Monday, May 1, 2023

Christian Tithing

Giving Originated with God

I have decided to rewrite our article on Giving which is essentially a teaching about tithing. Over the years, we received email request from some believers who were confused regarding giving given to the conflicting message they heard. In this work however, we have attempted to answer some of those questions biblically while we incorporated some of the rebukes and teachings we received from the Lord. This work might not be exhaustive, but it touches the fundamental biblical teachings on Christian giving.

Now the Lord Jesus Christ says: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NIV). Giving is fundamentally a human experience and people everywhere practice giving as a way of life. This we do for self-sustenance and posterity. Generally, we learned that the entire ecosystem is arranged on an interdependent basis. In other words, the survival of some species are dependent on the survival of others. Thus, the act of giving and receiving is well entrenched in all of nature. God, being the Ultimate Cause has ordained this arrangement in all natural life. Humans, as rational beings has capacity to craft their own rules are not excluded from God's order of things. For Christians however, the rules to give and share are well versed in the Holy Bible. Let us therefore examine giving from a Biblical point of view. As we progress with our discussion we will discover that some people give for various reasons. Some give for self-honour, (Matthew 6:2-4) others give for gain, (Luke 6:35) while others give to meet a need, (2 Corinthians 8:14).

Biblically, God is portrayed as the Giver of all life and everything needed to give substance to it (Genesis 1:11). As Supreme Ruler and Creator, it was for His own Good pleasure that He ordained the cycle of giving for the perpetual sustenance of all earthly life (Genesis 8:22). Being God and above all things, He gives continuality to everything (Colossians 1:17). Therefore, there is absolutely nothing we as humans can give to God, except our lives as a praise and thanksgiving offering (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). He is the Sustainer and Giver of everything, “For in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28; Romans 11:35).” The command, “I GIVE you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it- I GIVE every green plant for food” shows human and animal dependence on God for provision (Genesis 1:29-30). When God said “be fruitful and increase” He set forth procreation through the order of interdependent giving (Genesis 8:17b NIV). The preceding scriptures clearly indicates to us that God instituted giving through dependence on Him. And in His eternal Wisdom, God provided His Word to guide human society, and knowing that people are not like God who is all-sufficient, He instituted giving and different abilities for the overall benefit of the human race. Therefore, the principle of giving has been made painless and pleasantly through the various appetites and incentives God endowed in all life. What I mean is this, plants for example would only produce fruit or seeds (give) because of their appetite for soil, water and sunlight. Also, human appetite to eat is motivated hunger, smell and taste.

Giving to Others to Honour God

Let me stress from the onset, we do not oppose or disapprove giving to the Church, but often we hear sermons on giving, and sadly such giving is solely aimed at filling the coffers of the church. Like we alluded in the love of money article, some greedy ministers discourages some believers to give towards God's work outside their ministry. The New Testament model of giving was for the elevation of  poverty amongst believers (Acts 4:32-35; Luke 3:11). In other words, the money the brethren collected were for the needy.  The Old Testament believers were commanded to tithe and to give towards God’s work (Numbers 7-9) they were however also commanded to give to the poor in various ways (Deuteronomy 24:20) including when people come asking for help (James 2: 14- 16).

These commands were given to individual believers and God being the Judge of all, will ‘give to each person according to what he has done’ (Romans 2:6 NIV). “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). Without going into details that contributed to poverty in society, the poor in society serves to display God’s grace and caring love (John 9:3; Romans 9:22). The poor also serves as a test to believers (Matthew 26:11; Galatians 6:9-10). Selfless service to God and people is best presented by our Lord Jesus Christ when He said: “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me. I was in prison and you came to visit Me” (Matthew 25:35-36 NIV). Therefore in terms of giving, the church and the individual Christian believer is God’s gift to the needy of the world

Giving to the Church to Keep the Lights On

Church Giving: The Bible teaches us to give for the needs of the ministry (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). This kind of giving helps the local church pay whatever bills it might have in their administration of Church work. Additionally, using Church money to maintain expensive buildings and infrastructure while there are needy people in the Church is anti-Christian and immoral (Matthew 25:35-36; James 2:14). This brings us to the question, is it wrong to give (rather then paying since giving should be from the heart 2 Corinthians 9:7) tithes and offerings according to Malachi 3:8-11? Answer No! I am not going to enter into a war of words over this form of giving. If it promotes the work of God to feed the poor and it serves to spread the gospel; please continue tithing it is a giving intended to honor the Lord.

Briefly, in the beginning of our ministry and before we started accepting contributions from any of our members, my wife and I paid for the ministry needs like transport costs, tracts for evangelism work out of our own measly income while we were still tithing at our previous church. We continued with this practice for several months until we asked the Lord, since we have a ministry could we use our tithes to fund our work instead of continue giving to our Church. The Lord gave us permission to use the tithes for His work.You will notice, we only discontinued giving after the Lord's word because our giving was to honor God. The Lord told us that giving in His name is a sacred act and no one should despise giving (Mark 12:44). We have had people writing to us inquiring how and where they should direct their giving and the Lord does not dictate to Christians how and where to give. In our situation, the Lord identified our needs and directed brethren accordingly. It is unbiblical to claim that a believer must only give to their Church of attendance while ignoring the needs of other ministries and the poor in society. The Bible addresses individuals when it speaks on giving hence the emphasise "EACH of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). Therefore, what the Lord looks at is the motive or spirit in our giving, whether it is to help the needy, honor God, to control others or is it to bring attention to oneself.  In the beginning of this ministry, some of our members expressed interest to give towards our work and we again asked the Lord through Charis if we should collect tithes. The Lord answered and said that the members may give a contribution to the ministry. He did not emphasize on tithing, because the Lord knows what tithing is from an Old Testament perspective. Generally, tithing in the Old Testament was a command and often some of the tithes were consumed by the same people who gave (Deuteronomy 14:23). Some tithing was for the priest (Numbers 18: 20-21) and while other forms of tithing was reserved for the needy foreigners, orphans and widows amongst the Israelites (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Therefore, if these three forms of tithing were combined it could be well over 10%. Now, am I saying tithing was instituted in the New Testament? No! The New Testament emphasizes a voluntary giving from the heart which might be more or less than an actual tithe which is 10% of total gross income (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Furthermore, the Old Testament testifies how God opened the hearts of the Israelites and gave them a command through Moses to give towards the work of God (Exodus 35: 4-29). We would recall that the ministry of Moses and Aaron was limited to the Israelites; this was not a world-wide ministry. The covenant was given for the spiritual needs of the Israelites as God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6). As we know, their obedience to God's law was for their good (Deuteronomy 5:33; Joshua 1:8). Likewise, the Christian ministry is serving the spiritual interest of the body and not just the needs of the local body as some insists, Paul and the apostles encouraged gifts to be collected for the needy believers and ministries elsewhere so that ‘there should be no poor among you…..’(Deuteronomy 15:4; Galatians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1). Contextually, Old Testament tithing was conducted quite differently than today. Thus, this practice in my opinion was never intended for the church. (Deuteronomy 12:17-19;14:22-23; 14:24-26) and like I allude elsewhere the Lord confirmed with us that believers are to make contributions, meaning voluntary giving from the heart.

Testimonies and Teachings on Giving from the Lord Jesus

I am going to share a few testimonies and actual words the Lord gave many of us on giving. Let me be clear from the onset, some people might think just because they are tithing or contributing large amounts of monies to their Church this will make the Lord overlook their mistakes or disobedience, giving to God for ministry work, the needy or for the ministers of the word is one aspect or area of ministry. The people in the Old Testament gave not just to obey a command, but because the priest ministered before God for their good (Deuteronomy 17:12). Giving as seen through the life and walk of Christ Jesus is an attitude and a service to God from the heart (Ephesians 4:28).

A few years ago, a faithful Christian brother once told me how some Christian brethren ignored his hardships. Not only did they ignore the plight of their needy brother, some even increased their sins  gossiping about the want of their weaker brother in Christ. As long as a brother or sister is doing and continuing His calling in the work of God, there is no need to ignore his or her service in the body by discontinue giving. The question you should ask yourself, is your giving to God or is it driven by your own feelings? The gifts and callings of God has an eternal nature and while the work of the Lord is continuing not just for your benefit but for God's glory, why discontinuing giving so that the gospel message may save souls.

Is it a Good idea to Give to Those Who Have?

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3: 11). This is an extremely hard truth and we all fail and fall short on this scripture. Let me share a brief testimony, one sister received repeatedly the same message from the Lord over many days as being ‘greedy and selfish’, and this made her feel very uncomfortable and worried because she was essentially a giving person; however after we carefully examined her giving pattern, we noticed that she was giving but to those who have with the view of being 'credited'. In other words, her giving was one of being seen. Since she received praise, her giving did not issue from a Godly motive but for self-elevation. Her giving was to please man instead of God. After prayer the Lord revealed to us that when we give, we should give to those who don’t have and are unable to return the favour and such giving is praise worthy and not a reciprocal giving (Luke 14:12). We should give with discretion and from the heart, cheerfully and the Apostle Paul encouraged. Thus, if you feel oppressed in giving, this is not from God, but guilt. Giving from the heart is peaceful and without compulsion. This giving would normally dominate reason and your reward is peace. I am going to share a testimony about a brother who sinned by envying the Lord’s money.

We had a brother whom we led to the Lord and subsequently he fellowshipped with us for more than a year. Currently, he is still running a very small business of his own, while his wife is working. He approached us and suggested to that we use some of our ministry’s contributions to buy food parcels for him because he wanted to save his own income for his business. I ignored his request at first and though to myself that this was not right, he became insistent and I told him that we would ask the Lord if we should do that. The reply we received from the Lord was shocking. He rebuked this brother saying that he was greedy and selfish and for that the Lord expelled him from our intercessory prayers and witnessing team. Why? Like we said above, contributions to the Lord are sacred and should not be used for selfish and greedy purposes, we can remember that not everybody were allowed to eat of the Lord's tithe to Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 22:1-3). 

Concluding Encouragement

Finally, Brethren do not be deceived by the prosperity teaching, it is demonic and driven by greedy and selfish ministers who promotes worldliness and self-enrichment. They use Scriptures of promises God made to the faithful and obedient believers to catch you. The Lord revealed to us that they feed the people the dessert (a usually sweet course or dish (as of pastry or ice cream) usually served at the end of a meal) of the Word, which are God's promises to enrich themselves and they fail to teach righteousness, purity, holiness and obedience.

In conclusion, the Bible lays the whole truth bare, so please read it and trust its message. Apply its message by faith and honesty, and in truthfulness you will see the results! In your study of God’s word, the Bible, do not just study the individual Scriptures quoted, read the entire Bible for it reveals the context of what is expected of you.

We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ yet, or of you are not born again, to pray our suggested prayer on this link Prayer of Sincere Repentance
by faith and follow the Lord (Matthew 4:19). You may also contact us for any questions or comments about this article or our ministry.

The Lord blesses you!
Brother Glenn.