And, what about tithing?
TL;DR – Our money (like everything we have) is a gift from God that is received with joyful humility and thankfulness. It is not a measure of God’s pleasure in us – for that we look to the cross. Instead, our money is one of the ways God meets our daily needs and it provides an opportunity to reflect Christ’s generosity to those around us. While Christians are no longer required to tithe, we are required to support our church leaders and are expected (after prayerful consideration) to generously give from whatever we’ve been given.
Let’s talk about money
What should a Christian approach to money look like? How do Christians view (and spend) their hard-earned dollars? Do 21st Century Christians have to follow the Old-Testament command to “tithe”? Let’s take a look at some of these questions.
Money is a touchy subject. According to one study, 72% of people have felt stressed or worried about money in the last month. It’s the top concern for most of us. Add that to the fact that the vast majority of us (78% according to this article) are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and money can make for an uncomfortable topic. It’s a point of stress, worry, and unease for many people.
But, I think it is crucially important for us Christians to talk about money. Because the world has lots to say about it too. So, what does God tell us about a Christian approach to our dollar bills?
A gift from God
Now, hear me out. I don’t mean to suggest that our money is a reward for an obedient life. It is not a measure of God’s love or pleasure with us. There are many, many obedient and poor Christians. God’s love and pleasure are not measured in dollars and cents but by a sacrifice and a cross – through forgiveness and grace. We can’t know how God feels about us by looking to our bank accounts. That what the cross and tomb are for.
But, at the same time, money is a gift from God. We know that if we have it, it comes from Him. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is our great provider. If we have any money at all, it’s from God. And for that reason, we give God thanks – whether we have lots or little.
One of the ways God provides for our daily needs
In Matthew 6:25-32 Jesus reminds us that He cares for our daily needs like clothes and food. All of that comes from Him. For most of us, the way our food and clothes comes to us is through our money. God has given us jobs that give us paychecks so that our daily needs can be met. God cares for you as your Heavenly Father. Jesus cares for you as a brother. He wants your needs to be taken care of, and He often meets that need through money. Money is the tool or means by which He provides for our daily needs.
A means to bless and serve other
Money is not a gift that we should selfishly hoard and collect. Instead, it provides us with an opportunity to meet the needs of others. Just as it is a tool that God uses to give us clothes, shelter, and food, it can be the same for the people around us. God continuing His reach through us and the money He’s given us to see the needs of other people. In Philippians 4:10-20 Paul recognizes God’s work through the Philippians who sent a monetary gift to Paul to encourage His work and support the growth of the Kingdom.
An occasion to reflect Christ’s generosity
Our money allows us to reflect God’s generosity. Whatever we have is from Him. He has been so generous with us, and when we give, we have the opportunity to reflect that generosity to the world.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”. In these words God reminds us that God loves when we give cheerfully and generously. Since we have received so much from him (whether our bank accounts reflect that or not – we have life everlasting and eternal treasure beyond compare) we are free to give generously knowing that we can never out-give God.
To be received joyfully and watched carefully
When we receive the promotion we ought to give God thanks, recognizing that it all comes from his hand. Or, when our paychecks are small and we are barely squeaking by, we ought to recognize that God is nevertheless meeting our daily needs. We give Him thanks for whatever He has given.
But, we always keep our eyes on our money. Money provides an easy temptation. 1 Timothy 6:10 reminds us that “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” Ecclesiastes 5:10 warns us, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” Money, while a gift from God is awfully powerful.
In a sense, money is neutral. It can in fact be a good thing – when it is received with joy and recognition of where it came from. But, in the hands and hearts of sinners it is almost always a danger. It’s like a weapon that is too powerful for us. Now, that doesn’t mean that we reject it or scorn it. No, instead we receive it with joy and thanksgiving, but through prayer, encouragement from the Body of Christ, and through meditation on God’s Word we keep a close watch over our hearts.
God’s good gifts – money included – are often and easily abused. Pray that by the grace of God that would not be true of us.
So, what about tithing?
What is it?
The word “tithe” comes from an Old English word for tenth. To “tithe” then means to give one tenth of your income (10%) to support the ministry of the Church. In the books of Leviticus and Numbers God commanded the Israelites to give a tithe to support the temple, its leaders, and the sacrifices that needed to be made.
So, the question is, do we have to tithe today? Are New Testament Christians required to give 10% to their local churches.
Do I have to tithe?
The short answer is “no”, but the real question is why are you asking? Do you want to know if you have to tithe, because you really don’t want to and you’re hoping that it’s still not a requirement? That is, are you hoping that you can just keep all your money and buy new TV or car? I don’t think that’s the right attitude.
Or, are you asking because you want an easy box to check. We like check-boxes. They easily let us know where we stand with God And so if we just know all the requirements, then we can start to do them and feel good about ourselves. But, that’s not a life of faith. I don’t think that’s the right attitude either.
Now, the reason why we are not required to give a tithe is because the tithe applied to the way things worked before Jesus came. In the Old Testament there are many Laws we don’t follow. We no longer have to circumcise our boys, avoid shellfish, or observe a Saturday Sabbath. Colossians 2:16-17 makes that clear, “Therefore, lent one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are but a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” Jesus fulfilled – and therefore ended – the Old Testament Laws.
So, I believe a better question to ask than, “Do I have to tithe?” is “How much can I give?” That’s a question each one of us needs to consider for ourselves. Again, listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our financial giving flows from a position of freedom and it ought to reflect the generosity of our Father who sent His Son.
Where do I start with tithing?
But, maybe you are lost. You have no idea where to start. That’s where, I believe, the tithe can come in handy. When God ordered and arranged the system way back in the Old Testament, He thought 10% was good. And if it was good enough for God, maybe it is good enough for us too. Maybe that seems overwhelming to you or it sounds like too much. Most likely you won’t be there tomorrow, but it is something to prayerfully consider and plan towards – not because it’s a requirement, but because it is one small way we can generously reflect God’s love.
Keep in mind as well that God commands that Pastors and Church leaders be taken care of. “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). It is the responsibility of every brother and sister in Christ to care for the needs of the leaders for the purpose of Kingdom expansion and so that the ministry of forgiveness can continue to be shared with believers and non-believers alike.
So, pray about it. Pray that God would open your heart and instill thankfulness and generosity. Ask for the gift of contentment, that you would be happy with what you have. Pray for increased faith, that you would trust that in what God has given. After you’ve prayed, it’s time to open up your checkbook, pull out your credit card, or hand over the cash. Just know, you’ll probably get it wrong. Because of sin, we are never as trusting, content, or generous as we should be. So, after you’ve given repent. Tell God you’re sorry for not getting it right. Then trust that you are accepted NOT on the basis of your giving, but on the basis of what Christ has given to you.
Money is a gift from God that is given so that daily needs can be met and so that generosity can be shared. We receive our money with joy and thanksgiving, but keep a close watch on our hearts so that we aren’t tempted or led astray by it. While we no longer are required to give a tithe (10%), we continue to give generously and care for our church leaders.
If you’ve liked what you read, check out my little book on Christian maturity called “Growing Up: In, with, and under Jesus” on Amazon