Tithing - Part 3
Post By Jonathan Fox
Purposes of the Tithe - (Honor, Heart and House)
As we have seen in the previous parts of this series, tithing has a valid place in the life of the New Testament disciple of Jesus. We see it first in Abram, then in the Law of Moses and we see that Jesus does not void the practice simply through his fulfillment of the law. If anything Jesus enhances tithing by empowering us to do it as a response from grace rather than as duty to the law. In the sermon I wrote for tithing, I am using the phrase, “Tithing was a response to God before it was a requirement from God.” This sets us up well to get into today’s blog, The Purposes of the Tithe.
The tithe has three primary purposes. We can boil it all down to Honor, Heart and House. God uses the 10% recurring giving of our earnings for the showing of honor, the work in our heart and the ministry from His house.
Abram is the one who displays tithing as an honoring of God. He responds to God for the victory he has over his enemies.
“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:17-20
Key in on what the beginning of this text says, “After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him…” Abram had just won a major victory with just a few hundred men while up against thousands. Later, the King of Salem, Melchizedek, makes it clear that this victory was from God, not Abram’s ability. “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” God delivered Abram’s enemies into his hands and gave him victory. Abram’s response was a tithe. God did not require the tithe, by the law, at this point. This comes later through the Law of Moses. Abram is tithing to show honor to God for the victory that He has made possible. One other statement made that helps us to see Abram’s tithe as honor is that both Melchizedek and Abram affirm God as the “Possessor of Heaven and Earth”. This means that Abram saw his tithe was not of his effort but God’s blessing. Everything Abram had was God’s because He is the “Possessor of Heaven and Earth. There is another scripture that parallels with this well.
“The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein...” Psalm 24:1
This text helps communicate that everything is God’s not ours. Even if we earned it, we must recognize our ability, breath, work and anything else as being the property of God. He owns it ALL. Later in the series, we will discuss this in detail in “Principles of Returning and Stewarding” and how this relates to God’s ownership of everything. Yes, even our money.
So we tithe to show honor. There are many ways to show honor to God but when it comes to our earnings (money) it’s different. The reason stems from its tie into value and worth. This would be a great segue into the second purpose of the tithe, the work in our hearts. Tithing does something in our hearts that is unique. ALL OF THE BIBLE speaks to the difficulty of fighting money and it running our hearts. God’s remedy for someone whose heart finds value in what they possess is to give to the POSSESSOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. The wild thing is that there are even mental and physical health benefits from giving. Scott Bea, PsyD wrote, “Studies find these health benefits associated with giving: Lower blood pressure, Increased self-esteem, Less depression, Lower stress levels, Longer life, Greater happiness” It’s so amazing to see that giving is a part of the life we were created to live. Tithing is not simply giving, it is a regular practice. Remember our definition of tithing, a 10% recurring giving of our earnings. It’s recurring because our hearts need constant attention as it is easily swayed into placing value and worth in what we accumulate or possess. As we practice tithing we enrich our hearts. We are also embodying the nature of God and displaying our nature as image-bearers. John 3:16 even gives us this essential truth, “For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only son.” God owns everything and he is generous with what he owns. He is not sporadic or spastic. God routinely and regularly gives. Tithing is a heart regulator and helps us emulate the God who has so generously given to us.
Within this section I would like to also add that tithing is a routine reminder that God is Lord and money is not. Jesus said,
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
It is true of life, something or someone will be your lord. Tithing is one more way to adjust our heart and rightly see God as Lord. Man has always depended on their earnings to live. Tithing shifts my heart to know that God cares for me and that I cannot depend on money alone for my needs, especially those of my heart. Just to interject, I think money has taken a bad rap for many of the heart issues we have. Pastors have preached against those who are wealthy and against having and earning more money. Money is AMORAL, it is neither good or bad. What makes money bad is a bad heart interacting with it. Money can be used for good: feeding kids with poor living conditions, providing medical attention to those in need or helping someone get back on their feet after a debilitating life event. The point is that money can be useful when used the right way. Which leads us to our third and final purpose of the tithe and that is the ministry from His house. Let’s look at one of the most abused texts in the Bible when it comes to money and especially the tithe, Malachi 3.
“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:7-10
I have heard this preached a thousand times and it’s usually used to pressure and condemn people into tithing so that they are not under a curse and so they can be blessed. Let me untangle any thoughts you may possibly have here. I will use two scriptures to convey this point. (You can also read an earlier part of this series called the Historical Journey of the Tithe for more info on this)
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— Galatians 3:13
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
Jesus has taken on the curse of disobedience and we are no longer under the threat of our inability to live up to the law. Simultaneously, we are blessed IN CHRIST with every spiritual blessing. So, IN CHRIST (by way of faith), you are not cursed if you don’t tithe and you are blessed if you don’t tithe. However, there is a difference in the lives of those who practice tithing. My friend, and one of the pastor's here at Move Church, Demetrius Hicks says it this way, “You are not more favored if you tithe, but you are definitely more fruitful.” There is no denying that God blesses obedience, but we never get to determine how those blessings are rendered. The line that I want us to zone in on is this, “that there may be food in my house”. The imagery here is about provision. The law required a tithe and it was used as a means to provide for the ministry inside the Tabernacle (for further information on the Tabernacle you can click here). This Tabernacle has now been transformed, not into a building for religious practices, but a collection of people who are now God’s church (church is translated as “those who are called out). In other words, the church is not a place - it’s a people. The church is how God expresses himself to the world today as he did through the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. Many people don’t have problems with giving to organizations, but are weary about giving to the local church. I get it. Many church ministries have abused money and have not been integral with their finances causing many to be disheartened and disinterested in practicing tithing. However, just because some churches have misled people, misused money or taught unhealthy views on giving, it does not void God’s love for and use of the church in the world or the means of providing for that church and the ministry it should provide. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” He was speaking of a people that would place faith in him and be transformed into the image of himself. God loves his church and placed his Son, Jesus, as the cornerstone and builder of it. The church is his body, the temple, a city on a hill. He works through the church and uses the tithe to help support the local church and its ministry to its community and the world. The bread mentioned in Malachi is the ministry of the Tabernacle. God had his people, required by law, to bring the tithe to the “storehouse” (Tabernacle) so that from it God could work through those serving. It’s so important to know that God works through people. This is something he loves to do. He started with this practice in Genesis. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses and eventually the entire nation of Israel. God set up the Tabernacle as a place to meet with people and as a place for His presence to dwell. He also desired to use the Tabernacle as a source of ministry to people. There they could find forgiveness, mercy, instruction on living, celebrate God’s goodness and more. Today the church is able to supersede this because of the work of Jesus on the cross. Now God’s presence isn’t limited to one place. but is now living in the church (the people of God). Tithing is the primary way the church can organize and meet those needs on a regular basis. Needs are always being presented and a tithe (the 10% recurring giving of our earnings) helps meet those needs and provide the “bread” that people have. Recurring Needs require Recurring Giving. God has a great way of supplying the needs of his people. When you look at many of the scriptures in the New Testament, particularly the Epistles of Paul, you will see Paul talking about the church giving to provide for the needs of those in different areas. Paul never uses condemning language or tries to pressure anyone into giving. (I believe this to be because he saw giving and tithing as a response to God’s goodness not just a requirement in the law). The New Testament Church is different from the Old Testament Tabernacle in many ways, but in one way they are completely the same - God’s use of them to express his love and forgiveness to the world and to meet the needs of his people. In closing I would love for you to see Paul’s heart for giving in the letter he writes to the Church in Corinth.
“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. - This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 & 12-13
I think this text sums up the purposes of the tithe quite well. Paul writes that this giving (although not specifically identified as a tithe) does three things: is shows honor to God (v.12b - overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God), the work in our hearts (v.13 - the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ) and the ministry from His house (v.12a - This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people...).