2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (NKJV)
The Cheerful Giver
6) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9) As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”
10) Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11) while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12) For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God.
Why Should I Support My Local Church? Why? Because it’s taught throughout scripture. Now, if you were to do your own study of tithing, you’d find that most passages dealing with the subject are in the Old Testament – and this is where some people get hung up. They think because something is in the Old Testament that it’s outdated or irrelevant. In other words, it doesn’t apply to us.
Now, it’s true that the Old Testament is full of principles and precepts, codes and commands – some of which were indeed situational and specific to the context in which they were given – but others of which are of timeless value (i.e. The Ten Commandments). Wisdom is learning to tell the difference between which were situational and which were timeless. To do that, we should always look to Jesus. Which did He address? Were there some He treated as timeless? Did He treat others as merely context-specific? After all, if Jesus thought a command was timeless enough to keep and obey thousands of years after its being given, we probably should too, right? Well, tithing was one of those issues that Jesus seemed to take very seriously. He endorsed the practice and never spoke against it.
In dealing with the religious elite of his day – Pharisees (professional theologians) and Sadducees (priests) – he treated tithing not as a merit badge of the “super spiritual,” but as a “bare minimum” of what anyone who loved God would do. Listen to how Jesus scolded the Pharisees:
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” (Matthew 23:23, NLT)
For Jesus, whether or not a person should tithe wasn’t in question. This was a basic practice that God-honoring people has been engaged in for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, He saw tithing as being the easy part of the God-honoring life – even Pharisees could do that! Living a life of justice, mercy and faith, however – that was, and is, a bit more difficult.
Most Christians Don’t Dispute the Need to Tithe or Give.
Even an elementary reading of Scripture shows tithing and offerings to be an essential practice of a Christ-honoring life. However, what some Christians don’t understand is where their tithe is to go – and that’s just as important.
In the Old Testament, tithes were given for two purposes: one spiritual and one practical. The spiritual purpose? Tithing showed then, as it does now, that people are merely stewards – not owners – of the wealth they have. When we return 10%, and God allows us to keep 90%, we give evidence of a heart that acknowledges whose money it really is. So tithing is first and foremost a spiritual practice. It’s not that God is after our money. Rather, He’s after what the money represents: our heart.
“Where you treasure is, there also is your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
But what about the practical purpose? In Old Testament times, people’s tithes were used to support and sustain their local faith community’s infrastructure and to provide an income for the Priests. The Priest did not have secular jobs and the only income they had was provided by the giving of the people. The bible says “You shall not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain [to keep it from eating],” and, “The worker is worthy of his wages [he deserves fair compensation].” 1 Tim 5:18 AMP. Meeting places had to be built and maintained. Leaders had to be trained. Weddings and funerals had to be performed. Tithes supported all that – that’s why the full tithe always went to the local temple. Remember when Malachi rebuked people for robbing God?
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit…then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” (Malachi 3:8-12)
Notice what happened in the passage above. God gave these people 100% of what they had. He had asked that they return a tithe (10%) to Him, but the people in question didn’t. According to God, that made them robbers. God said those who didn’t return to Him what was His were robbers! That’s harsh – but it’s true. When an owner makes me a steward of something and I keep it when he asks for it back – that’s makes me a robber, no matter how much I rationalize it.
But that’s not the point I’m making here. My point in the above passage is this: Where did God say the tithe was to go? He said it was to go to “my house.” That was their local place of worship – their church. That was the place they met together to learn God’s Word and to pray. That’s where many of their kids found spouses. That’s where they made friends. It’s where they were supported in crisis – just like in the local church today!
Let’s be honest. Once you realize how important a local church is to you, your family and your community, at some point you’ve gotta admit that it takes a substantial amount of financial support to keep it not just maintained, but also growing. That’s why, as it says in Malachi, the “whole tithe,” is to go to the Lord’s house – because it’s needed! But sadly, many Christians want to control their money, not realizing that they are acting as “owners” when God’s desire is for them to be “stewards.”
This is the point where many Christians, I believe, err. They see writing a check to the church as “giving” or “making a donation,” much the same as they would making a donation to a charity. And since it’s a “donation” in the sense of “I’m giving something that’s mine to someone else,” they believe they should retain the right to direct it wherever they choose. But that betrays the point of the practice. Tithing is not “giving” a donation. Why? Because it doesn’t belong to you in the first place! It never did! 100% of what I have belongs to God – and He asks that I “return” (not “give” because it’s not mine to give) it to Him via His “house.” I frequently meet people – godly people – who want to honor God by giving 10% of their income, but they want to give half of that 10% to the church and the other half to another cause outside their church. I don’t think they do this because they have bad hearts. I think they do it because they haven’t understood the biblical nature of tithing and because they don’t understand God’s call on their lives to be “stewards.” Tithing isn’t “giving what’s mine wherever I choose.” It’s “returning to God what is His to the place where He directs.” That’s what makes it so different than other “donations.
What Should I do?
Every Christian must decide what they should do according to God’s Word. The issue is clear from the Bible’s standpoint and our prayer is that you will follow God’s Word and His leading. But ultimately, only you can make the decision to support the church and to be a giver.