Sunday, February 20, 2011

Truths About Tithing

Some Christians don’t like to talk about money even though there are numerous Scriptures on the subject. One area in particular that has split a few hairs amongst believers is tithing. According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, a tithe is defined as, “The tenth part of any thing; but appropriately, the tenth part of the increase annually arising from the profits of land and stock, allotted to the clergy for their support.”
Whenever I meet Christians who complain of financial problems, I often ask if they have been tithing. Many times their answer is “no.” I don’t believe this is a mere coincidence. Malachi 3:8-9 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.”

The next two verses in Malachi talk about the blessings that result from tithing…

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field.”

Some pastors teach the “storehouse” is your home church. This may be true if that’s your only source of spiritual nourishment. But if God uses other ministries to bless you, He will likely lead you to give to them as well. Galatians 6:6 says, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” On rare occasions, I’ve received tithes (as well as offerings) from people even though I don’t pastor a church.

Even ministers are not exempt from tithing. Nehemiah 10:38 says, “And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse.” In his autobiography “He Touched Me”, Benny Hinn wrote about how his ministry struggled financially until he started tithing from the revenue he received.

Nevertheless, there are Christians who claim tithing is “under the law” and not applicable for us today. But tithing existed hundreds of years before the Mosaic Law. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham gave tithes to the priest Melchizadek (referred to again in Hebrews 7:1-6). In Genesis 28:22, Jacob vowed a tenth of all his property to God.

Not once did Jesus tell His disciples they no longer have to tithe. He even acknowledged the Pharisees for tithing. Luke 11:42 says, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Religious people can do good things but for the wrong motive. One Pharisee bragged in Luke 18:12, “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” Yet the Lord was more pleased with a tax collector who humbled himself by asking for mercy.

Rather than look at tithing as a duty, Christians should have the mindset that they get to tithe. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Once a person is settled in his heart about tithing, he’d be wise to gradually increase his giving. “The generous soul will be made rich,” says Proverbs 11:25.

I want to ask a question to every Christian reading this who still insists you don’t have to tithe. How much of your income goes to the work of the Lord? If you regularly give over 10% of your pre-tax income, then I commend you for going beyond the standard set by God’s Word. But if your total giving is less than 10%, then that would explain why you might feel uncomfortable hearing sermons on prosperity and despise believers who are generous with their finances. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As I heard another preacher say, “What you hoard is your lord.”

Recently I read a testimony of a minister who had suffered heart trouble. One morning at 2:00 A.M., he whispered to his wife to pray for him. She sat up in bed, laid both hands on her husband’s chest, and boldly prayed, “Father, You promised us that if we would pay our tithes, You would rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Our tithe is paid. This attack is nothing but the devil, and if You don't heal my husband, You are a liar.” Shortly after that, the minister was completely healed!

Now it should be clarified that tithing is not a cure-all to resolving every financial challenge. Other areas of disobedience will stop the blessings of God from manifesting in a person’s life. One of them is negative talking. Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” (Hebrews 6:20 also points out that Jesus became our High Priest “…according to the order of Melchizedek.”) A person can give many offerings but still remain in lack if he constantly complains about adverse circumstances he’s facing.

According to one Barna Group survey, only 9% of all born-again adults contributed one-tenth or more of their income. If every Christian gave in faith and out of a heart of love, our churches would have more than enough funds to get the gospel out plus help the poor and needy. So let’s not look at tithing as some legalistic command but as the first step towards good financial stewardship. God wants to bless us so we can be a blessing to others.

“Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” - Proverbs 3:9-10

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