All things belong to God. If we are intentionally giving 10%, we are effectively paying membership dues. Call it what you want, church tax, enrollment fees, registration, premium… none of those sound holy, do they? If we are setting aside for God, we aren’t being holy either. We aren’t called to give God what is left, or even to portion out a little bit. We are called to leave it all behind.
A simple Google search will compare the world we have become comfortable in against the word of God. “How much should I tithe” yielded for me today “10%” in many of the top searches. But, “How much should I tip” came back “15 – 20%”.
The problem is, while tithe typically means one tenth, the folks in the Old Testament did this more than once. It’s estimated that after their initial tithe of crops, the tithe to the Levites and all of the festivals, it was common that 20 – 30% was actually given.
Since tithing typically means 10%, I decided it was self defeating to look up “tithing” and expect another number. So I then did a search on “how much should I give God?”. Thankfully, there is a more diverse response, but it’s still haunting how many questions there are about giving.
Do I have to tithe? Do I have to tithe on inheritance? Do I have to tithe on gross or net? Is this still a command of the New Testament?
There are 2 verses in the New Testament that answer all of those questions and many more not listed. The first is how to give. And the second is how much to give and how often.
2 Corinthians 9: 6-7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Let’s be blunt. Some of us are trying to figure out if we can get out of tithing. Some of us want to give the bare minimum. We have lots of reasons and justifications that make it so it doesn’t sound so bad. And if we pick the right scriptures and ignore others, we can rest safely on 10% or even less. That just doesn’t sound cheerful.
Giving cheerfully isn’t an expression that we say, it’s something that we feel. Deep down in our hearts we rejoice as we sacrifice. Sacrifice means we do without so that others can do with. Your child hitting a home run. Your spouse getting that new job. Your crush says, ‘yes!’. You hand over the money you needed. Do any of those seem out of place? Jesus says, they shouldn’t. All of them are meant to be expressions of joy and worship.
As Michael Scott proved, you can’t declare bankruptcy by just shouting it out. You Can’t be a cheerful giver by just claiming that you are. It’s a matter of the heart. You can fake out the church, you can fool the receiver of the gift, but God knows the heart. If you are not excited about giving. If, in private, you aren’t happy about the loss, something is wrong. This isn’t a shame-on-you judgement, it’s a red flag that needs to be addressed.
Mark 12 tells us how much we actually give.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”Mark 12: 41 – 44
How much did she give? “all that she had”. It was so moving that Jesus called over the disciples. It was a teaching moment. The disciples, who were learning to be like Jesus needed to see this. She could have put in 1 small coin. She could have put in less. But her heart was affected. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t about what others thought. It wasn’t about legalistic doctrine from the past. It was about putting her money where her heart was. How do we know for sure? Jesus said so. She gave more than anyone else who gave abundantly.
When we tithe 10% we are doing a good thing. When we give all that we have (be it flocks, produce, time, facilities, food, money, help, etc) we are being disciples. We are observing and learning from the example that Jesus pointed us to. We have to stop following a book of rules and start living like we have a Savior that loves us and wants the best for us. What is absolutely best for us, is to build up treasure in heaven.
Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash