may have to grow towards. It’s like working out at the gym – you have to strengthen your muscles in order to lift more. I would encourage you to start strengthening your giving muscles.

Regarding church accountability re finances I can only speak on behalf of Bayside Church. We have very strict processes in place that safeguard from any financial misappropriation. Most of the finance given by bayside church members goes towards pastoral care, communicating God’s Word, discipleship and relieving poverty. Of course like any organisation there are administration costs but we see good administration as facilitating the main goals of the church as listed above. In this day and age power bills, insurance, compliance to OH&S and the like are all part and parcel to operating as a legal charitable entity. Every year we are independently audited and in August we will be giving our church community a full financial report over a couple of weekends. Anyone in Partnership with Bayside is always welcome to come into the office to look at the audited financial report.

I hope this helps mate, and I pray that God will bless you and your family mightily in bringing you through this tough season.

Warm regards in Christ,

Rob

Maysays:

Tithing is not just giving a percentage and feeling righteous, and I do not believe God does not bless those who don’t tithe. I give of my time..many more hours than I can often keep up with, I spent time with sick, elderly and lonely people, and I don’t tithe my emotional imput I give all I have. God has a given us as we prayed about it, the same figure He would like us to give to th church, much more is spent on providing food and shelter to others. We are in debt, have been for years, I don’t give to administrative boards when wealthier people can do whilst ignoring the poor in the church. We are poor, yet giving while rich pew sitters ignore the needy, as mentioned above.
Where is the food bank, the crisis finance, the clothes and food and shelter churches can provide, if you have a fancy building, you can give away plenty and sit on basic chairs and listen to a piano or keyboard without the platform looking like a broadway production number.
A microphone and a basic overhead projector is plenty, wonder who threw out all the hymn and chorus books? Who took bibles out of the pews, forbade children playing because the church might get damaged? Funny, I’m ok…oh..you meant the building, not the people…silly me…thought Christ was first, not the paint!

Ian L Thomassays:

Have grappled with the Church’s position on tithing for quite some time, years in fact. Most preachers, and you are no exception, use Abraham as the example for tithing. However, Abraham was under no compulsion to tithe. He freely gave the tenth to Melchizedek. This was a one-time event and the Bible never says that Abraham tithed before this incident, and it never says that he tithed after it. This event occurred after the rescue of Lot and others from the clutches of the ‘Kings’. Abraham tithed only “the spoils of war.” If we really wanted to “nit pick,” he was tithing other people’s property. He did not tithe the increase of his flocks or a tenth of all he had. This was a one-time, voluntary giving of a tithe of the spoils of war. Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham was graciously given BEFORE Abraham gave the tithe. It follows therefore, that Melchizedek did not bless Abraham for tithing. Abraham’s ‘tithe’ was a one-time, voluntary event, unrelated to tithing under the Mosaic law. Conclusion: Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek does not even remotely support the notion that Christians are to tithe.
Paul speaks only about ‘giving’ and to ‘give what you can, as God loves a cheerful giver.’ Again, not pushing the position of ‘tithing.’
I have heard some horrendous expositions from the pulpit on tithing. How it is a ‘command of God’ or ‘how you can manipulate the size of your blessing from God, simply by tithing and then giving a little more.’ We have seen people unable to put food on the table because they have given a full fortnight’s pay to the Church, for ‘First Fruits Offering,’ a charming little device that really puts the torch to people and families. This “offering” is, of course, on top of your normal tithe.
I love the Church, the Body of Christ, but feel disappointed by how some of the Church leadership handles the precious responsibility that God has given them, the guidance and care of the local saints.
Congregations are often called upon to ‘have faith’ and I would agree. Perhaps some of our more ‘affluent’ Churches could do well to heed their own advice.
God bless.

KaTiesays:

I am wondering about tithing from Centrelink payments?

I understand that God requires the first 10% of the fruits of our labour (meaning my pay from my employer.. I earn the money so I give the first and best part with a happy heart)

The money from centrelink is almost like a gift (rather than money earned) to help you feed and clothe your children.

I know it’s a personal conviction but I would love to hear some other opinions on this matter because I’m a bit confused at the moment.

Thanks so much 🙂

Jack Vzsays:

Great insight to tithing, thankyou. I have been tithing since I became a Christian 10 years ago. The windows of heaven are not always open but God knows what I need and what I can handle, I know God has me covered. I was struggling just before Christmas, I couldn’t even afford a burger from McDonalds let alone blessing my kids with a gift, to top it off I was -2000 on my credit. I got on my knees in prayed and got desperate, I reminded God of His promises in reference to tithing and giving. Within 24hrs I was invited to a friends house, her husband who I had never met said he wanted to bless us. He pulled out a check for $10,000. I wept, thanked God for his covering, gave 50% to the church and am resting on His promise.
I LOVE tithing. I have confidence that God has my back in reference to my finances.

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