What is the purpose of tithing?
Before we answer this question, we need to look at the fact that only about 3% of churchgoers today tithe. There has been much confusion about tithing because of false teaching. According to a Religion News Service release
, there is mounting opposition to the doctrine of tithing. The opposition is not against supporting churches, but rather against the teaching that all church members (including the poorest) must begin their giving at 10% of their gross income. Russell Earl Kelly is the author of Should the Church Teach Tithing?, an expansion of his PH. D. thesis. Every day he receives e-mails, letters and calls from around the world thanking him for his free in-depth materials. Even though money was already a necessity, Kelly insists that biblical tithing was always only food from farmers and herdsmen in Israel under the Old Covenant. It was never commanded as an eternal moral principle of the New Covenant to the Church. He says that churches which teach mandatory tithing ignore the context and take money from the disadvantaged which they need for medicine and basic necessities. Salvation is not “By Grace Plus 10%,” he says.
This teaching is absurd, as you will see when we give this brief overview of tithing. The purpose of tithing is to finance the work of the Kingdom of God on earth, the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom and the fulfillment of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to disciple those of all nations that God is calling and teaching them to observe all things that Jesus commanded. A person should pay the tithe to the church or group that is feeding them the Word of God, the ones that are discipling them. At one point, a relative of mine was not attending a church but was watching a TV evangelist and being fed from him, so I instructed her to pay her tithes to that TV ministry. If you are attending a local church and they are feeding you the Word of God, you should pay your tithes to that church.
You can’t afford not to tithe. It’s grand theft – stealing from God. It gives Satan the thief permission to steal one hundred times what you stole from God. God will bless you for obeying Him by making your money go much further than if you had held back the tithe. Did Adam tithe? No. He had all the power and wealth of God to rule the earth. As an absolute God on the earth under the Most High God, he did not need to tithe, just as God does not need to tithe. Unlike Adam, we have an enemy to fight and the gospel to preach. When Adam sinned, his sons who wanted to obey God did tithe. Cain gave an offering. An offering is not an offering by definition unless the tithe is paid first. Although an elaborate tithing system was not instituted until Israel became a nation and the Levitical priesthood was established, tithing began with Adam’s righteous sons and this knowledge was handed down so that Abraham knew about tithing. How can we be Sons of our Father the Giver and sons of the father of the faithful, Abraham, if we are not faithful in tithing (Gen. 14:18-20)?
Malachi 3:1-12 and Matthew 23:23, along with many other passages, make it abundantly clear that tithing is a command of God that is not abolished by the New Covenant. God requires a minimum amount under both the Old and New Covenants to teach us to be givers like our Father. Abraham tithed long before the Old Covenant. And Hebrews 7, carefully studied, shows clearly the tithing principle stays under the New Covenant, only not with the same national administration and not with the Levites as recipients.
Being a giver is the first prerequisite to being prosperous. Refusing to tithe is the same as refusing to be like our Father, who is the perfect Giver (James 1:17). Tithing not only teaches us to be givers, but it also teaches us to put God first in our lives. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve God and the spirit of mammon, the demon that personifies the love of money (Mat. 6:24).
God does not specify an amount for the offerings
, which are voluntary as to the sum given. That is where New Covenant free-will generosity and joyful giving come into play. God promises to bless the tithe-payer and meet all his needs. Those who don’t tithe are stealing God’s money and bring His curse upon them. Thieves will not enter God’s Kingdom, especially those who steal from Him.
Stealing from God Himself is one of the most serious of sins. Such thieves are saying, in effect, “I don’t care about God’s message of salvation going out as a witness to the world.”
In areas of the world that are attacked with poverty, the problem is often compounded because people say, “I can’t afford to tithe.” Yet ten per cent of ten Kenyan shillings, for example, is one shilling. Ten per cent of 100 shillings is 10 shillings. If a person has only foodstuffs as increase rather than money, they can estimate ten per cent of the quantity and give that amount to the local pastor, who can then either sell the foodstuffs or distribute the food to those members who may be in need.
Breaking the cycle of poverty may involve the breaking off of curses, but the foundation of stopping that poverty is tithing. The amount is not important. It’s the principle that counts. It is the obedience to God that begins the cycle of blessing.
Malachi 3:10, the verse that tells us to bring all the tithes into the storehouse is not a suggestion; it is a command. That command has absolutely nothing to do with our increase. Whether we are billionaires or have so little that we can give only what the gospels call the “widow’s mite” is irrelevant.
Matthew 24:14 says that in the last days the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached as a powerful witness to the world. God’s plan of salvation honors Adam’s and the world’s free will as swayed by Satan. Jesus did indeed come to save all mankind, but He chooses only a few first fruits now. He will resurrect all the unsaved after the Millennium. Although God has prophesied a great end-time harvest as His Spirit is poured out (Acts 2:17), His main purpose is to proclaim the message of hope that Jesus is returning to save the world. That gospel being preached is what is central in God’s mind. When we don’t tithe, we are saying that what is most important to Jesus is not important to us. The tithe is holy to God and must not be stolen or be a subject of compromise (Lev. 27:30).
The parable of the sower shows degrees of blessings in the laws of sowing and reaping. Miserly tight-fistedness brings a curse and allows the spirit of stinginess to influence you. Basic tithing is good, yet paying only the tithe amounts to being an unprofitable servant, doing only what is required. Giving out of coercion because of a manipulative minister robs you of all blessings. Giving begrudgingly gives you a thirty-fold return on your offering. Giving for giving’s sake but with no feeling of joy gives a sixty-fold harvest. Giving with a joyful heart produces a one-hundred-fold harvest and allows God to bless you from every direction, in any way He can imagine.
Malachi 3 shows the blessings that come when we give tithes and offerings. God promises to “open the windows of heaven” in financial blessings. He even promises to take away the curse on the land and rebuke Satan the devourer. All nations will call Israel (the believers) blessed. That blessing also implies that the curse of sickness, which goes along with the curses in Genesis and Deuteronomy, will be removed, all things being equal.
God’s tithing system has not been abolished. It’s impossible to “outgive” God, whether by tithing or in offerings. He’s the Giver and the One who blesses and prospers those who obey Him. He commands us to tithe on our increase, which includes monetary gifts, so that His work of preaching the gospel and discipling believers can be accomplished (Numb. 18:21, 30-31). The fact that no Levitical priesthood exists today does not do away with the fact that God still has a work to do on earth, and that work is even more important today than the Levitical sacrifices at the temple. He commands us to pay ten per cent of our increase to finance His work on earth, specifically to the church that is feeding us the Word.
Recommended Declarations When Giving Tithes [and Offerings]
Tithe for the Work of God [Preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and discipling]:
Father, I thank You for blessing me with this increase. I joyfully bring this tithe [and offering, if applicable] into Your storehouse so there will be food in Your house. Thank You for meeting all my needs and rebuking Satan the devourer. Thank You for continuing to supply seed for further harvest and opening the door to one hundredfold blessing.
Offerings (Sowing seed for a specified harvest)
Some self-righteously proclaim they give without expecting anything back from God. That is good policy when giving to people, but not with God. Mike Murdoch told a man who said he never gave wanting anything back from God that he had a song for him: “How Dumb Thou Art!” In most cases (thank offerings are one possible exception) it is preferable to name your seed, i.e. to decide what you want, since God is a God of exchange. You may sow again on another occasion for the same thing, this time in thanksgiving that you have it.
Can’t Afford to Tithe, You Say?