by Anne Lang Bundy
What does the Bible say about tithing?
~ follow up to last week's question about prosperity theology
Tithing is repeatedly directed, in both Old and New Testaments.
But the follower of Jesus is given different directions.
Tithing's history begins with Abel's offering (Genesis 4:4-5), and the tithe by Abraham of one tenth of his spoils of war (Genesis 14:20). The Law of Moses required a tithe from both produce and animals (Leviticus 27:30-32). Jesus told the Pharisees that justice, mercy, and faith were more important than tithing even as He confirmed tithing as their obligation (Matthew 23:23).
Primary reasons for tithing are:
• to worshipfully honor God and express thanks for His blessings (Deuteronomy 26:9-10);
• to provide for the material needs of those who are set apart by God as His full-time ministers (Numbers 18:21; 1 Corinthians 9:11,14);
• to provide for the material needs of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13; James 1:27).
Scripture indicates that refusal to tithe offends the Lord:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings."
~ Malachi 3:8 (NKJV; also see Isaiah 43:23-24)
Those of us who belong to Jesus are not bound by the tithing directives of the Old Testament law, nor are we explicitly commanded to follow the example of the early church by selling our assets and owning everything in common (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32,34).
Nonetheless, 1) everything in the earth belongs to the Creator; and 2) Christians have been purchased by Christ. We own neither ourselves nor the material possessions given us as gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). We are therefore held to a higher standard than simply tithing.
Jesus said the cost of following Him is this:
"So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
~ Luke 14:33 (NKJV)
And the reward of leaving treasures behind for Him is this:
"Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."
~ Luke 18:29-30 (NKJV)
To forsake all we have may or may not mean saying goodbye to it. But at the very least, each of us might examine how tightly we cling to health and wealth, time and talents, even lands and loved ones. Tithing money (as well as time) is a good practice—but it represents only a starting place for stewardship of what the Lord has entrusted to us.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: yorkblog.com