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The Truth About Tithing
By Keith Rawlinson
Volunteer Budget Counselor
The most common question.
is the practice of donating a regular percentage of one's income to
support God's work and one's church. The word "tithe" literally
means ten percent, which was the traditional amount required in Old
Testament times. Whenever people ask me about tithing, they
usually start with the question: "Why do I have to tithe?"
The answer is a simple one--you don't
have to tithe! The Bible makes it very clear that tithing is
neither a commandment nor a requirement. Tithing does not affect
your salvation either way. You are not more saved if you do tithe
or less saved if you don't. God does not love you more if you
tithe and less if you don't. Since the Holy Bible is basically an
instruction manual for life, in fact when counseling or teaching I
actually refer to it as the instruction manual, let's see what it has
to say about tithing:
Let each one give as he
purposes in his
heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a
cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7
this verse says "give as he purposes in his heart," that means that he
gives what he himself has decided to give. "Not grudgingly or of
necessity" means that he gives it without hesitation or resentment, and
he gives it because he wants
to, not because he feels like he is required to. The last part
says it all: "for God loves a cheerful giver." This does not mean
that God doesn't love you if you don't give, it means that He loves it
when you give cheerfully.
So, according to 2 Cor. 9:7, if you
aren't willing to decide on an amount to give, and if you can't give it
happily and because you want to, then just keep it--God doesn't want it.
God doesn't need your money.
have, on occasion, had church administrators become angry with me for
teaching that we are not required to tithe. Some churches and
denominations, in fact, teach the opposite. They want people to
feel guilty and obligated when it comes to giving so that the church
can bring in more money. Sorry, but 2 Cor. 9:7 proves that my
position is the biblically correct one. Yes, in Old Testament
times, sacrifice and giving were a required part of salvation; but, that
was before Jesus Christ died
to serve as the final sacrifice. Since no sacrifice could ever be
as precious or perfect as God's own Son, we are no longer required to give or to sacrifice.
is no place in the Bible, that I can find, where God held off on doing
His work because He needed more money. God is faithful and will
put what we give for His work to good purpose, but He doesn't require
it in order to accomplish His goals. If God wants something to
happen, then it will happen--He does not have to hold back while waiting for enough money to fund it.
If God doesn't need our money, then why does He want us to give?
God does not require us to tithe or to give, but He does
want us to. If tithing is not required, then why does God want us
to do it? Well, for one thing, growing and maturing as Christians
means become more like God. His light and His qualities should
show through us. As the well-known Christian financial counselor
and radio show host Dave Ramsey
says: "God is a giver, so He wants to make us givers too."
The more we give and help others, the easier it becomes for us to
do so. After a while, it becomes such a part of who we are, that
giving up some of our wealth to help others becomes a regular part of
life. We learn to give naturally, willingly and cheerfully.
When other people see this quality in us, they are seeing one of God's qualities through us.
reason God wants us to give some of our money to support our church and
to help others is because it opens the door to being able to tell
others about salvation through Jesus Christ.
Go through the Bible and read the accounts of Jesus spreading His
Gospel. Many, many times He met someone's need before telling
them about salvation. He healed people, He fed people, He
encouraged people and He emotionally built people up. In so
doing, He demonstrated to them that He cared; thus, they were much more
willing to listen to what He had to say. It is no less with us.
When we support our church, or help people directly, we are
meeting needs and showing others that we care. We are opening the
door to telling others about Christ. There have been many times
that, after helping people financially, they ask me why I did it.
I would then tell them about Christ. If I hadn't helped
them first, I doubt many of them would have willingly listened to me
tell them about salvation through Jesus Christ, let alone ask me to do
God also wants
us to give because He knows that wealth can have a powerful effect on
people. The prospect of large amounts of money can make people do
things they know aren't right. Money is probably the one thing in
this world that has the greatest potential for taking the place of a
relationship with God. I have actually heard people say "I've got
all of this money, why do I need God?" If we are willing to give
money away, it helps us to keep its importance in perspective.
Money is necessary in life, but it still has to be handled God's way.
We are to use money to take care of ourselves and our families,
but are also to help others in need and to support our church. If we
are not willing to do these things, then we are not
following God's direction. God wants to make sure that holding on
to money too tightly does not interfere with what He wants us to do and
who He wants us to be. Learning to give helps us to follow Him instead of our own wealth.
Finally, God wants us to give so that He can bless us for it.
What's in it for me?
is a fair question. If we are not required to tithe, then why
should we do it? What's in it for us? Well for one thing,
for the reasons given above, we get a closer relationship with God.
Our understanding of God grows, our maturity in our Christian
faith grows, our discipline grows and our effectiveness in bringing
others to Christ grows. Those are probably the most important
things that are in it for us, but they are not the only ones.
promised us that He would bless us for giving and tithing. It may
be with material wealth, or it may not, but He did promise that He
would, in some way, bless us.
Bring all of the tithes into
that there may be food in my house. And test me now in this,
the Lord of hosts, and see if I will not open for you the windows of
heaven and pour out such blessing that there will not be room
enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10
Honor the Lord with your
possessions and with
the first fruits of all your increases; so your barns will
be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with
Look at what these two verses are saying.
If we tithe, God will pour out so much blessing that there will
not be room enough to contain it. He will overflow our barns
and our wine vats, which is to say that He will bless us to
overflowing. Remember, it may not be with actual money, but He
will bless us in some way and will do so to overflowing.
all right to tithe so that God will bless us? Isn't that selfish?
Shouldn't we just tithe because He wants us to? Well, yes,
we should do it just because He wants us to, but it is very much all
right to do it for the blessings as well. There is nothing wrong
with that. God wants us to tithe and offered to bless us for
doing so--His idea, not ours. It is not selfish to accept
blessings that God has freely offered. If it were, then it would
be selfish to want to go to Heaven since it is a reward for belonging
How to tithe.
already discussed, God wants us to tithe willingly and with joy.
We should enjoy that we are following God's direction, supporting
our church and helping others. Tithing should be done as part of
worship. It is a demonstration of our faith in God. We
believe that He will put our giving to good use and will bless us for
it. So there's the first part of how God wants us to
Next, God told us to tithe from "first
fruits." That means that we give God our tithe off the top, not
from what's left over. He wants the first and the best. We
should take care of our tithe first, then address the rest of our
financial lives. And be very careful about what I call
"substitution tithing." I have had people ask me if I think it's
all right to tithe their time instead of their money. I first ask
if it's because they have no money to give. If you're tithing
your time because you literally have no money to give, then that might
be all right as long as you tithe ten percent of your time and you do tithe when their is
money. Tithing ten percent of your time would mean
donating 2.4 hours of time each and every day. In other words,
16.8 hours per week. Anything less than that would probably be an
attempt to get off easy while keeping the money.
Most of the
time, when people want to tithe something other than money, it's
because the money is more important to them thus they don't want to
give it up. They would rather tithe with something less valuable
to them. Remember, God said "first fruits," not leftovers.
We are to tithe what is most important to us. For most
people, that will be money. If you are trying to justify tithing
something other than money even though you do have some money, then you
need to take a really close, honest look at your life and your
relationship with Christ. And also remember that if you can't
tithe what is most important to you, and you can't do it willingly and
happily, then God doesn't want it.
God said to tithe "as one
purposes in his heart." If you, for whatever reason, can't tithe
a full ten percent and do it cheerfully, then choose a percentage that
you can give cheerfully and
start with that. There is nothing magical about the ten
percent--that's just the amount mentioned in the Bible as a starting
point. If you can cheerfully and willingly give more than that,
then do so. If, however, you can only give a smaller percentage
willingly and cheerfully, then do that instead. Pray about it and earnestly ask God what He wants you to give.
Whatever you decide to do, know this:
wants us to decide for ourselves how much we give. The Bible
mentions ten percent, so that's a good place to start.
- God wants us to tithe willingly and cheerfully.
- God does not need our money, so tithing is really for us and our relationship with Him.
wants us to tithe with whatever wealth is most valuable and important
to us. That may be money, or it may be something else.
- God wants us to tithe regularly as an act of worship.
- God wants to bless us for giving, and has promised to do so.
Think about it, pray about it, and seriously consider what God wants you to do when it comes to giving and tithing.
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This article copyright © 2009 by Keith C. Rawlinson
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