For over a year now I’ve had a nudge to write about tithing and giving. This topic, much like building uncommon wealth, is an enormous subject. Writing about it might become something akin to writing War and Peace. Reluctantly, but somewhat obediently Connie and I chose to share our thoughts on why we tithe and give. In Common Sense Blog fashion we have whittled down maybe one of the most talked about church topics into what we hope will be useful common sense wisdom.
It’s important to realize tithing and giving are not the same. The following is how Connie and I understand the Bible’s definition of the two. Understanding the difference has brought clarity to our actions. We don’t offer this as a “wagging of the finger” in your face; more like we are extending an invitation to you to look over our shoulder as we crystalize our thoughts below. First, a definition of the terms:
Tithing: Returning 10% (off the top) of one’s annual gross income or financial increase to the church where one worships. Returning the tithe to the church first, before any other financial giving, aligns with Biblical teaching. Realizing the tithe is more like a responsibility than a giving act helps us clarify the difference between the two.
Giving: Any funds given joyfully after the tithe is met. The tithe comes first. This could be additional unrestricted giving to the church, specific ministries within the church, charitable giving to non-profit organizations, individuals in need, etc.
We are called to tithe. Why?
The Bible says to tithe. When we read the Old and New Testament it’s very clear that God expects us to tithe. You could even build a case from Malachi 3:8-9 that not tithing 10% is robbing God.
Our personal tithe is offered unrestricted to be used for the general budgeted operations of the church. It seems to us, any restrictions we put on the tithe moves it from the tithing column to the giving column.
God owns it all, as stated in Psalm 24:1. When we tithe we acknowledge that God is in control of it all, not just the 10%. Tithing allows us to be open to where God is leading us with the remaining 90%. Remember, our charge is to manage 100% of what God has put before us.
God is a God of order. Honoring the tithe in the church establishes not only financial order, but Godly order. When financial issues arise in a church, not always, but more times than not, chaos breaks out; usually because a church doesn’t have the money to meet the Godly goals laid before it. It seems to us that the truths set forth in the Bible show us how to eliminate the financial chaos in our churches through the act of tithing. How many of the issues we face in the church today are directly or indirectly connected to our lack of tithing?
When tithing is honored mighty churches emerge. Most research we’ve found says only 10-25% of faithful tithers make up a church congregation with only 5% of all Americans tithing. If tithing was the rule instead of the exception, what would our churches look like? Probably like mighty churches doing mighty work! The thought process in most churches would shift from how are we going to pay the bills? To, what mighty work can we do with the financial surplus of the church?
What about giving beyond the tithe?
We are called to tithe first to our church, then through our abundance we are to give freely beyond the tithe. But why?
There are many reasons to give beyond the tithe, but the three we stand on are:
First, giving beyond the tithe allows us to experience love, joy and worship. As Randy Alcorn said, “If the tithe was a demonstration of obedience, then voluntary offerings were a demonstration of love, joy and worship”.
Secondly, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given” (Matthew 25:29). It’s in the giving above and beyond the tithe is where we believe true abundance is experienced. Abundance is not meant to provide an increase in our own lifestyle, but for the benefit of others. We have personally seen proof over and over of this truth in our lives and in the lives of others.
And lastly, it’s in the giving above the tithe that we are offered a unique opportunity to “store up our treasures in heaven”. (Matthew 6:20)
What tithing and giving are NOT to us
Tithing and giving are not “salvation issues”. Salvation is offered unconditionally by God when we accept Jesus Christ in our hearts. Tithing and giving are responsibilities and responses of the heart that flow from our daily Christian walk.
“Tithing is important, but not to be put before justice, mercy and faith”. (Matthew 23:23)
Tithing is not to be confused with fund raising or cause giving. In the church, when we start to position the tithe as a method to raise funds or to finance a cause, our efforts will fail and chaos will follow.
Tithing doesn’t originate from legalistic teaching, but from the heart. However, it’s vital we manage our personal finances in a pragmatic manner that allows for tithing and giving.
Isn’t it really quite simple? When we tithe first, God’s financial order rules in our churches which are no longer just churches, but mighty churches, doing God’s mighty work. And then, as our giving moves beyond the tithe, His abundance pours down on us as well as others.
As the song says, “I can only imagine”!
Will you join us in speaking and teaching the tithing and giving truth in our families and churches?