Tithing: It’s a State of the HeartBlog / Produced by The High Calling
As a pastor and spiritual leader, I’ve had some interesting discussions about tithing. Not very many people are comfortable talking about the ways they give monetarily to the church. Most would rather not talk about it at all.
But I wonder what would happen if we began to see tithing as an issue of the heart instead of a financial issue?
Tithing: Three Different Views
When my son was little, he thought the money being collected in the church offering plate was taken to a back room where a tube—like at the bank—sucked the money right up to God in heaven.
Then there was that heartfelt conversation with my best friend. I explained to him about giving one dime of every dollar, citing my favorite Bible verses to support it. He told me his dad felt people should not give too much to the church because this would encourage mismanagement and corruption.
In the church where I grew up, the preacher would say all that we own belongs to God. Then he would quote Malachi 3:8-10:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Guilt. And fear. That’s what my pastor’s emphasis on these verses left me with. Because of that perspective, I spent a lot of my adult life giving in a legalistic way. I gave, not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to. Somehow this would appease God’s anger over my sin.
How much does God want me to give? What is the best way to approach tithing? What else should I consider besides “how much?”
Does God Need My Money?
In all of these examples—my son, my friend’s dad, and my legalistic approach—the underlying issue is viewpoint. They all make giving about scarcity of resources. In the case of my young son, God needs resources. Like an impoverished panhandler, God uses the church to collect what he needs. For my friend’s father, trust is the issue. He believes the people who work for them will better manage precious resources. In my legalistic approach, God directly relates what I give to my atonement.
Too often we treat our financial and other resources as though God needs them. Rather than give out of a place of gratitude and joy, we see ourselves as thrifty overseers, doling out scarce resources. We forget that every good thing comes down from the father of heavenly lights (James 1:17).
What if we—the people of faith—began to give from a place of faith? What if we trusted God with our resources? What if our paradigm shifted from a scarcity model to an abundance model? What would this look like biblically?
A Heart State
One example would be the widow who, one day at the temple, gave a small offering. According to Jesus, she gave more than all the others because she gave out of her poverty (Luke 21:1-4). She gave believing God would generously provide out of his abundance.
It will look like the Macedonian Church who gave more than Paul expected because he knew them to be poor (2 Cor. 8:1-5). They first gave themselves to the Lord and chose to trust in God’s abundant generosity. Then, from this place of trust, they too were able to be generous.
There are many stories of giving in the Bible. It seems to me that the overall message of scripture is that a tithe is not enough; it is never enough if we are aware of God’s abundance and generosity. Hosea 6:6 tells us, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Tithing is a heart state. The generous, giving person lives with open hands.
This feels more in sync with a God who invites us to join the kingdom financing business. You see, this kind of giving is not about our vision—it is about God's vision. Giving is not about our resources; it is all about God’s resources. Giving is not about proportionate giving; it is about understanding that everything belongs to God, and as God gives, we too are to give. As God spared nothing in giving us even his son, we too are to give in this sacrificial way.
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.
I believe that the scriptures teach this. Be it Abraham’s trusting the God of abundance with the life of his son, or Ruth and Naomi trusting a kinsman redeemer would bring them back into a good and plentiful state.
The ultimate model of trusting in the abundance of God is Jesus surrendering his life to a Roman cross. He fully drank from the cup that looked like the dregs of scarcity but ultimately led to the abundance of resurrection and new life.
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.
Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.