Should We Tithe?
All that I have is from God and my giving ten percent does not entitle me to use the remaining amount in any way I want but I must seek His guidance for that also to be used in ways that glorify His name.

Should We Tithe?

           God is loving and caring for all of His creation and everything needed was created first before the user or beneficiary of that. In the fallen world, however, people do suffer many things when they fail in getting the fruit of ‘the sweat of the brow’ to meet their material needs. The system of tithing was thus introduced by God in the Old Testament that such poor and needy persons may get their needs met in God’s house. The Law of Moses was fulfilled by Lord Jesus and the believer being governed by the New Covenant is considered to be free from that. But is a believer totally free from all commandments of the LORD and even tithing is abolished by the Son of God?

         Old Testament and a believer – Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar, has defined the aim of any religion as ‘perfection of the soul’ but he also connected it to the ‘perfection of the body’ through fighting against injustice and poverty that afflict an individual, as essential parts of religion. His reason is, how can one focus on Divine matters with an empty stomach or a heart filled with pain. Thus, someone else’s material needs are my spiritual responsibility and faith without good deeds is as good as dead (James 2:17). One of the great Rabbis of his time was woken up by the sound of the crying of his grand-son at night. On checking he found his son busy with his studies of the Scripture, oblivious to his son’s crying. The Rabbi put the child back to sleep and then told his son, ‘I do not know what you are reading but it cannot be the Word of God if it made you deaf to the cry of your child’.

           Perfection of the soul cannot come without efforts towards perfection of the body also. Lord Jesus was asked by a scribe about the greatest commandment and He first quoted the ‘Shema’ command (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) about loving God and then about loving ‘your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:28-31). There is no one who would like to suffer hunger, sickness or any other type of hardship, so helping those in need is our religious responsibility. The commandments were about developing an attitude to give first place to God in everything since He is the Creator, Provider and Sustainer of everything. Adam and Eve pushed God to second place by listening to the devil in the form of the serpent and landed up in second place in God’s creation.

          Cain brought ‘an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock’ (Genesis 4:3-4). God required the offering from neither of them but it was about thanking God for His provisions for their sustenance. There is a way to honor God and that is to ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name’ (Psalm 100:4). This is the real expression of love for God, when our thoughts (mind), desires (heart), our intent or way of life (soul) and all our resources are made available for His service and He gets first in our life. The Law was given to Moses for people who had come out of a 400 years stay in Egypt with many years in slavery and God did not desire them to be His slaves but children. Moses was told by the LORD to go tell Pharaoh to ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me’ (Exodus 8:1). First, God personally related to the Israelites and second, He wanted them to serve Him rather than be held by the Pharaoh as slaves. The LORD clearly told Moses about His awareness of the peoples ‘sorrows’ in Egypt and they were to be brought ‘to a large and good land, to a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:7-8).

         The Ten Commandments were thus condensed into two but the purpose remains the same, to fulfill our vertical responsibility to God and horizontal for His creation. The Son of God is an expression of God’s love for the world in its completion and how can He stop anything that shows His love for others through His chosen ones? Apostle Paul is quoted by many about not following the Old Testament law of Moses, ‘Through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God’ (Galatians 2:19). But then he raised a question about not following the law any longer, as a believer, ‘Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? (Romans 6:15). Lord Jesus established the ‘Law of love’ as mentioned in the two commandments and we relate to God in love to do what is pleasing to God. Not caring for the plight of others would amount to sin against God. The command therefore, is, ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2). The anchor of the Old Testament law was removed to bind us to Lord Jesus and not to leave us adrift.

         Our new relationship with God is now through and in the way of the Holy Spirit, ‘the Spirit of power, love and self-control’ (2 Timothy 1:7). But then, it is said that since the law was abolished, we should not be obliged to pay tithes also for there is no mention of tithing by Apostle Paul or an explicit command by Lord Jesus. As a specific example of law, as per them, law of tithing is also fulfilled and should not be paid.

             Is there no command from Lord Jesus to tithe? In the Old Testament, the Levites were given no allotment of land and a system of tithing was established to support them. Then, should this not be the system of supporting the Pastors and other church personnel? Apostle Paul first advised ‘double honor’ for elders in the church ‘especially those who labor in the word and doctrine’ (1 Timothy 5:17-18). He further said, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads the grain’ and that ‘a laborer is worthy of his wages’. All those who make all efforts to ensure that the right interpretation of Word of God and doctrine of Scripture is made available for all in the congregation, must be provided for by the people they serve. Actually we should value their efforts for the kingdom of Lord Jesus, that we should rejoice in giving.

           The Apostle has rather sought willful giving, ‘for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). In Athens, Apostle Paul declared, ‘(God) is not served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things’ (Acts 17:25). Since faith itself is a gift of God, our very intent or act of giving itself is a gift from God. We can give Him nothing that is ours, except praise and thanksgiving, for He needs nothing and our giving adds nothing to Him. God declares, ‘I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills’ (Psalm 50:9 & 15). Further, He says, ‘call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me’.

             God is a giver and not a beneficiary ‘For who has given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things’ (Romans 11:35-36). But nowhere in the New Testament do we find the Lord commanding non-payment of tithe or tax. In the woes, the Pharisees were admonished, ‘Woe to you, Pharisees, for you tithe your mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone’ (Luke 11:42). The point made was that tithing is not the most important thing but do not ignore it also.  Apostle Paul has also similarly said, ‘On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper’ (1 Corinthians 16:2).  This is a share of what you get, more as you prosper and tithing is a portion. Second, set aside the first thing as ‘first fruits’ of your earnings.

          Apostle Paul earlier laid down the responsibility of the teachers but then also that of the taught that they must ‘share all good things with him who teaches’ (Galatians 6:6). In addition, he also expected that the poor in the church must also find sustenance from the church and sought contribution for the Jerusalem church (Romans 15:26). The evangelistic outreach of the church must also be supported by the people of God for ‘Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?’ (1 Corinthians 9:7). All teaching, preaching, missions and other activities must find support from the congregation and all these expenses would amount to a contribution of more than the normal tithe.

          Tithing was neither stopped by the Savior Lord, nor is the need any less, nor did any of the Apostles discourage or stop it. Apostle Paul laid down various instructions on every aspect of church life except tithing and this could be due to various reasons.

          First, the New Covenant brings God in us to strengthen, fill us with His love and help avoid sin and it is a permanent covenant not renewed every year. Should this bind us to only a part of our giving, only 10%, or to help us express our gratitude to God by giving more?

          Second, God loves a cheerful giver and the Apostle encourages freedom, willingness and joy in giving rather than a duty fulfilled grudgingly. Who has given God anything that He has not given first and we are not to be miserly in this.

           Third, Apostle Paul has linked our earning to giving and not in order to have. ‘Let him who steals steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need’ (Ephesians 4:28). This encourages good works for the overall good of the community.

           Four, our giving proves our submission to the one from whom comes ‘every good and perfect gift’ from above and He ‘does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1:17).  The same God who became Man to redeem us from sin had commanded tithing and after He has done His part, we want to renege on ours.

           Five, we are blessed in giving and Lord Jesus has clearly taught, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). This is the heavenly kingdom principle whose King gave His best, His Son.

           Six, our liberality increases our blessings for ‘one who scatters (gives freely), yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, him it leads to poverty’ (Proverbs 11:24). Lord Jesus has emphasized this same principle of returns ‘with the measure you use (to give), it will be measured to you (in return)’ (Luke 6:38).

           Seven, it is the attitude and not the amount we give. Lord Jesus commended the poor widow who had two mites, all that she had, though the wealthy gave large sums (Mark 12:41-44). A grudgingly given large amount loses its value to God, for giving is an expression of our love for God. God rejected Cain’s offering for the same reason for it is the quality of the gift for us and our attitude that matters to God (Genesis 4:5).

             The normal excuses that people make for not giving tithe or a gift commensurate with their earning is, ‘I cannot afford it’. A family earning about 15 lakhs a month gives an occasional gift of five hundred or so is an example. The promise of God, who does not change, also cannot change about rebuking ‘the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of ground’ (Malachi 3:11). One who cannot afford to give, actually will never be able to, for whatever comes in will be stolen by the devil through medical bills and other unexpected bills. How can anyone expect love in return for neglect?

             Should there be any specific prayer while giving tithe? King David knew he would not be building the House of God in Jerusalem but he continued to collect resources for his son Solomon to do the work. After a collection from his people, he prayed, ‘Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given you…O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all your own…. keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of Your people, and fix their hearts toward You’ (1 Chronicles 29:14-18). What he prayed was, ‘even our offering willingly is a gift You have given that we do not deserve’. Every gift we are giving is from You to enable us to give to You. And then he further prayed that even our purposes, our thoughts and intentions to give are from You. We must give glory to God in our giving in this manner.

              Moses in his teaching urged another way of thanking God and the Jews call it ‘the Tithing Confession’ or Vidui Maaser. After laying aside the tithe, gift to the Levite or the priest, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, ‘Then you shall say before the LORD your God, ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me’ (Deuteronomy 26:12-14).

           A ‘vidui’ is a confession of guilt for seeking forgiveness but this is speaking about how good we are and that too in a general and not a proud or haughty manner. This is commending oneself about success in an area of life. God in His Word has taught this that I can be good only when I believe that I am good and able to accept, confess and seek forgiveness for my mistakes. A genuine confession is acknowledgement of a mistake but also a belief that being essentially good, I am capable of being good while being exceptionally good in some spheres of life. If I accept my soul is inherently filthy and immoral then my evil deeds conform to that with no incentive to change. I will feel bad about my wrongs only if I recognize and accept my dignity and purity and feel bad about the dark spots of life. The bride declared ‘I am dark but lovely’ pointing to her inner beauty with confidence and only then could she find and enjoy the love of her partner (Song of Solomon 1:5). Do we acknowledge our good intentions before God and then thank Him for these good thoughts and purposes to serve Him?

             Tithing is not only about setting apart a part of our income but also ourselves for His glory and thus being willing to find common cause with God for His kingdom. Only then can we really mean what we pray. ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9-10). In such a state then, one is eager to give the maximum and first to God before planning and spending for any other thing. That is the true worship that God desires!

            An athlete during training is made to exert to the maximum to strengthen and prepare him to face the challenge of the competition. In our spiritual battle the devil is ever urging us to collect and set apart for our use during hard times for no one may help us. His real intention is not our good but to ‘steal and destroy’ what we have. God is always willing and ready to fill the open hand that has been given for others’ good. It is not about the amount we give but the intention and inner feelings while giving that matter to God. Given joyfully, the two copper coins are also seen by the Lord as a great treasure!

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