God Loves a Cheerful Giver(Part 1)
By Jeff Klick
This series of papers are what I believe the Bible teaches about giving. The Bible is very clear about definitions of terms like "tithing," "offerings," and "alms." Let us look at tithing first.
This is a subject, which has been interpreted many different ways. Most Christians feel a need to give, but to whom, how much and how often are questions that need to be answered.
The definition of tithe is very simple, one tenth or 10%. In Genesis 14:20 (Hebrews 7:1-10) Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of a war. This was 400 years before the Law of Moses even commanded tithing so itprecedes the Law. In the Law, Leviticus 27:30-34 refers to the tithe being holy to the Lord and refers to items like seeds, fruit, herds, and flocks. All of these would represent the income of people in an agrarian culture. The tithe is to be given first or "off the top" from personal gross income. The principle is that the best belongs to the Lord and the Old Testament saints would never have dreamed of giving God less than the best. Proverbs 3:9 refers to giving the Lord the first fruits or the best from your land (income) and God will fill your barns. God always demands our best and this would include the area of finances.
To whom does the tithe belong? Deuteronomy 18:1-5 states that the tithe belongs to the Levites, the priests ministering to the Lord. In 2 Chronicles 31:4-10 God also commands the people to give to the priests so they can devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. The tithe was given so the priests could serve full time in the work of the Lord. Notice the obedience of these people in the passage, they gave so much that there were heaps of wealth lying all over the temple! The typical church today has about 10-20% of the people tithing; we might see the same abundance happen today if all of God's people tithed! See also Nehemiah 10:35-39, 13:12.
The most famous Old Testament passage is Malachi 3:8-12. The prophet under the inspiration of God asks a question. "Will a man rob God?" the stunned people ask "How?" Malachi's answer is by withholding the tithes and offerings, and because of this neglect, the whole nation is under a curse! The promise of God if they repent is glorious. If the whole tithe is brought into the storehouse God will open the windows of heaven, rebuke the devourer, and the land will be delight to all the nations.
I believe the "storehouse" referred to in the previous section is the local church. The principle of supporting the priests and temple workers would apply to the pastors and staff of today. The local church is where the people worship, pray, are fed spiritually, and receive pastoral oversight. The whole tithe should be given to the local church. Monies over and above the tithe may be given anywhere else, but the tithe should be brought into the local storehouse (church.) As the old saying goes, "if you eat at Pizza Hut you do not pay for your meal at Godfathers." A person should tithe where they are being taught, prayed for, and where they fellowship. The funds are used to pay salaries, overhead costs, fund missionaries, alms, and other expenses related to the local church. The issue is not how the money is being spent, but where it is to be given. The leadership of the church is responsible to make good stewardship decisions on the spending of the funds given. The people giving are responsible to pray for the leadership to make godly decisions.
The New Testament often makes reference to workers being worthy of their hire (1 Tim. 5:18), do not muzzle the ox (1 Cor. 9:9), being worthy of double honor (pay) (1 Tim. 5:17), and workers making their living from the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:14) and many other passages. Matthew 23:23 is interesting and often misunderstood. Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for neglecting the weightier measures of the law; like justice, mercy, and faith. These leaders were very good about doing the visible requirements of the law but failed when it came to issues of the heart. We often read this verse to say that tithing should not be done, but if we read it closely, Jesus said "these things you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Jesus was not saying that tithing should not be done, but that the other issues of the law must be fulfilled as well as tithing.
Tithing is very important to God, the success of a local church, and the spiritual development of the individual. Honoring God with the first fruits (10%) is the minimum every growing believer should be doing. Pray that God will give us the grace to start here and watch the windows of heaven open as we obey and grow!