In All Ways
Q. Is tithing 10% of my income to our local church the only way to give? Can't I donate time, labor, foodstuffs, aid to my elderly neighbors, and do other things like support T.V. evangelists and overseas ministries?
Giving to Get?
The T.V. evangelists would certainly say, "Yes!" In fact, they frequently quote Malachi 3:10 and promise you a blessing from God if you will send money to them:
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. 'If you do,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!'"
Pastor's MacArthur's Viewpoint
Seriously though, it would seem that God applies Malachi 3:10 to us today as well. But, there is more to the story.
Teacher MacArthur states, "When tithes were unpaid, the priests were deprived and had to give up their ministry to begin farming. The nation's religious life was hindered and the poor strangers suffered (cf. Nah. 13:10-11). But, the real iniquity was that such disobedience was robbing God, who was the true King of the theocracy of Israel" (MacArthur 1997, 1366).
Ministry Watch Info
Naturally we are to be good stewards of the resources God has given to us. We should carefully scrutinize those ministries to whom we joyfully give money - including the local church. Watchdog organizations such as Ministry Watch may be a good start. This group carefully investigates the financial doings of various ministries. www.MinistryWatch.com.
Are we Legalistic&Nit Picky?
I'm sure that most anything we do for God is a good thing. Donating time, labor, foods, aid to the elderly, and so on are unquestionably fine things to do. Not only are these demonstrations of excellent character but God rewards those who do good things for others (2 Cor. 5:10, Hebrews 6:10).
True believers probably want to do things for others from the heart and with gratitude for what they have.
However, it also seems that church members often become extremely legalistic and nit-picky when it comes to old-fashioned tithing. More questions pour-in regarding the fine print of tithing than almost any other subject. I suspect that this kind of detailed questioning over how to give back to God is probably displeasing to the Lord. After all, He has done so much for us - especially here in America.
"The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God" (Exodus 23:19, ESV).
We are told to bring the firstfruits to God. That would mean the equivalent of about 10% from our paychecks or earnings for tithing in American culture.
Not only does this honor the Lord but there is a practical side as well. Certainly in Old Testament times it kept the Temple and the priests going.
Local Church Today
But, today we have the local church. Consider these needs:
- The church building and facilities need our tithes to keep the lights on.
- They need funds to keep the heaters working in the winter and air-conditioning going in the summer.
- They need funds to print weekly bulletins and pay for mailings.
- They need to pay for audio equipment, sound equipment, piano tuning and repairs, choir robes and music.
- They need books for the children, bibles for the pews.
- They need salaries for the pastor.
- They need funds to pay for your associate pastor.
- They need funds to pay a secretary, coffee for meetings, and so forth.
If we appreciate having a local church building - a meeting place for traditional church services, Sunday school, funerals and weddings, and for other activities then we need to help support maintenance costs.
Underground House Churches
If we met in underground house churches as in China, or lived in places hostile to Christianity like Iran, then the advice would be different. Rather than follow the model of supporting the Temple and its priests, we would follow the house-church model in Acts such as that described in 2:42-47:
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." …And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need" (Acts 2:42, 44-45, ESV).
We have Received Freely to Give Freely
Yes. We are saved by grace and we don't have to follow the Law by giving 10% of our incomes to tithing. But, remember the words of our Lord, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Yeshua said "You have received free of charge - give free of charge" (Matt. 10:8 HCSB).
If we don't want to do this then maybe we should ask ourselves "Why?"
Why do I begrudge giving God something back from what He has given to me in the first place?
A Concordance List
I suggest followers of Christ put together a list of verses from a Concordance regarding money, tithing, giving, sharing, generosity, and stewardship. Study these verses for yourself. Pray about it. And ask God what you should do. Only then can we come to a sense of peace over the issue of tithing.
Perhaps start with these - write out the ones that you feel apply to you:
1 Chronicles 29:14
2 Corinthians 9:11
2 Corinthians 9:8
Numbers 18:20, 23-24
1 Timothy 5:17-18
Matthew 25:21: "The master was full of praise, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities" (NLT).
Give according to what you are Given
Deuteronomy 16:17: "All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God" (NLT).
God owns Everything
"The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours. Everything in the world is yours - you created it all" (Psalm 89:11, NLT).
Knowing all of this wouldn't we want to give freely from our blessings?
Alcorn, Randy. 2001. The treasure principle. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Beers, Ronald. 2007. Life's questions. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
Blue, Ron. 1997. Generous living. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Life Application Study Bible, NLT large-print. 2005. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV. 1997. Nashville, TN:Nelson.