- Sunday: 9am & 11am
I know that many of you noticed a word I did not mention during last Sunday’s sermon on giving. Several people had great questions about it after each service. That word is tithe. If that’s a new term for you, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines it as “The tenth part of all fruits and profits due to God and thus to the Church for the maintenance of its ministry.” I would quibble a bit with that definition, and say that it’s the first tenth of all fruits and profits. As we saw Sunday, the Bible does teach that our giving should come from the first part of the income that we have received.
The tithe is rooted in Old Testament teaching, with Abraham first giving an offering of “a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20), and the Israelites later commanded to give a tithe “as a contribution to the Lord,” that would be distributed to the priests who ministered to the people (Numbers 18:24).
In the gospels, Jesus noted that the Jewish religious leaders were diligent about tithing, but not about “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). While tithing was still practiced, this still would have been prior to the establishment of the new covenant that came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we saw briefly on Sunday, there is a clear case to be made that the New Testament teaches an intentional, proportional, and grace-based approach to giving. Thus, the call in 1st Corinthians 16:2 for the believers “to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” That is a description of regularly taking a portion of the income God blesses you with to give as an offering.
The question arises over the size of that portion. i.e. what percentage are we to give. That’s a good question, and on a practical level, ten percent is a simple number and may be achievable for most people. But, let me offer you a thought from Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle, the book I recommended in the sermon notes:
“There’s a timeless truth behind the concept of giving God our firstfruits. Whether or not the tithe is still the minimal measure of those firstfruits, I ask myself, Does God expect His New Covenant children to give less or more? Jesus raised the spiritual bar; He never lowered it (Matthew 5:27-28).
“The tithe is God’s historical method to get us on the path of giving. In that sense, it can serve as a gateway to the joy of grace giving. It’s unhealthy to view tithing as a place to stop, but it can still be a good place to start… Tithes can be the training wheels to launch us into the mindset, skills, and habits of grace giving.”
Our giving, as it reflects the abundant flow of God’s grace into our lives, should be generous. If a figure like ten percent helps you to get a handle on regular firstfruits giving, then that’s a good help. But, to borrow again from Alcorn, “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but raise my standard of giving.” May we ever delight in being generous givers from out of the overflowing storehouse of grace that God has poured into our lives.
One other follow-up, and this is from the sermon on prayer. The book I recommended to you, A Praying Life, is on sale now for just $8 from the Westminster Bookstore. I would encourage you to pick up a copy.
And finally, it’s still early enough in January to offer this suggestion: Do you have a plan for helping you to read God’s Word on a regular basis? If you don’t have a regular reading plan, here’s one that you might consider: it takes you through the whole Bible in a year, reading five days each week, with a chronological approach to Scripture. You can find a print version of the plan here, or you can go to the app store for your smartphone or tablet and search for The ReadingPlan app by James H. Price. Once you’ve downloaded the app, go to Settings> Reading Plan, and download the Five-Day Plan.
Your Brother in Christ,
Grace Bible Church