Yesterday, one of my best friends and I had were discussing the idea of tithing. Though our conversation was pretty brief, there were some pretty interesting concepts shared. Our conversation challenged me to try to dig deeper into the significance of tithing. Here's my official take on tithing:
From a previous post, I mentioned how tithing has become a serious issue for me. It's something that many 'religious folks' tend to place a high premium on. In fact, it's an idea that is usually over-emphasized in many circles. That's not even the real issue that I have. In fact, I think that it's important that we, as the body of Christ, emphasize the idea of giving ourselves -- our money, our time, our work -- to God. Where I take issue is when many of us fail to completely consider all of the Biblical perspectives about tithing. We hear one or two verses (particularly Malachi 3:8-10) and immediately we're convinced. Simply put, we don't do enough reading between the lines. Tithing is supposed to be considered a blessing to God, given from our joy. But, all too often, the church fails to see it that way.
Tithing was a principle introduced in the Old Testament Law. I think that this is a very important point. No matter how you slice it, the commandment to tithe was given to Israel, not to the body of Christ. There is something significant about God's direct commandments. For example, sin did not enter the world until Adam ate of the forbidden fruit; even though Eve was the one who originally threw down on that tree. Why do you think that was? I think it was because God gave the commandment to Adam, not Eve. We've come to personify Eve with being the 'beginning of' or the 'prelude to' destruction...not the destruction itself. That was all Adam's doing. I think that tithing is no different. The command to give 10% of your earnings as an offering was given to Israel though the Law, not to the Church. To suggest that the Church is required to follow the same legalistic system of sacrifice as the Israelite signifies a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of Jesus and his ministry.
No where in the New Testament will you find passages that assign a certain percentage of our income toward tithes. Now, I'll admit, Paul does urge us, in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, to set aside a portion of our income so that we can support the church. But here's the catch: Christians should not feel obligated to always tithe. We should give as we are able to do so, “in keeping with our income.” I think that this could mean giving more or less than the infamous 10%. I think that it just depends on the ability of that giver, coupled with the needs of that church.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think that the '10% rule' established under the law is a great benchmark for us, as believers. It shows that we happily contribute to God's kingdom without being weighed down by our doubts, fears, and financial strains. That being the case, I'm not against the body of Christ taking that amount and inheriting it as our goal. But, this does not mean that we are required to govern ourselves by that amount. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we should not give with trepidation or in response to pressure. Simply put, we shouldn't give reluctantly or out of necessity, but rather out of joy and cheerfullness.
Well, this is all fine and dandy, Andre. But you haven't answered the question: How much should I give?
I hate to admit it, but I don't have the answer to this one. But I do know that, as Christians, we should make it our goal to diligently pray, seeking after God's wisdom...especially as it relates to how we should tithe. James 1:5 tells us that we should ask God for wisdom so that we can understand what He wants us to do (FYI, the book of James is a winner!). If we ask, He will glady tell us and will not resent us asking. If you're struggling with your tithing (and, trust me, I'm as guilty as the next person), ask God for wisdom and see what happens.