As a result of recent readings in Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9, I began to question if tithing represents the New Testament idea for giving. I recognize the tithe is a is popular concept among the Christian money experts. While it is an easy handle to put on a complicated topic, to use 10% as numerical starting point (or future goal), seems to perpetuate a wrong mindset – duty rather than privilege.
In Philippians, I was encouraged by how Paul emphasized the giver’s role as partnering with him in spreading the gospel. Unlike Paul, I have not been foreign countries to share the good news, but I still join to advance the gospel by giving and praying for those who do. As their shepherd, Paul wanted people to give generously because he wanted what was spiritually best for them not because the ministry needed more money to operate. I was humbled how these poor believers in Macedonia begged for the opportunity to give generously because they had set their hearts on eternity. They cheerfully parted with worldly wealth (the little they had) to invest in what God treasured.
The following are some reasons for my reluctance to transfer this Old Testament command into life in the New Covenant:
* When we use the word “tithe” this seems very similar to a formula making tithing similar to paying taxes. We check off a box, settling into a into a mindset -give what is required but hold tightly to the rest.
* A tithe sets the bar too low. As people grow closer to Jesus, we will desire to give much more than 10 % because we recognize the extent of Christ’s sacrifice for us and acknowledge everything we have is from God and belongs to God.
* A tithe doesn’t reflect the change in our attitudes as the Holy Spirit fills us enabling us to become cheerful and generous givers, pleading for the privilege of investing in areas God values.
* Paul writes about a readiness to give, not equality of giving (that we contribute equal amounts or percentages). In equality of giving, some people with severely restricted incomes (elderly, widows, single mothers), their “widow’s” mite may not equal 10% of their income.
*Using a tithe as a yard stick, may lead to condemnation or pride.
How can we challenge ourselves to examine what we value most?
What will teach our hearts to treasure what God treasures?
What will motivate us to wholeheartedly participate in the grace of giving recognizing the abundance He has bestowed upon us?
When you examine your expenditures, consider partnering with God in the amount you spend eating out or on gas each week. Then think about giving as much as your monthly car payments, insurance, cable/cell phone bill or your grocery expenses. Is it possible to contemplate radically, sacrificially generous giving by contributing to God’s kingdom the same amount as your biggest line item for your personal kingdom – whether it is your mortgage, retirement, or education? Additionally, for special offerings, search your heart to determine if you can offer the amount you spend yearly on vacations, entertainment, or sports.
To be clear, I am not advocating an austere life of not eating out or taking vacations. I enjoy many comforts and luxuries in life, but each time I read the chapters mentioned, I search my heart to ponder if I am giving sacrificially or out of our excess. When there are competing financial interests, do I make it a habit to get what I want and put God’s interest on the shelf?
Grace giving acknowledges we can’t out give God. He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. You will be enriched in every way, so you can always be generous. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11