In a familiar passage in Luke 18, Jesus shares a parable about two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood proudly praying “God, thank You that I am not like other people... like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I pay tithes of all that I get.”
That’s a good thing - right? Aren’t we instructed to tithe?
The tax collector, on the other hand, in his shame, was unwilling to even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his chest in humility saying “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
So, who was right before God? Christ tells us. He says “This man (the tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other (the Pharisee), for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Scripture does make it clear that we are to tithe. In Proverbs 3: 9 we are told to honor God with the “first fruits” (the tithe) of all of our increase (our income). In Deuteronomy 14, it’s made clear that the primary purpose of the tithe (the first fruits) is to remind us
to put God first in all that we do.
So, in obedience, the Pharisee tithed as Scripture instructs, yet Christ did not praise him for his obedience. In fact, there is an implied criticism - he went home not justified as the tax collector did.
Hmmm? Why? Two factors.
First, in Hosea 6, we are told that God wants our love, rather than our sacrifices (tithes). Yes - we are instructed to tithe, but if our tithe is motivated out of legalism and pride, rather than as an expression of our love for God, then God is not interested in our tithe.
In Matthew 23, Christ expands on this, where He says: “Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites. For yes, you tithe...but you have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice, and mercy and faithfulness.”
Sometimes we think God needs our money. Nope - not true. In Psalm 50 we are told symbolically that God “owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” God owns all that exists - He created all that exists. He does not need our money.
But as we’ve seen, our tithe is to be a reflection of our love for God. It’s not some kind of penitence payment for our sins, replacing the sacrifice that Christ has already made on our behalf. What God wants is our love - that is why He created us.
Secondly, our tithe is not to be something we take pride in or boast about to bring honor to ourselves. In Luke 21 Christ tells of the poor widow who put two small coins into the offering - and then He says, she has given more than “all of them” for they gave out of their wealth - she gave out of her poverty.
Again in Luke - chapter 12, He tells us, we are to give as God has enabled - for to whom much is given, much may be required. But we are to bring honor to God in all that we do - including our tithe - doing nothing out of selfishness or pride. Jesus goes on to tell the story of a rich man who proudly says to himself “I have many goods laid up for many years. I’ll take ease, eat, drink and be merry.” God responds, telling him “You fool - this very night your soul is required of you.” The man had stored up riches for himself, but was not rich toward God.
As I John 2 tells us, the “boastful pride of life” is not from God the Father. And I Peter 5 tells us that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And in Philippians 2 we are told to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but with humility.
God loves us, but He wants us to come to Him in humility.
Why is humility so important to God?
Simple. Pride essentially focuses on ourselves - it brings attention and honor to us - see what I have done - see how great I am - see how wealthy I am - see how much I gave - see how powerful I am. We get the credit for all that we have, rather than giving God the credit and glory.
Essentially pride says “I don’t need you God.”
In fact, one of the biggest dangers of wealth is coming to rely on our wealth rather than on God. The poor have no where else to turn but to rely on God. But when we come to rely on our wealth, it can become an idol - which is anything we put before and in place of God - trusting in it, rather than in God. He does not want us to put anything above Him.
Humility, on the other hand, says I need you God. I desire to serve You and love You. All of the honor and all of the glory go to You.
Yes - in obedience, we are to tithe, and in fact God promises to bless those who faithfully give their tithe. But as we are told in II Corinthians 9, we are to give with the right heart and motivation - cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion - as an expression of our love for God, in response to His love for us.
More to come...
Do you have questions about managing your finances from a Biblical perspective?
For guidance feel free to call Kent Anderson at (239)596-8600, x254.