Getting Started in Generous Living
Have you ever felt a sense of angst, reluctance or mistrust when you were invited by a pastor or other ministry leader to become a regular, generous giver in your local church setting? Tithes and offerings, and the practice of giving regularly and liberally, seems a bit intimidating for many people—especially if resources are limited or if one is living from paycheque to paycheque.
Generous giving comes out of a heart that has learned to trust God to provide for every need. Throughout history, including today, many have experienced God’s awe-inspiring provision that became evident when a few simple steps of faith were taken. His intervention often comes in ways that would not have been seen as clearly if one had not made the decision to give sacrificially.
Generous giving also comes out of a better understanding of tithing as a biblical principle. If you are not a regular tither, or still feel a sense of discomfort with the idea of giving money regularly, consider asking God to help you understand the purpose and the value of making this practice a priority in your financial planning.
If you’ve always wondered about the biblical basis for tithing, here are a few basic facts that we hope are useful for making a start in your own life towards regular giving. Your resources will play a valuable role in supporting the work that always needs to be done in God’s kingdom. God has been so generous to us, giving us our very lives, and all that we have, even giving us His only Son so that we could have forgiveness of our sins and experience eternal life with Him. He desires us to be generous in giving back so that He can continue to accomplish His purposes on the earth through us.
Ten Basic Facts about Tithing
(Adapted from an article by William C. Martin in The Pentecostal Messenger, also reprinted in original form in Enrich, Spring edition, April 2010.)
- Tithing is deeply rooted in a long history of observance in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The Old Testament is full of encouragement to see everything as belonging to the Lord (e.g. Psalm 24:1). There was also consistent encouragement to support the work of those who carry out His purposes in places of worship, with a promise of blessing to those who were obedient to putting His work first (Malachi 3:10, Exodus 25:2, Numbers 18:25-34, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Nehemiah 10:38).
The New Testament, without losing the main idea (1 Corinthians 9:13-14), encourages abundant, joyful giving as opposed to rigid, obligatory giving, or giving from a sense of duty (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Jesus encourages us to remember “justice, mercy and faith” as we give, so that our giving is done from hearts that are in tune with the same things that His heart desires (Matthew 23:23).
- Tithing is a practice that helps us to have a guideline for how much to give.
Without a guideline, knowing how much to give can seem like a difficult task. There might even be a temptation to give much less in times of financial difficulty. The principle of tithing is a helpful guideline that can be applied to both small incomes and large ones. Everyone can then calculate their giving level proportionally according to what they have earned (Proverbs 3:9-10, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
- Tithing springs out of a sense of thankfulness for what Christ has done for us.
God has been so merciful to all of creation in so many ways—there is much to be thankful for. And when our eyes are opened to the wonder of the cross and the gift of salvation we have been offered through our faith in Christ, our natural response should be one of overwhelming gratitude. This thankfulness should naturally express itself in ways that benefit the work of advancing the gospel to others who have not yet heard or understood it—it is our way of saying “Thank you” to God, worshipping Him, and giving our support to His ongoing work in the world, even when we don’t have much in the way of material possessions (Luke 21:1-4).
- Tithing lifts the financial support of the church from a vague standard to a level of regular, dependable, proportionate contributions.
Churches have ongoing operating costs as well as ministry and outreach costs. They need their members to invest both a sufficient amount of time and a consistent level of financial support in order to run effectively. Tithing is an important way of ensuring that the local church, God’s chosen vessel for making His name and His kingdom known and for making and strengthening disciples, is properly cared for, without disruptive gaps in financial resources.
- Tithing sets the economic pattern for managing money and helps guard against selfishness and greed.
When tithing becomes a priority (and even giving offerings, which are financial contributions in addition to tithes), our eyes tend to open up to the needs around us. As we become aware of just how much of a difference our contribution makes, and as we experience the joy of giving that God grants us as He continues to meet our needs, we are more willing and likely to make sacrifices to keep our level of giving steady. Other material desires often become less important or less urgent to satisfy, compared with our desire to maintain our commitment to God’s purposes.
- Tithing takes the confusion out of giving.
Having a set percentage (which one can easily exceed when generosity becomes a way of life) to set aside for the Lord’s purposes makes for easy calculation of how much to give. When each person takes the time to consider how they will plan their spending, it’s good to know off the top what one will aim to set aside for that purpose. There is also much less of a temptation to use the money for other personal needs or desires.
- Tithing helps to bring discipline into the handling of financial affairs.
Setting aside a specific portion of one’s finances for the Lord brings to light the need to be careful about how the remainder of the money needs to be spent. Tithing tends to make intentional budgeting more of a priority, so that the tithe is properly planned for and other expenses planned around kingdom giving. There is a greater awareness that all of our resources belong to God and that we should be good stewards, careful about how it is used.
- Tithing ensures that the church and its agencies have adequate and dependable financial support.
At a time when the presence and impact of the Christian faith is more urgently needed than ever before, it is important that Christ’s mission both here in Canada and around the world be able to move forward with the confidence that every need—those of missionary families, their ministries, and of the people they serve—is met with confidence. Tithes, and by extension, offerings, are a crucial part of the financial support structures that are in place to help individuals and organizations make a difference to hurting people in need of hope.
- Tithing imparts a special meaning and value to the finances that remain.
A tither whose income was not large, and who was facing unusual financial demands, was once asked if he was ever tempted to give up the practice of tithing. His reply was: “I have tried it both ways; I would rather have nine tenths with God’s blessing upon it than ten tenths without it.”
- Tithing creates a continuous experience of adventure.
In the last book of the Old Testament, God speaks through the prophet Malachi to challenge His people, who had forgotten their obligation to Him and had been keeping back their tithes. He invited them to test Him as He promised to bless them to overflowing when they made tithes and offerings a priority:
“ ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will 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 you will not have enough room for it.’ ” (Malachi 3:10, NIV).
In ways that can never be measured by material gain, this promise has not been known to fail!
To read related blog posts or to learn more about the principles of biblical giving, click here
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