Let’s talk about money. I know, I know, it is culturally taboo to discuss how much you make and where you spend it. We are so afraid to talk about it, in fact, that we hire people we do not even know to give us advice because we cannot ask our friends how they are handling debt, houses, retirement, general income and the like. I lived for four years in a country where financial matters were not a taboo in conversation – people regularly asked how much something cost, how much one another made and how money was being spent. That was possibly one of the strangest quirks in the scheme of adjusting to a new culture. But I think we can learn something from it, namely, interpersonal accountability with our finances.
Now, hear me. I am not saying that we need to make public knowledge how much you bring home on each pay check and every candy bar purchased at the gas station. But having a close friend or friends who can hold us accountable with how we spend our money is just important as having a close friend who can hold us accountable to any sin of disposition. Why?
For some reason tithing has become a taboo issue. We have developed a heart of animosity against the local church and we have decided that we are all wise enough and subordinate to no one that we have the final say in where our money should be given. Some argue that they do not make enough money to give to the church or any charity, while others consider a paycheck for a pastor or heating bills for the building to be a poor use of “God’s money”, so they bypass the church and give to whatever effort tickles their fancy. They like to show up to the building and listen to the preacher, but their money will go to a real ministry – like feeding the hungry.
Others want to argue that tithing is an Old Testament command and therefore not expected of the Church. Yes, we know that the Old Covenant taught tithing clearly, and that it was declared, by God, to be the first ten percent of everything (Lev 27.30, Deut 14.24, Num 18.26). It was not only the first ten percent (before taxes and wages), but it was also supposed to be the best: the best sheep, the best grain, the best harvest. It was a physical tithe in those days – the actual harvest or animals bred. God had the physical goods brought into His house, His storehouse, to meet the needs of the priests and the poor (Mal 3.10).
God also promised in the Old Testament that giving the giving of the tithe would guarantee the provision of God of the physical needs of His people:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.
– Mal 3.10-12
So how does this apply to the New Covenant and the Church today? We first must understand that when Jesus came to the World, His intention was not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. In fulfilling the Old Covenant Law, some of the laws were indeed changed – and those are the ceremonial laws required in order to come into God’s presence and the sacrificial system of atoning for sins. These were fulfilled and therefore no longer need to be required. In fact, it would be a dishonor to Jesus and His death to try to keep these laws. You can read more about that here. The other laws, God’s moral laws, were not changed or fulfilled. They teach us the heart of God and about sin. So we must then understand if the tithe is a ceremonial law.
Ceremonial laws that were fulfilled by Jesus were dealing with the way we approach God and obtain pardon for our sins. This was the sacrificial system. The tithe in no way bought one’s pardon, that was left completely to the killing of animals and the shedding of blood. Forbidden foods and clothing were named to look forward to the purity of the blood of Christ that would cleanse us and to set the people of God apart symbolically. Jesus has now come and fulfilled the cleansing of our sin, and thus those laws are fulfilled. The tithe was a functional law, however, to care for the leaders (the priests) and to meet the needs of those within Israel. The leaders of the church still need to be cared for, as do the poor. The tithe, therefore, is not a ceremonial law that was fulfilled.
If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed. The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
– 1 Tim 5.16-18
The New Testament clearly teaches us that the Church is supposed to care for the poor and provide for the pastors. If we hire a pastor to teach us and oversee us Spiritually, that is His job. His boss is God Himself, He will give an account to God for how he cared for our souls, and we will give an account to God for meeting his physical needs (Heb 13.17).
Because the law of the tithe has neither been nullified nor fulfilled, we can heed the warning of the Old Testament as a fearful thing:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
– Mal 3.8
Do you want to steal from God? We know that everything that is in the world already belongs to God – because He created it (1 Cor 10.26). And everything that we have is because God gave it to us (1 Cor 4.7), and God is our Father – a good father – who has promised to meet our needs and to give us what is the best for us:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
– Matt 7.11
God has given us everything that we have. He has commanded us to give back to the church ten percent, at least, to provide for our leadership and to have money and goods in the storehouse which can be used as ministry. When we give that money, it is God’s and it is not ours. If we want to give specifically to a ministry, then it must be above and beyond what we give to the discretion of the local church. The tithe is the ten percent. It actually means ten percent. Offerings are above that.
God is also extremely concerned about our hearts. We must not give our tithe out of obligation. We must give out of thankfulness and cheerfulness:
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
– 2 Cor 9.6-7
We know that when we give, we are not only being obedient, but we are giving into the storehouse of God from which we can see God meeting needs and preforming ministries. Yes, God is infinitely bigger than our storehouses and His efforts will be beyond anything that we can imagine, but this is a system that He has set up for us to be able to be a part of His ministry and to see be blessed. Thus, we should be excited to give – to see what comes out of it in terms of ministry. We should be happy to give because we have been blessed and given something to return. We should also be humbled to give that God has entrusted us with His possessions. And as we prove ourselves faithful – both as individuals and a church – He will entrust us with more. Maybe not finances, but possibly more Spiritual responsibilities.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
– Luke 16.10-12
The bottom line is that anything we do that is not from faith is sin (Rom 14.23). We must give joyfully and in faith. We also must come to understand that nothing we have is our own, and that it all already belongs to God (1 Cor 10.26). Jesus recognized and honored the woman who gave the only two pennies over the man who gave much money, but only a fraction of what He owned (Luke 1.1-4). He does not need our money, but He honors the one who gives. He also commands us to give at the minimum ten percent in order to keep the local church running and serving the community. So let us step out and be obedient, with the ten percent. Let us also love lavishly and give to ministries and people above and beyond that ten percent. Because it is all God’s, and He has promised to provide and meet our needs. He also has entrusted us with much, so let us use those blessings to His glory and honor. And lastly, let us find people in our lives who will hold us accountable to do so. Money is just money. But we must honor God with how we use it. And it is very easy to slip when no one knows how we use what we have. Put down your pride, and find someone with whom you can get real. And let’s stop robbing God.