Tithing and giving are often contentious topics for Christians, even for couples within a marriage. So, I wrote this not to be contentious but just as a review of something we all have learned.
Recently, my wife and I ran into a dilemma. No, it didn’t hurt. However, it caught us off guard, enough so, we needed to pray and talk it through. You see at the same time a major, unexpected expense hit us we received some money, not enough to pay the bill but enough to help. After both of us prayed, we felt that the right thing was to recognize the money as an “increase” so we paid a tithe on it to our local church. We said, “It’s better to trust God than to trust money.”
A non-denominational missionary couple we know quite well spent many years working and living in Ghana, West Africa. At the time, Ghana was one of the poorest countries in Africa. Nevertheless, they taught their congregation to tithe. (No, they didn’t keep the money). Why did they teach poor people to tithe? Because God blesses giving. And, that congregation saw the evidence!
“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 Cor. 9:7) This verse and other similar verses bring up a number of questions for analytical Christians.
Questions: Do you tithe 10% of your gross paycheck or 10% of the net or, now under the New Covenant, is there even a percent we must give? Does your tithe have to go to your local church? What about giving to people in need, can that count as part of your tithe? Does the New Testament even teach tithing? What about savings and retirement accounts?
So, for you analytical types, here are my answers based on my Bible studies. Do not feel guilty if you believe differently for “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Ro. 8:1 NIV)
1. We are not saved by works, so failing to tithe will not send you to hell.
2. The amount you tithe, gross or net, is between you and God. The New Testament tells us to give all to God, that's what Jesus told the rich young ruler: sell all you have and give it to the poor (Mk. 10:21). So, we're getting off easy if we give 10%.
3. If you have a local church your whole tithe should go to that church. There are times when you may be between churches. During those times, pray and do what you feel led to do.
4. Regarding gifts (i.e., alms), those are in addition to your tithe and can go anywhere God leads you to give.
5. There is no clear "Thus saith the Lord, thou shalt tithe." verse that I know of in the New Testament. The last verse that has the word "tithe" in it is in Malachi 3:10. Still, the Old Testament is relevant and widely quoted in the New Testament Scriptures. Also, there are many passages that make it clear that we are to give liberally, contribute to projects (e.g., building, missions, VBS, etc.), and we are not to let money enslave us.
6. Yes, we should be saving and have retirement accounts. This is wisdom. We should pray for wisdom concerning how much we put in these. If you're not sure turn to James 1:5.
7. Never give expecting to get more money. That's kind of a duh.
So, here’s the fun part. Giving is a joy because it is a tangible way of saying to God, “I trust you.”