Tithing: God Owns EverythingBlog / Produced by The High Calling
My first job out of college, I worked at a start-up church doing administrative tasks such as organizing Sunday morning details. Every once in a while, the pastor urged me to schedule myself to give announcements and invite people to give their tithes and offerings. When my turn came around, I’d look up Bible passages, wanting to draw relevant concepts from God’s Word as I invited people to give. Every time I’d come back to a foundational truth expressed succinctly and poetically in two psalms:
The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it. (Ps. 24:1)
I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills. (Ps. 50: 9-10).
That simple truth seemed to say it all: God owns everything.
Designating a tenth of one’s harvest for the Lord was a reminder that, in fact, everything ultimately belongs to him. This remains true for those of us who aren’t farmers. The produce of our lives—our income, our accomplishments, our artistic creations, our relationships, our children—belongs to God, even as we belong completely to him. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
We think differently about giving when we embrace this truth that God’s resources are in our care. For example, Mary Hunt, author of 7 Money Rules for Life: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future, thinks of herself as God’s money manager—his steward. “He’s training me to see the needs, to get excited about spreading his wealth to the needy. A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit. He trusts me to make distribution decisions.”
Harry Riggs agrees with Hunt: “We are stewards of all we have. When the true owner needs to use what has been put in our care, we must generously release it.”
Giving from the Heart
The heart shifts as we think like Hunt and Riggs. Cortni Marrazzo, in a Christianity.com article, cites Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Giving ten percent or more instead of keeping it all “shows that our heart isn’t tied to our money and that we love God more than our money.”
Ron Blue, author of Master Your Money, also focuses on the heart behind our giving, pointing out in an interview how clinging to 10 percent as belonging to God leads to us thinking 90 percent belongs to us. The reality, Blue says, is that 100 percent is God’s. “So, tithing is not a rule. It’s the result of a heart change. And that’s where all this stuff works out—in the heart.”
Larry Burkett of Crown Financial points to the idea from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 of giving “bountifully and cheerfully.” He writes, “Giving should come from our hearts. For that reason, the tithe should not be considered a ‘law’ but, rather, as an indicator of obedience to God’s laws.”
Dave Ramsey says the giver can experience liberation. “Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution, or gift to a friend in need, give away at least some of your money. Not only does it generate good, but it generates contentment.” Ramsey says he doesn’t “beat people up for not tithing” because he sees no indication that Jesus did. Nevertheless, he encourages people to give, and if they choose to give, to do so “out of love for God, not guilt.”
Don’t Wait to Tithe
Anticipating contentment and freedom can help us stop making excuses. In a 2014 Forbes article, Andrew McNair says he’s heard a lot of excuses for not tithing. Here’s his favorite: “I’ll tithe when I finally make more money.” McNair says it never works like that, citing John D. Rockefeller, who said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.”
Following Rockefeller’s example of just getting started with tithing requires some practical steps. A. W. Tozer offers some in his book Man-The Dwelling Place of God:
Tie up the loose ends of your life. Begin to tithe; institute family prayer; pay up your debts as far as possible and make some kind of frank arrangement with every creditor you cannot pay immediately; make restitution as far as you can; set aside time to pray and search the Scriptures; surrender wholly to the will of God. You will be surprised and delighted with the results.
When we’re freed up from thinking of tithing as giving 10 percent and our hearts listen to God’s lead, we can think like Monica and Charles Sharman, who found freedom to live frugally in order to give all that they can.
Bill Peel of the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University describes a radical concept of reverse tithing modeled by R. G. LeTourneau, a leading spokesperson in the faith-and-work movement in the mid-twentieth century. LeTourneau’s name, Peel says, “is often associated with generous giving, since he and his wife, Evelyn, practiced ‘reverse tithing’ by giving away 90 percent and keeping 10 percent of their profits.”
Radical givers find meaning and gain energy from the eternal perspective that Tim Keller drives home: “The Gospel gets you beyond tithing. Jesus didn’t tithe His blood. He gave His whole life.”
As a 20-something, I stood in front of the congregation of that startup church inviting people to give their tithes and offerings. I reminded people that the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it. Lord, I prayed, you don’t need this money, because you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Still, we give. These tithes and offerings are a small token, but please accept our gifts today as our way of acknowledging that you own it all. In the name of Jesus, who paid it all. Amen.
Should Christians (or Christian businesses) tithe? How much money should I give away? Does God want me to take a vow of poverty and give everything away? Will God punish me if I don’t tithe? How do I balance my budget of needs and wants with the biblical command of giving? If you’ve ever asked these questions to find out exactly what tithing means and how it applies to you, you are not alone. We’ll explore the concept of Tithing in this High Calling theme, and we invite you to follow along. Ask questions, offer your insights, and help us keep the conversation going.