This was a question a good brother in the Lord asked me around a year ago. It was asked with sincerity, he was not looking for loopholes to escape through or specific laws to fulfill in their minutiae.
With the world temporarily on pause, many are reviewing where their hard earned money goes so this is a great time to address the truths of tithing.
What follows is pretty much exactly what I replied, minus any personal details.
“Does my giving have to be to the church?”
So, here goes…
There is a distinction between the needs of the individual and the needs of the church, obviously.
Nowhere in the Bible do we see that if you can’t afford to give to the church, then it’s simply ok to stop, its something that is expected of us all. We who are born again believers in Jesus want to, and should, give back to Him and His bride some of what He has blessed us with.
I think about the widow who gave two small coins because that was all she had, not what she could spare,
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 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. 44 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.”
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.
A few years ago my wife and I and went through some tough financial times; I was forced out of a job for, basically, going on staff at church, and it was you who told me that God will meet our needs if we continue to serve Him, to love Him, and to trust Him with our finances. It was tough giving money to the church every week that we could have used to move house, feed our new baby, buy a car that I now needed for work, but we did, and you were right…God provided for us in a miraculous way. Money became available from unexpected sources and we rejoiced in His faithfulness.
God deserves our firstfruits, as He gave us His (John 3.16), and because He did, 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, I’d say yes. How much is between you and Him. This is a personal conviction about which He will never make you feel ashamed.
Our convictions are deeply personal, and our Lord desires mercy not sacrifice;
He cares more about the why more than the what.
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 law anymore to demonstrate our love for Him, as Jesus fulfilled this law, so our love for God is shown by our following of Jesus and His will, His ways, and His Word.
So to apply this thinking of why>what to giving; are we begrudgingly putting 10% of our gross monthly income in the offering every month whilst at the same time knowing our parents are suffering in poor housing conditions, or are we giving less than 10% to the church but happily, cheerfully, willingly, and freely, because you want to, knowing that He will use even the smallest of contributions to His glory?
Are we sending money for tuition to our children or medical care for our family whilst complaining about it, or are we praying for God’s support for our family and sending money as a proof that we trust Him to provide for them? The how and why is more important that the what.
The Word says to give.
The Word also says honour your father and mother.
We are not to give under compulsion, 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. We trust in God’s provision, both as the organism and organisation that is the church, and also as individuals.
Perhaps this is a season wherein your giving has to be focused to a particular area; the medical care of family, the educational care of our children who are overseas. But let me say this again, there is no guilt or shame wherever you give your tithe, to give is important. You will not be made to feel guilty or ashamed by me, by our church family, and most importantly by our Lord, I can tell you that for sure. 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 at risk of missing the mark given to us in Scripture.
To summarise, giving is shown in the Word to be important, to be a personal conviction that is informed by both this timeless truth and our current circumstances.
I know you work hard, I know you love your family, I know you love your Lord and Saviour and His bride. I know you are able to give something to all of the above; time, talent, or tithe. Seasons come and go, there is a time for every season under heaven, and when seasons change, so does our behaviour.
Love you brother.
The subject of giving financially was also covered in this message –