Is tithing for today? Testimony and teaching

22 May

Somebody asked this question on a forum to which I regularly contribute. This is gonna be a long one, for which I apologise in advance, but if you’re seeking God’s will on this subject or are grappling with financial issues, this may shed some light. (And please don’t just take my word for it, but get out your Bible and concordance and study the subject prayerfully.)

Tithing is one of those issues which people sometimes view as a bit “Old Testament”; perhaps unnecessarily legalistic. To properly understand an issue like this, we have to look not just at the do’s and don’ts, but also at God’s promises and the attitudes He requires of us.

I think firstly it is important to be Spirit-led in all things, rather than laying down hard and fast rules. However, when I have prayed about my giving, God has always brought me back to black-and-white Scripture and given me the choice to obey it in faith or not. However, if somebody is struggling to find the faith to tithe, let them give what they can give in faith and just walk through it with God. A healthy attitude is one that seeks to obey, asking God to help in one’s weakness.

The original purpose of the tithe (giving of 10%) of one’s income was to support the Levites, who had no land (Deuteronomy 14:27), as we find in Leviticus 27. The tithe was holy to the Lord (Lev 27:30-32). The tithe of the produce was to be eaten in the presence of the Lord (Dt 14:23), but every third year it was to be given to the Levites and the poor and needy in the land (Dt 14:27-29). So the tithe embodied firstly worship, secondly celebration and thirdly provision for God’s house and those in need.

The tithe in Bible times was their version of the welfare state.

Is tithing in today’s church actually “legalistic” because the OT law has been superseded?

Tithing actually began before the law was given, with Abraham giving Melchizedek the priest-king a tenth of all he had (Genesis 14:20). Jesus is described (Hebrews 7) as a “priest in the order of Melchizedek”: a king-priest who receives tithes, so one could say that tithing is still “in force”.

Malachi 3:10 talks about the “storehouse”, which I have heard interpreted as the local church. My personal view is that if one is benefiting from the ministry of a church, it should have first call upon one’s tithe, and if one wants to support some other ministry, that should be seen as a freewill offering, given in addition to, and separately from, the tithe. There is perhaps scope for manoeuvre on this, and clearly what is most important is to be led by the Spirit and one’s conscience. However, one should be wary of withholding the tithe from the church, for we find God accusing the Israelites of robbing Him in Malachi 3, because they were not bringing the tithe into the storehouse (Mal 3:7-12)

Where it gets really interesting, for my money (no pun intended) is not in the legalism of “Do I have to do this?” but in the promises God makes concerning tithing.

I began tithing at 15 after it was shown to me that God says in Malachi 3:10:

“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 you will not have room enough for it.”

Suddenly there was no question of whether I could afford to tithe: I saw on the basis of God’s promise that I could not afford not to tithe!

God makes other promises of abundant blessing:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. … And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. … Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. … You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (see 2Cor 9:6-11)

Generosity is also linked with abundant blessing and prosperity on several occasions in Proverbs (concordance keywords: “generous”; “prosper” and associated terms).

 Why generosity?

We need to ask ourselves what God is looking for when we consider finances. God is generous and rich in blessings; He gave us his Son (John 3:16) and “along with Him, he will graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32). It follows that He is asking the same of us: generosity in our giving, in response to which, God will give generously to us.

This teaching revolutionised my attitude to money (I used to be quite keen to hold onto my cash!): I instantly began giving at every opportunity to support church, the gospel, and to help the needy.

This has had huge benefits: God has really met me!

I have frequently had it happen in my life that God met my needs unexpectedly. When I was a student in France, I got through my grant money a lot more quickly than expected. Without being asked or told of my needs, my grandmother began regularly sending me cheques for £100: several cheques in all. I also had other needs met while I was a student, e.g. I needed new shoes one day, and I received a cheque from my mother, along with a letter saying she had decided to increase the support she and my father were giving me while I was at university.

It has been happening more recently too. For a number of years I have been unable to work and living on benefits. Yet God has again continually met me. For a while I ran an evangelistic project giving away DVDs all over the world via the web. Every time I went to God asking for a particular amount of money, somebody either gave me that exact amount within 48 hours or offered me a little work that would pay the amount I prayed for (amounts that were permissible for me to earn whilst receiving state benefits). I never told anybody of my needs: it was God who spoke to them and provided.

More recently, still while living on benefits, God challenged me to increase my regular support to a homeless chap I have befriended, who hands out my gospel literature advertising my website. I am now giving him the sum God said, and God has continued to meet my needs. Recently an elderly chap next door started paying me for helping him with doing his shopping and other chores, ensuring that while I was supporting my homeless friend, my needs were still being met.

As the man next door became more independent again, that resource began to dry up. Meanwhile, I found myself praying about another need which could not be covered out of my regular income. Within two days, I had a phone call from friends offering me a little paid work that would cover that need!

The “lifestyle of generosity”

 God asks us to have faith in his provision, not just our salaries or the state, to meet all our needs. And He wants us to develop what I call the “lifestyle of generosity” so that we meet the needs of those around us. God always looks at our hearts. The attitude of the world is generally that one should put oneself first. When God sees us with finances, I believe He says, “Does this person have my heart of seeking to bless people; of putting others first?” Then he knows that we are faithful with little and can be entrusted with much (see e.g. Matt 25:21).

Some people write off  biblical teaching about prosperity because the impression they have is that it is all about American TV preachers telling us we can all be driving Bentleys or living in mansions with swimming pools. Others think it is wrong to ask God for anything more than our most basic of needs; that God will be angry or that having more than what we need is wrong. The truth is that God calls us to make Him Lord of our finances, in response to which He will entrust us with more. Our response in turn is to continue to give generously. Few of us have seen what God will do through those whose hearts are truly open to giving in faith the way He gives to us. And when we give freely and in obedience to God, we find that God both provides for us and enables us to finance great things for the kingdom.

So I would try never to tell anybody, “You must tithe!” in legalistic fashion, but I hope I can inspire people to have faith to take God at His word and to begin an adventure of giving and receiving generously.

 Praying and believing

And just a very short word on the practical side of praying and trusting God for finances:

When I have a need, I open up the Bible at the places I have mentioned. I read those promises out loud, praise God in faith over them that they are His stated will for me, and pray over the verses in the Spirit (tongues) too.

Then I believe that it is done and that I will receive what I have asked (Mark 11:23-24). Then I wait in faith and keep my eyes open for the way in which God is answering the prayer (it’s different almost every time!).

There is no formula to God’s blessings, but He has taught us principles by which we can live, and when we live by what His Word says and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we will be amazed at what happens.

May God inspire you with faith and may you walk in all of his blessings!

“And my God will meet all your needs

according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:19)

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