This is a tough topic to address, but it ‘s one that I think deserves some attention, whether positive or negative. I don’t mean to keep going back to last Sunday’s service, but for whatever reason, I found myself scribbling notes not only about the sermon that was preached, but also about things that I couldn’t help noticing and which seemed to etch an impression on my heart.
One of the observations I made, was of the offering plate I could see ahead of us, and how it passed through several pairs of hands without any money being placed in it. Now before I lose you completely, let me quickly add that this is not a post about pointing the finger. I’m hardly in a position to make judgments about people’s reasons for giving or not giving, and assumptions are often very wrong anyway.
No, this is not a post about judging; it’s a post about looking at tithing in a way that you may not have considered before. Often, when people think about tithing, their immediate response is one of aversion, or guarded apprehension, or even one of resentment. Not everyone is comfortable with tithing, and it stirs up so much debate because the words “obedience” (or “disobedience”) are generally tied to it. But if I can steer you away from the concept of tithing as being an act of obedience, I’d like to suggest that it can be one of the most prosperous and rewarding things you’ll ever do.
When I was younger, and living back home in New Zealand, I used to attend a church where some really talented rugby players also attended, including then All-Blacks star Michael Jones (those of you who are familiar with rugby will know who the All-Blacks are). I remember watching him in a television interview one day, and laughing at the following dialog that took place:
- Interviewer: Do you ever feel guilty for tackling other players in a deliberately aggressive manner?
- Michael: No, the bible says it’s better to give than receive.
All jokes aside though, there is a huge amount of truth in Michael’s statement. Being in a position to give and do for others always renders feelings of joy and satisfaction. And for the most part, I think people give willingly when they’re able to do so. But what about those times when the bank account is running a little low, or when you have other plans on how to spend your money? That’s when tithing becomes an issue of conflict, and when we begin to slowly nudge if off our list of financial priorities.
There’s a reason though, for all the commands that God gave us, and they line up with many of the wise proverbs – meaning that He didn’t give us rules just to assert His authority. God gave us rules because there are lessons behind them, and behind the lessons are often blessings.
One of my favorite verses on tithing is in the book of Malachi. During the time of Malachi, God’s people were suffering from drought and famine, and yet, Malachi suggests something pretty radical. He tells them that God wants to challenge them to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food” in His house. Really? Give more, when there’s barely enough as it is?
Up until then, the Israelites had been robbing God, not just in the way of tithes, but in their lack of spirituality and unwillingness to give up their self-centered pursuits. The predicament they had found themselves in was largely brought on by themselves, but nevertheless, God asked them to test Him, and see what might happen if they gave up their selfish ways and turned back to Him instead.
- Malachi 3:10 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.”
What God essentially asked of them (and now asks of us), is that we give back to Him, not just with financial tithes, but with “spiritual” food that will fill His storehouse, or in other words, the kind of food that is harvested from a righteous heart and attitude. If we are willing to trust Him with our offerings (which ultimately come from Him in the first place), then we place ourselves in a position where He promises to bless us abundantly.
The issue then, is not so much about whether or not we “must” tithe, but more so about how much or how little faith we have. God is inviting us to test Him, but for some reason so many of us are afraid of doing so. We take ownership of our money and possessions because we think we are capable of doing a better job in managing them. If that’s you, then I am going to leave you with two things to consider, and then challenge you to “have a little faith and see what happens.”
- Luke 6: 38 says, “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.” Think about that for a moment – for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…….
- Consider this: Person A is a generous giver, who also tithes with a glad and willing heart; Person B fiercely guards his money and possessions, and is reluctant to tithe. Who do you think God is more likely to entrust with physical and spiritual blessings?
[Final comments: I believe God keeps His promises, but I also believe that His promise to bless, if we keep His commands, may come in a way (or variety of ways), that we are not expecting. I don’t believe that financial blessing is the only type of reward that He is referring to. And finally, since I’ve put a challenge out there for all of you, I think it’s only fair that I take up that challenge too!)