In order to answer this important question, it is helpful to understand the biblical concept and purpose of tithing in both the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT).
Tithing in the Old Testament
1. Tithing was first and foremost an expression of love, joy and gratitude to God.
The earliest reference to tithing in the Bible is found in Genesis 14 where Abram pursues a king named Kedorlaomer to rescue Lot who had been captured. God gives them the victory and as a loving token of gratitude to God, “verse 20 simply says, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (The word Tithe of course means a tenth.)
2. Tithing was a reminder that all we have is from God on whom we depend.
In Genesis 28:22 Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, had a dream at Bethel in which God promised to be with him and give him a great land and many descendants (Genesis 28:13–15). Jacob responds with a vow which ends with this promise: “of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” ( Genesis 28:22, NIV) For Jacob, the tithe seems to be a symbolic statement that everything he has was from God on whom we depend.
3. Tithing was meant to instill the fear of the Lord.
Moving on to the time of Moses, tithing was made part of the law which governed the people of Israel. In Deuteronomy 14, some instruction is given as to how to give the tithe and what it is for:
Deut. 4:22 “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.”
4) Tithing was God’s prescribed way of supporting certain ministries which He had ordained (In view here is the Levitical order).
In Deuteronomy 14, we read that the Levites who were set apart for special religious purposes (and priestly duties) were scattered through the tribes of Israel with no land, crops or herds of their own. They were to be supported by the tithes of the other 11 tribes (v. 27).
That principle is still true today: Tithing is needed to support our local church — and the ministries that God has ordained.
5) Tithing recognized and ensured God’s provision.
The passage in Deuteronomy closes with a promise of blessing on the people if they are faithful in this act of mercy to men and gratitude to God, “…so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deut. 14: 29, NIV) The underlying truth here is this: God always honours people who tithe from a good heart of faith.
Tithing in the New Testament
When it comes to tithing in the NT, it’s a very different picture. Though Jesus affirms tithing for Israel, it is not an area of focus in his teaching. Beyond renouncing the legalistic abuse of tithing (Matthew 23:23, Luke 18: 10- 14), Jesus doesn’t mention it. Jesus focuses instead on the importance of generous giving and on our responsibility to be good stewards, using the money God entrusts to us for the purposes of His Kingdom and glory in the world (Matthew 25:14–30). Jesus’ teaching on giving goes above and beyond the question of percentage.
When it comes to the teachings of the apostle Paul, it’s unclear whether or not he taught the churches to tithe when he founded them as he never mentions tithing in any of his letters. But, building on what Jesus taught, Paul has much to say about giving. In Acts, Paul references Jesus’ teaching: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20). In his letters to the Corinthians, he stresses the importance of giving willingly and cheerfully in accordance with (and even beyond) our means (1 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Corinthians 9: 7).
With these all of these things in mind, we should prayerfully consider if our giving is in line with the principles of God’s Word. Knowing that everything we have is a gift from God (Psalm 24: 1), giving back a tenth of what already all belongs to Him to the work of building His kingdom and extending His glory, is really the very least we can do as faithful followers of Christ. So, may we willingly, cheerfully and generously give according to (and beyond!) our means for the kingdom and glory of God.
This Sunday at SPBC
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