Have you ever wondered …
Why does the church want my money?
Am I just paying membership dues or something?
Does the church need my money just to pay the building maintenance costs or church workers?
What does the church do with my money?
These initial ponderings lead to some serious reflection: Why should I give? How should I give? How much should I give?
Today we will answer the question –
How Much Should Christians Give?
From the very beginning we each need to be reminded that God does not need your money – God could make money if he wanted. One of the reasons we give money is because of what it does in our own hearts and lives. God changes us through giving. He makes us more like himself through giving.
The Old Testament Practice of the Tithe
In the Old Testament people practiced a way of giving called the tithe. The tithe was commanded by God. A tithe means a tenth.
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. (Deuteronomy 14:22, NIV)
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed. (Leviticus 27:30-33, NIV)
In order to ensure that a person gave a tenth and did not make an unfair selection of what they were to give to God he simply asked that they give every tenth animal or a tenth of the produce.
Interestingly, in Mal. 3:8-10 God calls withholding a tithe (10th) stealing from him.
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:8-10, NIV)
Photo Money Hand by Neubie
The New Testament Practice of the Tithe
The commandment to tithe is never specifically repeated in the New Testament.
There is a teaching that Jesus shares that points us in the direction of tithing.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23, NIV) Underlining mine.
Speaking specifically about the tithe Jesus says, you should have practiced the latter. While there was a misplaced emphasis Jesus, nevertheless, asked for an improvement of issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness WITHOUT discontinuing the tithe. However, for a different perspective you could read about tithing in the Bible.
I think that every Christian would be blessed by developing the spiritual habit of tithing their income. I think that God’s truth that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35) holds as true today as it did yesterday.
Unfortunately, I think many of us approach the tithe much like Abraham approached Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-33). In that story God says he is going to destroy Sodom. Abraham asked what if he can find fifty righteous people in the city. OK, God says, I will spare them if you find fifty. The pattern then continues with Abraham negotiating 45, 40, 30 , 20 and finally 10 people. God agrees not to destroy the city if ten people are found.
Here is how our approach is similar to Abraham. God, is it OK if I give 8%? Sure, God might answer. We quickly negotiate down to 5%, 3%, 1%? At times we seem to act like giving is a spiritual habit to be avoided. What if we were to turn that the other way? Will you really still care for me if I give, 5, 8, 10 ,12, 15%? If we are asking God how little we can give and still be OK, I suspect we are misunderstanding God’s teaching about giving.