For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(Luke 11:42 – ESV)
(Luke 11:42 – ESV)
How many times have you wondered, or heard someone else wonder if they were supposed to “tithe” based on net or gross income? Well, without even considering whether or not the tithe is a New Testament ideal, we need to discuss something. Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7).
You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start, most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. Its like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to. The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little, it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel is your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).
Okay, now, for those of you just looking for a fight: does the New Testament teach that we must tithe? No, it doesn't. But let me tell you that it does teach that we should give and that we should be cheerful givers. Those that want to wrangle over not having to give or about some imaginary line or limit are not the most cheerful people to be around.
It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship.
If we love a sports team, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little team clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.
Now follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that every thing we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?
I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the football team, or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?
Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a fancy new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. Better yet, realize that you don’t own stuff; it is on loan to you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament; all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4).
It isn’t a matter of doctrine; the truth is that for many the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but in any event make sure you are honoring God by giving Him your heart, and that would include your wallet.
Sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect (Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10). Don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth (Ezekiel 33:31). Don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t (Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-7).
The concept of giving in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest. It shouldn’t make you give less, but want to give more.
Giving is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.