The Why Behind the Tithe
For Valley Community Baptist Church, the weekend following our World Outreach Missions week is when we introduce our Faith Promise Giving initiative.
Our World Outreach Missions are funded through the Faith Promise giving, and so it is appropriate to spend some time concerning this endeavor.
Now, when I talk about giving and tithing, I give the same message every time.
This is not because I am lazy, and when I say the same message, I don’t mean to say that I use the same script, but rather, I make the same point every time.
Whenever churches talk about giving, its usually because they are trying to get their people to give to something.
Its like when your kids are super complimentary toward you as a parent, you know instinctively that they want something from you, again, usually money, or something that can only be bought with money.
And so, I know full well, that you may expect, in some way, that the only time that church ever talks about money is when they want more of yours for whatever purpose.
But how often do churches talk about money to teach you God’s Kingdom principles about money? Other than through Financial Peace University.
Again, not because the church is firing up a new giving campaign, but because it is healthy and God-honoring?
Furthermore, at least, in my experience, whenever the church talked about giving, and why I should give financially and tithe, the motivation was essentially one of two general categories:
What tithing would do for me
The ministry needs of the church
While those motivations are valid and Scriptural evidence can be found in support of them, I think that there is another, more compelling, more inspiring motivation that, although it is in plain sight in the Bible, is often overlooked and under-taught.
And that is the message that God has for us today. In examining God’s Word, we will look at a variety of Scriptures, from the old and new Testaments, so that when we leave this place today, we will know why we tithe, why we give offerings, and the Biblical motivations for doing so.
So let’s get started by spending a moment in prayer.
A tithe is a portion of one's earnings, usually one-tenth, that is given to those who perform the work of the Lord since it belongs to the Lord ().
30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
Those who received tithes in the OT consisted of priests ().
21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.” 25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the Lord; from each its best part is to be dedicated.’ 30 Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress. 31 And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.’ ”
21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.
Further OT references are , , , ).
Here we have the OT references of the command for the Israelites to tithe, that is, to give back 10% of the fruits of their labors to God by giving said 10% to the priests who served in the temple.
The priests could live off of this tithe, as well as use it for ministry, and of course the priests were not exempt from tithing either, as they were commanded to give the same 10%.
The difference is that since the priests didn’t plow the fields, their tithes were not always fresh, yet God made provision for that.
Tithes in this day consisted of livestock, of fruits, and of vegetables.
Today, this would be like if you sold cars for a living, you would give 10% of the cars on your lot to the temple.
Why is that significant?
Because this is where we see that God wants the firstfruits of our labor, not our profit.
There is a difference.
You see, to give of our profit is really giving of our leftovers. Its easy to give from our disposable account.
But to give God something matters, something that we otherwise could really use, shows our love for God because what we are giving Him is costly.
A car dealer sells cars, why would they give them away?
They can’t make money if they don’t sell cars.
Well, a farmer in Biblical times made money selling their cattle and/or their crop.
But God asked for 10% of the fruits of their labor. And not only that, but the best fruits of their labor.
Some farmers would injure their cattle purposely to avoid tithing their best so that they could earn more money.
Priests would eventually learn how to do this too, that’s why Jesus turned over the moneychangers tables in the temple twice.
The tithes of the people had to be the best, yes for spiritual reasons, but also practical.
It was a practice at the temple to offer sacrifices to God for the forgiveness of sins. Well, if a poor family could not bring an acceptable sacrifice to the temple, the temple had acceptable sacrificial animals there to use. These acceptable sacrifices came from the tithes of the people.
The same with food and so on.
The priests could also sell these goods and they could earn money for ministry and for expenses.
The fruits of their labor were literal fruit, and cattle, and vegetables. It was the product they sold to earn money, it wasn’t their money necessarily, though sometimes it could be, more so toward and in the New Testament than in the days of Moses.
Nonetheless here is the institution of the law of tithing.
And this law would exist all the way until the new covenant in Christ.
In the NT there is no command to tithe a tenth (since we are not under law but grace). But the tithe is mentioned in , , and ).
This is an email and response that I wanted to share with you to help this make more sense.
Email: What, specifically, does the Bible teach about tithing as it pertains to present day. My wife and I have longed tithed, etc. Regardless of the answer to this question, we will not quit tithing. We give as we purpose in our hearts. We are just curious about what the biblical answer is for today.
Response: There is no New Testament admonition to pay tithes. The reason is that we are not under law; that is, we don't "have to" pay tithes. In Romans, the apostle Paul clearly points out that Christians are no longer under the law, but under Grace. However, Jesus taught us to love God and to love our neighbor. If we do this, then tithing, it would seem, would be a natural response in the freedom that we have in Christ rather than a requirement of Law. Why? Because the tithe that we give to the church can be used for furthering the gospel, the presentation of Christian literature, support of missionaries, and, of course, pastors. Regarding the latter, let's take a look at what it says in . (Paul responding to critics about his receiving of financial support from tithes)
"My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops."
Paul is teaching us here that those who work at something have the right to make a living from it. This is a basic and simple principle that is found in the scriptures. In , Paul says, "For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages."
Clearly those who work in the ministry are allowed to make a living from the ministry. How can they do this if they are not supported by tithes from the very congregation that they feed? This becomes more obvious when we realize that ministers often work more than 40 hours a week and are usually on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Therefore, it seems fair to say that tithing is no longer commanded, but it is expected in the New Testament;
but we would not say that any Christian is under obligation to tithe. It should be done out of the obedience of the heart to God, and as an act of worship before God.
And this is more inspiring motivation that I mentioned earlier:
Our motivation to tithe should be obedience to God.
In fact, tithing existed in Scripture prior to Levitical law. Cain and Abel offered tithes. Abel’s was accepted because it came from a place of obedience, while Cain’s was rejected because his tithe came from a place of selfish manipulation. Cain got mad and killed Abel out his jealousy and anger.
Abraham also paid tithes before the Law of Moses was ever instituted.
So we see that even more than a command, and more than a law, tithing is a matter of personal obedience to God.
Now, one of the hardest things to do is to part with our money, especially with no guarantee of its return.
To combat this, over time, the church has shifted the emphasis on obedience to God as our reason to tithe, to personal satisfaction, and even personal gain.
On the extreme end, is prosperity gospel doctrine which says that God’s main goal is to make you healthy, wealthy, and happy. And if you want God to really make you healthy, wealthy, and happy, you’ll give Him more and more of your money, because God is obligated to return it to you 10-fold.
I assure you that that is no gospel at all. It has nothing to do with Christ and Him crucified and is truly nothing but a poisonous elixir meant to prey on those who do not know any better.
But in a more subtle way, we have also forgotten that we tithe out obedience first and foremost.
Quickly, here are the top reasons that Christians over the past decade have said that they tithe.
Christians were asked to recall what they have learned about tithing and to apply that to the reasons why they tithe.
Here are a few of the responses:
I tithe to receive God’s blessings
This can be prosperity gospel, but it can also be alluding to the idea that it is good to give, and everyone gains when we all give.
I tithe because the church needs it
Not a bad reason. Part of following Jesus is seeing needs and meeting them. But by itself, I would suggest that this reason alone, or any of these reasons are not deep enough or transformational enough to be sustained as a part of our lives.
I tithe because it brings me joy
This reason had Scripture to go with it
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
But this is a misinterpretation of this verse. Yes, God loves a cheerful giver, but the joy didn’t come from giving, it came from obeying and pleasing God. The giving was a follow through of the preceding “deciding in their heart” to obey.
We will come back to this verse in a few minutes.
I tithe because I don’t want to be a thief.
This is a motivation that comes out of , where God says that we rob Him when we withhold our tithes and offerings.
Granted, I don’t want to be a thief, but if I am obeying God in the first place, I don’t have to worry about being a thief because I won’t be one to begin with.
Furthermore, I pay taxes because I am supposed to and I don’t want to go to jail, but its not because I delight in obeying the tax laws of this land.
Now, there are literally thousands of other reasons like these. And just like these reasons, we can find some Biblical evidence for them, or at least where such a reason might find its birth. But what I find insufficient about these reasons is not that they are bad or sinful on their own, but they are actually the potential results of tithing, not the reason to tithe.
And this has been a part of the problem in the church when it comes to teaching tithing so that it can be understood by believers today in that we confuse the results of tithing for the reason to tithe.
Why is that problematic?
Well, let’s say you tithe because you want to meet the needs of the church. And let’s say that you’ve heard it taught that if you are faithful in your tithe that God will meet the needs of the church.
But let’s say that, a few months later, the church has to close its doors because its struggling to much financially.
Now, if the sole reason you tithed was to meet the needs of the church, you might be tempted to wonder why God didn’t do what He promised you?
But wait a minute, did He promise you what you think He promised you?
Sure, was it within God’s power and sovereignty to keep the church open?
Did God have to do that?
But when we tithe, or for that matter, when we do things for God based on the result we think will come about out of our action, the spiritual posture of obedience to God can all to easily give way to a posture that wants God to be obligated to us because we did thus and so.
This is why it so important that our obedience to God is emphasized as the reason why you should give even one dime to any ministry or church anywhere.
Because if we give for a reason other than obedience, we run the risk of trying to make God obligated to us.
And when we don’t get the result we want, we blame God, we become discouraged, maybe depressed, and maybe we even have a crisis of faith.
Well, what about all those verses that say that if we give that God will be faithful and multiply His blessings toward us?
Let’s read one of those as we wrap up today. (bring band up here)
1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 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. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Here, the apostle Paul is directly addressing tithing in church, what God does with it, and how He honors the obedience of the believers in this way.
What We’ve Learned:
11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
God gives us His financial wealth, among other riches, to accomplish His purposes on earth.
God supplies His purposes, not your plans
God gives you such blessings when He sees that you can be trusted with them.
How does God know that you can be trusted with His blessings?
When your love for God is displayed through your delight in obeying Him, regardless of result, outcome, or potential circumstance
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,
Obedience is the key if you want God to use you as a vessel to accomplish His purposes
In the same way that you wouldn’t trust a burglar to house sit for you, God doesn’t trust spiritual manipulators with His treasure.
Remember, we read in Leviticus that all wealth is God’s first.
And if you are spinning your wheels right now because you’re trying to get God to do something for you, maybe its not working because you’re not obeying, you’re trying to manipulate Him.
Now, obedience itself can be used as a potential manipulator. You know, we can obey God in order try and make Him do stuff that we want Him to do. And that’s not real obedience is it?
Parents, you all know when your kids are obeying you, and when they are patronizing you.
What’s the difference?
Well, obedience has a biblical motivation too.
The Motivation for Obedience:
Love for God
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Throughout Scripture, wherever we read “obey my commands”, the word love is not far behind (or in front).
We understand obedience to be oppressive, but for God, its just the opposite.
Obedience is God’s love language. In other words, the way we show God that we love Him is by obeying Him. And the way God sees that we love Him is through our obedience.
Therefore any act that is separated from obedience to God, or is motivated by something else other than obedience to God is likely not coming from our love for God but our love for whatever result it is that we want to bring about or hope will happen.
Even in the passage we just read, experiencing the joy of God is rooted in obeying God which is an overflow of one’s love for God.
So tithing, is motivated by our obedience to God, which is an outward demonstration of our love for God.
Faith Promise Giving - Ask 3 Questions
God, do you want me to participate in Faith Promise Giving?
God, in what way do you want me to participate in Faith Promise Giving?
God, how much of your blessing do you want me to dedicate to Faith Promise Giving?
Of course, we can apply this application in every area of our lives, can’t we?
As we respond now in song and prayer, Uly and the team are going to lead us in a time of direct response to the Faith Promise opportunity that is before us. And prayerfully all of us before God will decide obediently in our hearts how we will demonstrate our love for Him to each other, to our city, and to the world.