I’d like to tithe, but I can’t afford to.
Isn’t tithing kind of old school? Do people really do that?
The church talks about giving our first to God, but what does that actually mean?
We’ve all had these thoughts. Tithing can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve ever wondered what tithing is or why we do it, this blog is for you.
Tithing isn’t about Jesus wanting to take the money out of our pockets; it’s about taking the greed out of our hearts. Giving the first 10 cents off of every dollar to the local church is a way to show God that He is first in our life.
Tithing is an act of worship. It’s a way to put God first, and when we do, He says He will bless the rest (Malachi 3:10).
“Tithe” simply means a tenth. In the Bible, God commands His people to bring 10 percent of their gross income back to the church (Malachi 3:6-10). In those days it meant food. It was what brought sustenance to the church. We often respond to the idea of tithing in various ways:
“What?! I can’t afford it!”
“Isn’t that tithe thing old school?”
“People don’t really do that, do they?”
“The Bible says it, so I do it.”
Where Does Tithing Come From?
God instituted tithing as a way to worship Him, to protect our hearts from greed, and to support the work of the church.
One of the first examples of a tithe happens when Abram gives a tenth of his gain to Melchizedek, a priest of God (Genesis 14:17-20). Sharing a tenth of the spoils of war was a common way to pay tribute to the gods after a victory. By giving Melchizedek a tenth, Abraham was giving God credit for his success.
Later, as God was establishing Abraham’s descendants as His people, God told Moses and the Israelites that, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30).
The tithes the people brought to the Lord supported the work of the church, cared for the poor, and helped the Gospel spread to communities around the world.
Isn't Tithing an Old Testament Command?
Tithing is an Old Testament and New Testament principle. The first tithe between Abram and Melchizedek happened before God gave His people the law. Tithing was then outlined specifically in the laws God gave His people and affirmed by Jesus during His time on Earth.
When Jesus taught on tithing, He always challenged people to take their obedience one step further and consider whether they were doing the right thing with the right heart.
For example, Jesus affirms the religious leaders for tithing, but criticizes them for neglecting their responsibility to act justly, merci- fully, and faithfully (Matthew 23:23). Another time, while at the temple with the disciples, Jesus watches everyone giving their tithes and calls special attention to a widow because her offering, while small, was given sacrificially instead of thoughtlessly (Luke 21:1-4).
What Happens When We Obey God and Commit to Tithing
1. We demonstrate obedience, and God always blesses obedience.
God wants our obedience more than our loving words, and Jesus said obeying God’s commands is how we show God that we love Him (John 14:15). God specifically promises to reward our obedience in tithing. In Malachi 3, God rebukes his people for neglecting the tithe. Then, He issues this challenge: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).
When we’re obedient with what we have, we show God that we love Him and that He can trust us with more (Luke 16:10).
2. We get to partner with God in ministry.
God does not need our money. He owns everything and can do anything.
In Psalm 50:7, 9–12, God reminds us, “I am God, your God... I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”
When God commands us to bring the tithe to the local church, He is engaging us in His work on Earth. God doesn’t have to work through us, but He chooses to (1 Corinthians 16:2).
3. We put money in its place.
When you tell your money where to go, you don’t wonder where it went. Bringing the tithe is a tangible reminder that everything we have is on loan from God. He is our provider and our protector (Hebrews 13:5).
We all have a choice: we can put our hope in money, or we can put our hope in the Lord. But we cannot pursue greed and God at the same time. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Having money isn’t wrong, and being wealthy doesn’t make some- one greedy. It’s what we do with our money that matters. When we bring the tithe to the church, we are telling God, “My hope, my trust, and my security are in you and you alone.”
4. We are transformed.
Jesus taught that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Tithing is a way to allow our treasure to train our hearts.
Tithing is an act of the will, not a response to a feeling or emotion. We must decide to be generous before we feel generous. When we commit to tithing, God allows us to fully experience the connection between our obedience and His blessing. Then, the joy that comes from being obedient motivates us to do it again and again and again.
If we wait until we feel like obeying God to obey God, we’ll never follow through. But when we begin to take God at His word and do what He commands us to do, we see our faith grow.
It takes a leap of faith to write that first tithe check. There are bills to be paid, expenses you haven’t thought of yet, and your fingers shake as you pray, “God let there be enough at the end of the month.” Tithing is about trusting God, and trusting God is a journey. We’re going to have questions along the way and that’s OK.
There is no formula for giving and receiving God’s blessing. For example, if we give 10 percent to our local church, God will not necessarily triple our income. But, He does promise to bless us and God has never and will never break a promise. I know in my own life, I have never been in need (2 Corinthians 9:8). I can give with a cheerful heart because I know on the other side of obedience is joy.
God doesn’t need our money. He owns the universe (Psalm 50:12), He has infinite resources at His disposal and He is the Ultimate Giver (James 1:17). We can’t outgive God. If we tithe to the local church, God will turn around and bless us (Malachi 3:10-12, 2 Corinthians 9:8-11). He just wants us to trust Him and obey by giving back a portion of what is already His.
- If you haven’t tried tithing, what is holding you back?
- If you do tithe, how have you seen God bless your obedience?
- How is God calling you to not only tithe 10% of your income to the local church, but to be generous with the remaining 90%?
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