Today is tax day - April 15th. Did you file your tax return and pay your taxes? Today is the day the government expects us to pay our taxes, and although we may grumble, as good citizens of our great country, we do it.
Okay - good, you paid your taxes. Now, what about your tithe? Have you given your tithe to the church? What does God expect of us?
Let’s start with Proverbs 3: 9 which tells us to honor the Lord with all our possessions, and with the first fruits of all of our increase. Seems pretty clear - but how do we do it - how do we honor God with all of our possessions?
Note that it specifically mentions first fruits. The concept of first fruits is simple but important, referring to that first portion of our income, symbolizing the place God is to have in our heart. This is commonly referred to as the tithe - typically defined as the first
10% of our income. But some ask if this is still required or even expected by the Lord?
Let’s start with the Old Testament. The first reference to the tithe in Mosaic law is in Leviticus 27, and is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, perhaps culminating in Malachi 3. In this passage God both cautions and challenges us:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say - how have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse for you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church) so there may be food in My house and test Me now in this, says the Lord if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
Proverbs 3: 10 tells us we are to “Honor the Lord with all of our wealth...then your barns will be filled to overflowing.”
From these passages it’s clear that the Lord expects us to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us, and He expects us to give to His work - to honor God with our wealth through our tithe. But, He also promises to bless us for doing so.
But some say tithing is an Old Testament concept no longer required under the New Covenant. But is that true? Well, let’s turn to the New Testament.
Christ makes it clear in Matthew 5 that He did not come to abolish God’s Law but to fulfill it. And in Mark 12 Christ tells us to pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s (taxes to the government) and to God that which is God’s (the tithe). Later in that chapter Christ praises the poor widow for giving her tithe from what little she had. And then, in speaking to the Pharisees in Luke 11, Christ is critical of them - not because they pay the tithe. In fact, Christ says they should have done so - but because they missed the bigger issue of their hearts.
Now, unless we become legalistic and give to the church simply to check the “tithe box”, it’s important to remember that God looks at our heart, just as He did the Pharisees. He is much more concerned with why we give and what motivates our giving than how much we give. The Lord tells us in Hosea 6:6 - I don’t want your sacrifices - I want your love. I don’t want your offerings - I want you to know me (NLT).
II Corinthians 9 tells us we should each give as we have decided in our heart - not reluctantly or under compulsion, but cheerfully - for God loves it when we give cheerfully.
But, is it possible to give cheerfully? Well, it’s a matter of perspective.
If we see our wealth as being only for our use and enjoyment, giving cheerfully can be a challenge - after all, giving a portion of it away depletes what’s available for our enjoyment. But, when we understand our role as stewards - place our dependence on the Lord - release our “ownership” of those assets - and grow in our ability to trust God with all of our needs, the easier giving to His work becomes - for we know He will meet our needs and we can depend on Him (read Matthew 6: 19 - 34).
And then, as we see how God uses what we have given for His work - when we see people come to Christ and we see needs met, the more excited and cheerful we become as we give to His work. The old poem by CT Studd reminds us:
“Only one life - will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last."
More to come...
Do you have questions about managing your finances from a Biblical perspective?
For help and guidance feel free to call Kent Anderson at (239)596-8600 x254.