Tithe is always one of those things that Christians argue about. It has been a topic of contention since I was a kid, although I’m sure people were arguing about it long before that. People’s arguments would go on and on, and usually covered a great number of ideas within the concept of tithing. I remember hearing, and have asked these questions myself in regards to tithing.
How much tithe are we supposed to give? Is it 10%? Should it be more? What about reverse tithing? Are we called by God to be giving away 90% of our income and living on only 10%, the opposite of what was originally commanded? Or is that all Old Testament teaching? If we are under grace and not the law, as Paul teaches, then we don’t have to do any of this tithing stuff. Right? What did Jesus actually teach about tithing? And if there is a lack of teaching, is that a statement against it? Was the story of the widow giving her two mites about tithing or giving your all to Jesus?
I could keep going with the questions that I have asked about tithing or the questions that you have or have heard asked. They are numerous. But over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about a different aspect of tithing. It’s a part of tithing that we don’t often think about. It starts in the Old Testament.
When I read through the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, I see a pattern forming in regards to tithing. Every time that God asked Israel for an offering, every time that Israel was commanded to make a sacrifice to God, the same thing happened. Whether it was a sin offering, a burnt offering, a drink or wave offering, the kind of offering didn’t change the outcome. The outcome was almost always the same.
A sheep or ram was offered. A bull or heifer was sacrificed. Then Israel went home.
They came to God with their offerings. They left without them. They came to God with their tithes and first fruits, and they left without any acknowledgement from God that they were ever going to get them back.
That sheep, it was gone. The children of Israel would never get that back. That goat, that ram, that cow, it was eternally gone. There was no return. There was no refund for animals offered, or drinks poured out. What was given to God was gone forever.
Yes, you can argue that God gives back, that indeed He blesses His children. But I would say that God does this out of His divine love for us, rather than a reward or the outcome of our religious actions. To say that God blesses us because we have tithed, or we have given offerings implies that God has to do this, that He is under contact to do this. In a way, we have tied God’s hands behind His back and we are forcing Him to do this. That’s not true. That is not how God works. To say God is forced to do something de-powers or negates His nature to act in Love, for He is Love.
Back to the point I was trying to make.
Every time that Israel went to give their offerings, their sacrifices, and their tithes to God, they acted like they would never get that back. They gave it away knowing that they would be going without this money, or that sheep or that cow.
That is very different from today. In this modern Christianity that we are all a part of, we tend to think differently. We think as though God owes us after we give to Him. I gave my tithes, God owes me a blessing. I sacrificed my time and my energy. I gave to the church in this way or that way, now God owes me the equivalent in money, good health, or some other form of blessing.
This takes a very familiar form for Canadians, as our tax season has just passed. According to the Canadian government, we are allowed to give to churches and charities, and claim what we have given. They, in turn, give us back a portion of that financial gift. I have no problem with this. I think that it is wonderful for the Canadian government to be giving back to their citizens, in some way, as small as the amount returned may be.
But the problem is that we often think of tithing in these terms. I have given. I will get back. I gave my money to the church. I will get it back when I hand in my tax return. I have given donations and my tithes to God. He has moved the government so that they give it back to me, so that I am not without.
Not all Canadian Christians think this way. Not everyone is so money driven that they do not understand what it means to give a tithe or sacrifice an offering. But to say that this kind of thinking doesn’t exist, to say that we do not act this way, would be to lie about our behaviour. We may not want to recognize our attitudes or actions as greedy or money driven, but that is what it is.
The Bible says,
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”” – Exodus 25.1-2 NKJV
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9.7
Give and be happy that you have given. The Bible, in these verses, doesn’t talk about a return on your gift. There is no mention of a return for the sacrifice or the offering that you have made. Because that is how God wants us to operate. Give, and expect nothing in return. Give, and do it without any illusions that God is required to give back to you.
Yes, there are other Scriptures that talk about God blessing those that do give, such as Proverbs 11.25 and Deuteronomy 15.10. But even these verses are contextualized in this way.
God is rewarding those that give, because they give without the expectation of return. They are giving with a cheerful heart, a willing heart. They are giving as if they were making an animal sacrifice. There is no getting back a dead sheep or cow. They understand that what they offer, what they tithe is no longer theirs. Then God blesses them.
The church that I am currently attending sat down and asked this question of the congregation.
“Would you give your tithes and offerings to this ministry, to God’s work here, if you didn’t get a tax break? If you didn’t get an income tax return because you sacrificed 10% of your income to God, would you still sacrifice that way? That much?”
It left us all to wonder, and honestly examine our hearts and our cheque books. Can we actually be cheerful givers? Can we tithe, can we sacrifice unto God as He asks us to do?
Now, I leave you with the same questions, but I hope to hear your answers as well.
Could you cheerfully give to God, to His ministries, if there was no chance of getting that money back? Would you give willingly if you knew that you would never see a return on your sacrifice? Can you tithe to God and not expect anything in return?