With there being so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, many people are reviewing where their hard earned money goes. In the last few weeks, quite a few people have asked about financial giving in an uncertain world. This is a great time, then, to address some of the truths of tithing.
A couple of years ago someone asked me this and it still feels very relevant:
“Does my financial giving all have to go to my local church?”
What follows is (almost) exactly what I replied, minus any personal details.
Nowhere in God’s Word do we see that if you can’t afford to give (to the church or anyone else) then it’s simply ok to stop, its something that is expected of us all (Luke 11.42). Born again believers in Jesus want to, and should, give back to Him and His bride the church some of what He has blessed us with (Proverbs 3.9, 2 Chronicles 31.4, Nehemiah 10.36, Malachi 3.8, Galatians 6.6). Straight away then, yes, we should contribute financially to the local church body we are a part of.
How do we do it then? I think about the widow who gave two small coins because that was all she had, not what she could spare that week or month:
Then [Jesus] sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them,
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”
Giving out of what we have to live on is a blessed thing, giving out of our surplus is not really giving and is not a statement of how we trust in God to provide for our needs (2 Samuel 24.24).
A few years ago my wife and I and went through some tough financial times. I was forced out of a job for, basically, serving and doing more at church. I was reminded, multiple times, that God will meet our needs if we continue to serve Him, to love Him, and to trust Him with our finances. Hedging bets and keeping cash is not a statement of faith. It was tough giving money to the church every week that we could have put towards downsizing our accommodation, feeding our newborn baby, buying a car that I now needed for work, but we did it. God provided for us in a miraculous way. Money became available from unexpected sources and the people around us saw what we were going through and the Lord also provided through His people. We rejoiced in His faithfulness and resolved never to grumble or complain about regular financial giving again.
God deserves our firstfruits, as He gave us His (John 3.16, 1 Corinthians 15.20, 23). Because He did so we know that He is faithful to provide for our needs (Romans 8.32). So, as a principle, should you continue to give something back to God regardless of what is going on around you? I’d say yes. How much and where is between you and Him. This is a personal conviction about which He will never make you feel ashamed (1 Corinthians 16.2, 2 Corinthians 8.3).
Someone once explained it to me like this –
God now cares more about how and why we do things
than the minutiae of what we actually do.
This principle of why>what boils down through the ‘Shema’ prayer of Israel in Deuteronomy 6 to the fact that we are to love God with all that we are. We have no command to obey laws anymore in order to demonstrate our love for Him, as Jesus fulfilled this law (Matthew 5.17-20). We follow Jesus and His will, His ways, and His Word because we want to. We follow and obey God’s commands because we want to, and in doing so demonstrate our love for Him (1 John 5.3). So then, we shouldn’t give out of a feeling of compulsion, “Well, I’d better put X in the offering this week...”. We are to give our best to God and His family because we want to, not because we are under a law to do so.
A lot of churches (ours included) are 100% reliant on tithes and offerings to keep going financially. Generally, these have gone down this past year. This brings stresses, struggles, and tough decisions that are more often found in the boardroom of a business than the church. If this is a season wherein you feel you need to give less to the church because there are other benevolent demands on your finances, then so be it. Again though, I think of the poor woman in Mark 12: despite her circumstances she still gave to God. Perhaps if circumstances changed she would give more, who knows. But, when things were tough, she still gave to God.
As a principle then, keep giving to God regardless what is going on around you, what is happening to you, and whether you feel things are working out for you. There is no guilt or shame wherever you give your tithe: to give is important. There will be no guilt or shame about where you give, how much you give, or when you give – giving is important as a principle. If we keep 100% of our income for ourselves and ourselves only, we are missing the mark given to us in Scripture (1 Timothy 6.17-19).
If you would like to talk to someone in more detail about financial giving, how to do it, why we do it, please contact us and we can connect you with the right person.
The subject of giving was also covered in this message –