Whenever I begin to talk about tithing, I’m immediately hit with two major objections. First, tithing is never mentioned or commanded in the New Testament. Second, a ten percent gift is a shallow understanding of tithing and giving as taught in the Old Testament. If you total all of the various sacrifices and offerings in the Old Testament, you’ll end up giving somewhere between 25% and 30%.
As to the first objection, yes, it’s true tithing isn’t mentioned in the New Testament. The standard of giving in the New Testament is the cross. You don’t bow in front of the cross and debate percentages. Jesus gave everything for us and we dare not give less back to Him.
As to the second objection, yes, I know all about the various sacrifices outlined in the Old Testament. Several of the books, such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy go into exhaustive details about when the sacrifice is to be made and how it’s to be presented. And yes, it seems there is some kind of special offering or sacrifice every month. It can be and even to the early Israelites, it was overwhelming.
But here’s the difference for me. I’m a pastor. I’m not a biblical scholar or theologian. Yes, I love studying Scripture. I love digging deep into the text and pondering the various facets of Biblical truth, but my role as a pastor doesn’t afford me the luxury of ivory tower scholarship. I get a few hours a week…at best…
I often tell people I don’t have the luxury of studying combat theory at the academy. I’m the platoon sergeant in charge of getting his soldiers up the next hill.
Most of the time, the subject of tithing comes up at one of two places. Either a person is a new believer and wanting to know what’s next, or a person is wanting to get serious about their faith and they want to know what they should do next.
The key phrase in both of those situations is “next.”
- How does someone who’s just beginning their faith walk learn to trust Jesus with their finances? Tithing is a great next step.
- How does someone who’s determined to go deeper in their faith show Jesus they’re serious? Tithing is a great place to start.
And it’s just a start. When you start to tithe, one of the things that happens is that you begin to confront the idols that have begun to control your life – sometimes without you’re even knowing it. For most of us, when we start to tithe, it’s the first time we’ve told our money and our money hasn’t told us! In tithing, God will show us how faithful He is in the little things of our lives, and we’re encouraged to trust Him with even bigger and bigger things in our lives. Before we know it, we’ve moved on to giving more than a tithe. Jesus is faithful and we find joy in following Him – even in our finances.
Tithing isn’t the complete message of the gospel. It’s just one part. One piece. If we had to understand the whole thing at once, none of us would be believers.
I talk about tithing because I spend my time with people who are broken, but healing; floundering, but regaining their balance; a long way from the finish line but know they have to start somewhere.
So, we’ll start with a tithe. It’s easy. If you make a dollar, give a dime. It’s just a start, but it is a start. A start to a lifetime of joy in discovering how graciously faithful Jesus really is. But you’ll never know until you start.