If you’ve been attending a church consistently for longer than a few months you’ve probably heard your pastor talk about tithing, well… at least I hope you’ve heard your pastor talk about it.
“Tithe” is a Bible word that is mentioned a lot in the Old Testament and minimally in the New Testament. The easiest way to explain it is that God instituted a law (rule) for his people in the Old Testament to bring the first 10% of everything they received to the priests as a sign of devotion to God.
So, if a farmer collected 1000 bundles of wheat, the first thing they would do is bring 100 bundles of wheat to the priest. If a blacksmith made $1000 selling swords, the first thing they would do is bring $100 to the priest. You get the idea.
God asked the people to do this for at least three reasons:
- A statement that God was the most important thing in their life
- A recognition that the only reason they had wheat was because God allowed it to grow
- To provide resources for the priests and the temple to operate
Don’t get the idea that everyone in the Old Testament followed through on God’s command. Just like you and me, there were some who struggled to obey what God was asking them to do. Once Jesus came though, everything changed because anyone who follows him is no longer required to obey the laws established in the Old Testament. It’s important you know that. What makes someone a Christian is not whether they obey the rules in the Bible, what makes someone a Christian is whether they can admit they need to accept salvation through Jesus because they are a sinner who cannot save themselves.
When Jesus captivates your heart, you don’t need laws anymore because you’re not concerned with what’s required. Religion is about requirements Relationship with Jesus is about desire. Religion changes what you do; Relationship changes what you want to do. Which brings us back to the topic of tithing.
The cynic rejects tithing because in their minds the church and the pastor just want more money. They’ve been burned or taught by someone who’s been burned, that churches emphasize tithing out of greed. I’ll be the first to admit that there are a small minority of church leaders who lose their way and manipulate the Bible to benefit themselves, but I don’t know many. In general, pastors take a pay cut and spend their life underpaid and under-appreciated, because they feel called to serve you. The reason your pastor talks about giving and tithing is because they want something for you-not because they want something from you.
If you want to get technical about it, tithing is not a requirement to be a Christian. There will be a lot of people in heaven who don’t tithe, but Jesus made a profound statement in Matthew 6 when he said, “Where your treasure is is where your heart will be also.” If I could be so bold as to paraphrase Jesus, what he was saying is where you are financially invested is where you will be emotionally invested. No one can argue with this principle. We spend money on things we care about, and we care about the things we spend money on. I’m not solely talking about golf clubs and fishing poles; I’m talking about every area of our life. You pay a monthly car payment or save up cash to buy a car, and I don’t have to know you or know the car you drive to know that the more you pay for your car, the more it matters to you. Chances are you’re not emotionally invested in your 2002 Ford Taurus.
We could find endless examples as we scroll down our bank statements, whether we have a lot or a little, the way we spend reveals the way we feel about things. I would even argue if we don’t have much money, our spending is even more telling because when there’s only a little we figure out a way to come up with what we need to do what we want to do. A single mom works two jobs to buy groceries for her kids because she cares about her kids. It’s her passion that drives her spending.
If it’s true that where we are financially invested we are emotionally invested, then wouldn’t it be fare to say that if we invest very little in God’s kingdom (the church) we won’t be emotionally invested?
20% of the people give 80% of the money in church. In all my years of pastoring, I’ve met more people than I can count who say to me “I love this church.” But it’s not true. They don’t love the church, they enjoy the church, but they don’t love it. Do you know how I know? Because they don’t give anything to the church. I know that last sentence runs the risk of sounding insensitive and cavalier, but I think it’s important I say it, because it’s true. You do not love something you will not spend/give/invest in. Try that with your spouse, kids, or anything else.
I love that God did not require Tithing in the New Testament, because it gives us the chance to decide if we tithe because we want to or because we have to. Please understand what I am saying to you: You do not HAVE to tithe. You get to tithe.
I’ve met a lot of people over the years who want to debate with me about the requirement of tithing. I don’t engage in those conversations because the person asking rarely asks seeking guidance and understanding. Instead they’ve made up their mind and are usually looking for a reason not to give.
Sometimes people will say to me, “I don’t tithe but I give to a lot of different places.” In all my years of talking with people in this category, I’ve never met anyone who gives more than 10% in total giving. They don’t abstain from tithing because it allows them to give more, they abstain because it gives the wiggle room to fall short of 10% but still feel noble.
I’m a pastor, and I know a lot of pastors. The reason were so passionate about helping you become a consistent, faithful tither is because we know that when you trust God in the areas that are most difficult, He blesses you in ways that are difficult to comprehend. Of course it’s not easy. Of course you don’t have an extra 10% lying around somewhere. Tithing is about priority, and whatever we spend that keeps us from tithing, whether we can admit or not, is more important to us than God.
If you have lived your life not prioritizing God financially and find yourself in a great place, my suggestion is to keep doing what you’ve always done. But, if you have managed your finances your way, and you find yourself drowning in debt, worry, or fear, could you be brave enough to admit your way hurts, and it’s possible God’s way works. What if today you made the decision to give God the first 10% of the amount of money on your paycheck before you did anything else? It will be the most terrifying and exhilarating thing you’ve ever done, but before you know it you will experience what can only be described as the blessing of God in a way hard to fathom. It may be money, it may be peace, but whatever it is it will be exactly what God knows you need because when you wrote that tithe check you were saying, “God you are all I need.”
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