"I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week." — John D. Rockefeller
I don’t exactly remember when I started to tithe, but I do remember a job I was hired for about 10 years ago that paid nearly double my previous income. After thanking God for opening the door to such a great job, it dawned on me that I had just recently started giving 10% of my income to my local church.
It was a helpful lesson for me, since I was skeptical about the whole tithing thing. I had heard about all the scandals with TV preachers and grew up with a cynical attitude towards giving to the church. Somewhere along the line I decided to take a chance and try it out.
I have not been disappointed. Luke 6:38 says, "Give and it shall be given to you..." and I have watched God fulfill the promise in His word over and over again ever since.
Is Tithing for Today?
There seems to be an endless debate about whether or not tithing is applicable for today's Christians. While I don't claim to have all the answers for the skeptics, I have a few thoughts about it:
Tithing isn’t a means of salvation.
You can’t earn your way to heaven by giving, and you won’t be excluded from heaven by your lack of giving. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Out of our faith, our good works manifest. So, in my opinion, if someone truly understands how great a gift they have been given, they will expend a lot of energy giving back.
It shouldn't be a moral obligation.
We are no longer under the law. As New Testament Christians, we are saved by grace, not adherence to Old Testament laws. But that doesn't mean that following those laws won't still yield good results. I have met very few tithers who consistently gave in faith and regretted it.
We are to be cheerful givers.
2 Corinthians 9:7 says that we are not to give under compulsion, but cheerfully. If we aren’t giving with the right attitude, we are wasting our money. God doesn't need our money; we are just given the opportunity to work as co-laborers with Him. How exciting is it that God lets us be part of the work that He is doing?
We are all called to give.
While the tithing debate can go on until Jesus comes back, it is crystal clear that each and every one of us is called to give. And according to Luke 12:48, "To whom much is given, much is required." Since we are in this "new covenant that is inaugurated on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6), 10% should be a mere milestone in our giving. With all that God has given to us, never going beyond 10% could be considered stingy.
If that isn't enough, when you read the Parable of the Talents, you get the impression that God is trying to communicate to us that we are merely stewards over everything that is His. If that is the case, who am I to say that He can only have 10% of His money back?
Tithing when money is tight
It can be tough to obey God's leading to give when there isn't much in the bank account.
I remember a particular instance when my wife and I realized, due to an error on my part, that we had fallen below the 10% mark that we were committed to giving. After a few quick calculations, I realized that if we gave 10%, our expenses would be greater than our income. That’s never a good thing!
I prayed with my wife and told God that if He really can do what His word says, then He would work it out. We went ahead and started tithing the correct amount, not knowing where the rest of the money was going to come from to pay the bills.
I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the very next day, my boss called me into her office to tell me about a completely unexpected raise that she was giving me. The raises normally only came once a year, and this was way off the schedule. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that it was almost the exact amount of the difference.
That experience was a strong encouragement for my faith. But many times I have stretched in my giving and haven't seen God move as quickly. As my wife and I have been working to pay off $45,000 of consumer debts, we have been faithfully tithing. It would be nice if I could say that I started tithing and the next week a check came in the mail to pay off all of our debt, but God doesn’t seem to do it that way very often.
He seems to be more interested in changing us than just making the problem disappear. Honestly, what good would it do if He made all our debt disappear without us learning the discipline of handling our finances properly? If we created all the debt by over-spending, then we would just end up in the same place again.
While I haven’t received a $100,000 check in the mail yet, we have seen numerous large chunks of our debt paid off over the last few years. I thank God for them and am convinced that He was involved in bringing them to us.
But what about my situation?
I can't pretend to have all the answers to everyone's unique questions about how they could possibly still tithe when _______ is going on. I know what it's like to not know how you are going to pay the bills, let alone find money to tithe.
But, be encouraged! One of the things I love most about God is that He loves to meet us where we are. So, if giving $10 is a huge step of faith, go for it! Work yourself up to giving 10% and then beyond!
Remember one of the great promises from the Bible in Philippians 4:19? "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Paul the Apostle wrote this to the Phillppian church while commending them on their giving. Many of the Phillippians, as Macedonian converts, were very poor, which may have been why Paul was so proud of their generosity.
Regardless of how much you find yourself able to give, I encourage you to continue to stretch your giving. God gets a kick out of our faith and rewards those who respond in faith to His Word, rather than to their current circumstances.