To Tithe or Not to Tithe
"But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things."1
A Daily Encounter reader shares how he is deeply in debt and asks should he stop tithing (giving one-tenth of his income) until he pays off his debt. Others claim that tithing was an Old Testament ruling and therefore isn't applicable for today.
First, I don't believe we can ever out-give God. His Word reminds us of Jesus' promise in Luke 6:37 to "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Second, tithing certainly was an Old Testament rule and was the way ordained of God to support His work on earth. "Thou shall not steal or bear false witness," were also Old Testament laws. Are they invalid today? Of course not. Neither is tithing. This is still the God-ordained way to finance His work on earth. As seen in today's scripture, Jesus confirmed to the self-righteous Pharisees that tithing was still important.
Let's face it, if every Christian tithed—including the giving of the widow's mite—there would be adequate funds to accomplish God's work on earth. The tragedy is that even right here in the United States, one of the richest countries on earth, and one of the most blessed of all nations, tithing is neglected by so many Christians. I find this extremely hard to understand. We, who have been so abundantly blessed and given so much, comparatively give so little.
A few short years ago research specialist, George Barna reported in an edition of his bi-weekly e-mail, The Barna Update, the following alarming statistics:
"Church revenues are down in the past 12 months. One reason may well be the decline in the proportion of people who tithe. Based on our latest research, here are some of the highlights from this week's report.
"The proportion of Christian adults who tithe has dropped by 62% in the past year.
"Just 6% of born again households tithed to their church in 2002.
"Tithing, when it occurs, is generally among Protestants: 5% of adults who attend Protestant churches tithed last year, compared to less than one-tenth of 1% among Catholics.
"Among the groups most likely to tithe are people over 55, college graduates, evangelicals, Republicans, conservatives, and residents of the South—but there was no segment among which at least 10% tithed."2
Is it any wonder that so many Christian missions and ministries are struggling to survive and have their hands tied because of insufficient funds—and why so many people are left homeless, cold, starving and dying of malnutrition, and suffering without help? And why so many around the world still have never heard the gospel?
Sadly, in too many of our churches 95% of our income is spent on ourselves and only 5% on missions. I suggest that we designate where and how we want our tithes and offerings to be used. This is not saying to neglect our local church's ministry but also not to neglect the ministering to the needs of others across the street and around the world. And do not neglect to support para-church ministries (which are also a vital part of the Church Universal) who are doing the work of the Church in the outside world. And do not neglect to support those who are reaching people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We say we cannot afford to tithe. If this is true, why would God have ordained to fund His work on earth through the tithes and offerings of His people? The fact is we cannot afford not to tithe. As God's Word to the ancient Israelites said (and its principles are still applicable today to all of God's people): "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 'Test me in this,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."3
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in light of all the incredible blessings you have given to me—the greatest of which being your gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and life eternal—forgive me for where I have robbed You in tithes and offerings. As of today I commit to giving offerings for Your work plus a tithe of my time, my talents, and my income. Thank You for the wonderful privilege of giving to You for Your work here on earth. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Luke 11:42 (NLT).
2. The Barna Update: 5/19/03. A bi-weekly e-mail from George Barna http://www.barna.org/.
3. Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV).