Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:33-34).
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (Mal 3:10).
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine (Prov 3:9-10).
As I shared last week’s article with a friend, the first thing he said was, “You didn’t include tithes and support for missionaries in the budget you laid out!” And he was absolutely right.
Tithing is a bit of a hot topic in the church world. In everyone’s minds is the misuse of church money that happens every year. Every few months it seems, there’s more news about how a popular minister or ministry misused money. We are a culture burnt badly by these sins.
Now, I could work to dispel that mindset. But I strongly doubt I could successfully dispel that mindset for any reader if I devoted a whole article to it. And that’s just not the purpose of these things, anyway.
Instead, let’s look at an idea I’ve seen very often, even held myself at one point: that the tithe is an Old Testament commandment that isn’t part of the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
To be blunt: So what?
The pattern of giving set out in the New Testament goes far beyond a mere tithe. Giving in the Old Testament was probably over double the tithe anyway—because the people of Israel weren’t just to give the tithe, but also had a number of other offerings they engaged in throughout the year. And among the people of Christ in the New Testament, we see an even more radical giving: people sold all they had and gave it to the Church and to those who had need.
So even if it’s 100 percent correct that the tithe isn’t for the New Testament community, it’s definitely no excuse to not give to support the work of the Church.
And that is the purpose of the tithe: to support the ministry of God.
People so often teach that the purpose of the tithe is to teach you, the individual, to rely on God’s provision rather than your own. That’s true. You see that several times throughout the Bible, like in the passage in Malachi above. But God didn’t just institute the tithe for the benefit of the tither, but also the one who receives the tithe.
This is something you see far more often, and is also present in that passage in Malachi: that the purpose of the tithe is to provide for those who minister to God. In the Old Testament community, that was the Levites. Among the New Testament community, that is the pastors, missionaries, elders—all who devote their careers to ministering the Gospel. Because, as the Bible says over and over, the worker is worth their wages.
To put it another way: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Rom 10:14-15).
Sending is much more than just praying for someone and wishing them well. If you read in Acts and in Paul’s letters, the ministers of the Gospel were sent out, not just with prayer and blessing, but also with the provisions they needed.
And this is what it comes down to: why wouldn’t you enjoy giving to support the work of God?
This is something where mistrust has crept in. Ministers and ministries have abused the trust of those who have given to support them in the work of God.
There’s a similar mistrust in giving to the needy. I know many people who say, “I don’t give to beggars because they’ll only use it on booze and drugs!” And they’re proud of this!
Yet Jesus said, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” It’s our responsibility to give. The way I view it, if I give to someone and they misuse it, that’s on their head. If I don’t give to someone who needs it, that’s on my head.
It’s the same principle with giving to support the work of God:
If you give to a ministry that misuses your gift, that’s on their head. If you don’t give to a ministry who needs it, when God has asked you to support the work of his Kingdom, well, that is on your head.
But whatever you do, don’t give begrudgingly. As the Spirit said through Paul, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So pray. Seek the will of God in this. To whom does God want you to give to support the work of his Kingdom? Can you give to them cheerfully?
I would propose you give to the ministries you’re involved in: your church and your Chi Alpha. You’re a student leader in your Chi Alpha group; you obviously believe in their work and trust the ministry. Support the work of those whose ministry is you. That can only be to your benefit.
But above all, seek a joyous heart in giving. Pray the Spirit would guide you and bless you as you give, warming your heart to the works of the Kingdom.
And may God bless you mightily!