- That God owns everything
- That believers are responsible for what God has given them
- That we must give an account and
- That God will reward faithful stewards
We looked at practical changes believers can make as faithful stewards in the areas of work, rest, time, possessions, relationships, finances and our mind.
In our third article we looked at the relationship of stewardship to giving. We examined 7 characteristics of a Biblical giver. Today we will review them and add a few more.
Now we want to deal with the difficult subject of tithing. Tithe means a tenth or 10%. We first find it in Genesis 14:18 ff, where Abram after defeating 5 Kings and freeing Lot meets Melchizedek, the priest of God & King of Salem (Jerusalem). This man blesses Abram who has been victorious with God’s help and Abram responds by worshiping and thanking God and giving 10% off the top of the spoils collected to the priest of God.
Then under the Old Testament Law Moses describes three tithes:
- The Levites tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) for the support of the Levites and priests,
- a second annual tithe to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) and
- every three years a welfare tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). In addition the people were to pay a temple tax (Nehemiah 10:32-33 & Ex. 30:11-17). They were to leave the 4 corners of their field as well as the gleanings for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10). The total that God required to fund His national government was therefore in excess of 25% of all that was earned annually. To most today this would be like a tax.
But in addition to this compulsory giving under the law to the government, people gave voluntarily to God (Ex. 25:2, 1 Chr. 29:9). This was called free will giving. It was
- motivated by thankfulness and
- love for God. It was
- from the heart (Ex. 25:1-2). In addition to these standards found in the Old Testament, free-will giving was
- to be the first fruits (off the top) and it was to be the best (Num. 18:12).
- Free will giving to God was to be given willingly (Ex. 35:21-22).
- It was to be proportionate to God’s blessing to you (Deut. 16:10, 17).
Therefore the two kinds of giving in Scripture are:
- giving to government (compulsory giving) and
- giving to God, which was always voluntary.
What does the New Testament say to guide our giving to God? New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe but are to pay their taxes to the government (Mt. 22:15-22, Rom. 13:1-7). By the way, the Fraser Institute says the average Canadian family spent nearly 42.7% of its income in 2012 on all types of government taxes. Income tax made up 29.1% of this.
But back to the New Testament guidelines on giving to God. Because Jesus came to fulfill the Law and He affirmed the lasting validity of it as a revelation of God’s will for humanity, we can affirm that giving to God remains motivated by:
- thankfulness &
- love of God, is to be
- from the heart, is the
- first fruits and best we have, is
- to be given willingly and
- to be proportionate.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 gives New Testament believers further guidelines for giving to God and repeats some of the above. In these passages Paul uses the three churches of Macedonia (Berea, Philippi and Thessalonica) as examples of giving as he instructs the Corinthians.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-8 giving is to be with
- willing hearts and
- in verses 3 & 12 proportionate.
- In verse 5 giving is an act of worship where we are to first give ourselves to God and all else flows from that. Giving by the Macedonians was motivated and produced by God’s supernatural grace and of course the leading of the Holy Spirit in the life of the New Testament believer.
- 2 Corinthians 8:3 affirms that giving to God was voluntary between the giver and God as to how much to give. It is not a command or a percentage. 2 Corinthians 9:6 is a further guide to the giver “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Luke 6:38 repeats this truth about giving to God and God’s blessing the giver “Give, and it will be given to you…pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Missionary martyr Jim Eliot said “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” I caution you here about ‘giving to get’ as our motivations but rewards were an expected blessing and we should be thankful for God’s promises to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19, 2 Cor. 9:10).
- Faithful: verse 11 says we should finish what we started. If we promise or pledge to give we should do it by giving what we purpose in our hearts as led by the Spirit and according to our ability.
- Sacrificially: The Macedonians gave in difficult circumstances and didn’t let their poverty hinder them (2 Cor. 8:2). This is the essence of joy.
- Joyful: They gave with joy (2 Cor. 8:2). God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)
- Generous: We are to give generously (with liberality). The Macedonians giving overflowed in the abundance of their generosity (2 Cor. 8:2)
- Systematic and regular: Paul shared with the Corinthians the need for saints in Jerusalem. The believers in Jerusalem were suffering from famine but also many had probably lost much of their income because of persecution resulting from their salvation and conversion to Christianity. Paul asks for not just a one-time gift but a systematic, weekly offering (2 Cor. 16:2)
- The Privilege of Giving: Giving to God was viewed as a privilege by the Macedonians who begged for the special grace of participating in and having fellowship by supporting the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 8:4). At the end of verse 5 it says they gave themselves to us also. The Macedonians submitted to their spiritual leaders like Paul and others. Their leaders shared the need and instructed them on giving and they obeyed. Often today people become disillusioned with their spiritual leaders and stop giving or reduce their giving. It’s hard to give to leaders who lack your trust. We thank God for trustworthy and faithful spiritual leaders with integrity!
- Finally, their giving was in concert with their growing, Christlike character. It was a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and was proof of love (2 Cor. 8:8)
To summarize, as believers we are to give to God voluntarily, out of thankfulness, love, from the heart, the first fruits, willingly, proportionately, faithfully, sacrificially, joyfully, generously, regularly, as a privilege and as part of our growing Christ-like character as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I hope this helps clarify a lot of misunderstanding about tithing.[/esvignore]