“Honour the LORD with your possessions, and with the first fruits of your increase”. (Prov. 3:9)
Proverbs 3:9 is a good Bible principle by which to live your life as a disciple. It’s not that God needs your wealth – for ‘if I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine’ (Ps. 50:12, and see also Acts 17:25) – but that he wants you to offer it, for giving to God brings about a blessing for the giver. As Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
God, through the Law, required his people to tithe: to give him ten per cent of their crops, fruit, herds, and flocks (Deut. 14:22-29). Nothing inferior was permitted (Deut. 17:1).
Financial gifts are the means by which our churches are maintained, they assist in relief, outreach, and literature, and support full-time Christian workers, plus youth camps and such events
The concept of tithing is first mentioned in Genesis 14, where Abram gives Melchizedek, a king and priest, ten per cent of the spoils of war (Gen. 14:18 -20; see also Heb. 7:4). We come across it again when Jacob recognises that God can provide for his need, and responds to God’s generosity by promising, “of all that you give me, I will give a full tenth to you.” (see Gen. 28:20-22)
The tithes were given to the Levites in recognition of ‘the work which they performed; the work of the tabernacle of meeting’ (Num. 18:21–26), and because they had no income of their own (Deut. 14:21). They, in turn had to give the ‘tithe of the tithe’ (Deut. 14:26).
The tithe was God’s portion, and men could – and did – rob him (Mal. 3:8).
Whilst the tithe was mandatory, it was not exclusive. People could bring ‘freewill offerings’ and some examples of this are in Exodus 35-36 and 1 Chronicles 29.
The New Testament brings a change: the ‘mandatory’ law disappears, and grace reigns. But the old principle remains – only the best is worthy of God. Consider the following aspects of giving highlighted in the New Testament:
2 Corinthians 8:1-7 and 9:6-8 describe the attitude God desires: joyful, liberal, willing, and with purpose. The churches in Macedonia gave ‘beyond their means’, perhaps because they first had given themselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5).
Compare this with David’s giving in 1 Chronicles 29: “I have a treasure of my own … and because of my devotion to the house of my God, I give it” (1 Chron. 29:3). Later we see his reasoning: “all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chron. 29:14).
1 Corinthians 16:1-3 shows one method of church collection: ‘on the first day of every week … [every one should] set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up’. This is similar to the Old Testament instruction in Deuteronomy 16:17 that ‘every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord’. This distinguishes from a casual ‘hand in the pocket, what do I have left’ approach as we come to the Remembrance.
Instead, we are encouraged to come to this gathering of the church prepared to worship – to offer spiritual sacrifices, and also the portion we have identified out of our salary, wage, or income that we wish to give to the Lord through the collection box (or a regularly-reviewed standing order with bank). It is a discipline: we don’t simply give God what is left over, but rather we set aside his portion first and then what remains is for ourselves.
Financial gifts are the means by which our churches are maintained, they assist in relief, outreach, and literature, and support full-time Christian workers, plus youth camps and such events.
There are also numerous charities (such as Faith Welfare Trust in India) that seek funding, so it’s necessary to prioritise. You should support the church you are in and its activities first, because this is where God has called you to serve him. Then, if you have the means, support other charities in which you have a keen interest.
Of course, we have to meet our responsibilities in life (including taxes!); but the challenge is to put God first. Giving involves sacrifice: it involves self-denial, in a surrender of what we have.
Whilst the tithe was mandatory, it was not exclusive. People could bring ‘freewill offerings’..
Note that we are not restricted to the Old Testament ten per cent; a freewill offering is as the Spirit moves us. ‘Giving to the Lord’ is a spiritual exercise, and this fact elevates it above the mundane. Sometimes giving may be an exercise to meet a specific need, or a glad response to all that is ‘God’s unspeakable gift’. It will be a private matter (see Matt. 6:3).
Finally, consider the example of the widow in Luke 21. The value was not in what she gave, but in what she had left… nothing! She gave her gift in faith that God would meet her needs for the next day; may we aspire to such an attitude.
Leonard Ross, The Church of God in Aberdeen