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In my church I’m currently preaching through a sermon series on giving and stewardship. When it comes to giving, people often ask follow up questions. Here are four frequently asked questions about tithes and offerings.

1. What’s the difference between tithes and offerings? ‘Tithes’ refers to the 10% we’re supposed to give back to God as an act of worship from our income, and ‘offerings’ are anything above and beyond the tithe that we give to a church or other charity.

2. Why is a tithe 10%? ‘Tithe’ literally means ‘tenth,’ as introduced in the Old Testament when God commanded the Israelites to devote a tenth of their income to God as an act of worship and obedience. Why did God settle on 10%? We don’t know for sure, but I’m glad that it’s a percentage and not a dollar amount, because a percentage cuts across all sectors of the economic ladder. 10% feels the same, whether you’re making $100 a week or $1000 a day. 10% is just enough for you to pause and ask, “can I really trust God to meet my needs if I give to Him first?”, which is the whole point (to increase our trust in Him).

3. Is the tithe something simply commanded in the Old Testament? The tithe was something introduced in the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 27:30, but it’s also affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament when he says in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” So the tithe is something introduced in the Old Testament but affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament, meaning it still holds validity for Christians today.

4. Should I tithe on my gross or my net? A final common question I’m asked is whether we should tithe on our gross income or our net income. I first heard another preacher give the best response, so I’ll share it here for your consideration. When someone asks, “Should I tithe on my gross or my net?”, I respond, “It depends. Do you want God to bless your gross or your net?”

I grew up in church. I knew the right things, I was taught the right things, and for awhile I did what I thought was right when it came to giving. I gave to God, like I thought I was supposed to, but I gave to God on my terms. As long as I had enough, I gave God from the leftovers. I didn’t trust Him first.

For awhile, that worked, or at least I thought it did. I’m naturally conservative with my money and there was usually money at the end of the month, and I gave to God out of that. And then I got married. And then I had kids. All of a sudden, I wasn’t just supporting myself, I was supporting a family, and all of a sudden I didn’t always have money at the end of the month.

I was a full-time minister, serving in youth ministry, and I still struggled with giving like I should. So, if giving is something that you’ve struggled with over the years, if it’s something that you’re convicted about and know you need to do but struggle, know that I literally have walked where you’ve walked. There have been too many times when I failed the Principle of the Test. I got paid, and I didn’t give back to God first like He’s told us to from the beginning of humanity.

But, and here’s the great news, I’ve figured out a secret, a life hack, a way that’s revolutionized the way I give and it’s been such an incredible blessing to me I want to share it with you. Once I resolved to start giving to God like I should (this was years and years ago) I still had a problem. Back years ago the only ways to give to the church was either through dropping cash in the plate or drop a check in the offering plate. Only problem was, I never carry cash and I don’t like carrying a checkbook (too bulky, don’t have a man purse to put it in). So every week the offering plate would come by and and I’d think, “I want to give, I really do, but I don’t have cash or a check on me. I’ll give next week.” And I really meant it. I was absolutely sincere.

The problem was, I’d let five or six weeks go by before I finally remembered to bring a check, and by that time, I was so far behind on my tithe that if I caught up the check would bounce. I wanted to do right but struggled with remembering every single week to bring a check.

And then, and then, an amazing thing happened: technology. Technology advanced enough that you could start giving online, and even better than that, you could automatically schedule your payments.

And so, I’ve figured out a way to nail the Principle of the Test (every time you get paid, you take a test on whether God is really first in your finances), every time. I started it years ago and when I recently moved here I automatically set up to give online to my church. I get paid on the 1st and the 15th, like many folks. My tithe gets withdrawn automatically from my account twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. Whether I miss a Sunday or not, whether I’m out of town or not, whether I’m sick or not, I’m still getting paid by my work so I’m still experiencing the Principle of the Test.

And so, through online recurring giving, I nail the Principle of the Test, every time.

I’m currently teaching through a sermon series on money, stewardship, and giving. As you might imagine, when the preacher starts talking about money, everyone tends to tense up a little bit. Have you ever noticed that, someone starts asking for money and everyone grips their pocketbook a little bit tighter? So if it makes everyone a little uncomfortable, why in the world would I willingly talk about money and giving?

Well, let’s look at why Jesus talked so much about money. The Gospels are littered with Jesus’ many teachings on money, but it wasn’t because Jesus needed the money. In fact, when God asks you to give, it’s not because He’s poor or He needs a loan. The truth is, the money is already His. God owns everything. So why does God ask us to give to Him if He already owns everything? Because God doesn’t want your money, He wants your heart, and your money is the quickest way to your heart. Here’s what Jesus said,

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

We know this to be true in our own lives. We spend money on what we value and what we’re passionate about. Our heart follows our money and our money follows our heart. So when we’re intentional to give to God, we do it because we want our hearts to follow our money. Since our affections follow our investments, when we invest by giving back to God, we’re paving the quickest way for our hearts to be filled not with the temporary happiness of another purchase, but with the eternal joy that comes from being with God.

God’s never wanted your money. He doesn’t need it because it’s all His anyways. God wants you to give to Him because He wants your heart, and God knows your heart follows your money.

 

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10

The Apostle Paul wrote this warning in the first century to a younger Christian named Timothy, and in this letter he’s warning him against the dangers of the pursuit of money. Paul wasn’t warning Timothy about money because he wanted him to be poor or destitute. Money in and of itself isn’t evil. Money can be a good thing. But the dangerous thing about money is that it can distract us from the best thing.

 

What temptations and traps can you fall into by wanting to get rich? Have you ever made a financial decision that you regretted later on because you were trying to keep up with someone else? Have you ever taken a job that you shouldn’t have taken, but you did it because it paid more? Have you ever cut corners, lied, cheated, betrayed your own integrity, just to make a little more money?

And the trap of money is that it promises that if you buy this one thing or you make this much money, you’ll never need anything else. But it’s a trap. You can buy a brand new top of the line car, and that will satisfy you until next year’s cars come out. The pursuit of money is a trap because it’s a never ending cycle. The goalposts will always keep moving. No how much money you have, it will never be enough. You’ll always want more. And once you fall into the trap of pursuing money, you only end up harming yourself. Money can destroy the things that ultimately matter the most to us: relationships. Has the pursuit of money ever ruined a family?

Paul continues on, saying that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The term that we use for something like that is a “gateway drug.” Working with addicts for the past seven years, we heard this phrase constantly. When an addict would admit that they used serious hardcore drugs, ones they promised themselves they would never use, and when we talked through how they got there, it always started with recreational drugs, something they thought they could control but eventually led to their downfall.

The reason there’s such a strong national debate around the legalization of marijuana is centered around the debate about whether marijuana is a gateway drug to other, more harmful drugs and if we legalize it, we’re providing a much easier path for folks to ultimate ruin. Paul is warning Timothy that the pursuit of money is a gateway drug.

It can even cause Christians to wander around the faith. Do we struggle with that in America, since we’re so wealthy? Have you ever known someone who was raised in the faith but now they only attend once or twice a year? It’s not necessarily that they stopped believing, but they’ve become so affluent and there’s so much stuff to do on the weekends, that people begin to believe that they don’t really need God. They’re rich enough to not need anyone. Their wealth has caused them to wander from the faith.

The Greed Principle: The more you get, the less you have.

When we spend our lives in an unashamed pursuit of more, we’ll end up losing everything. You may get more money, more zeros in your bank account, nicer clothes, newer houses, more cars, extra vacations, but along the way you’ll lose your way, you’ll lose the relationships most valuable to you. You might even lose your soul.