I used to think I was a good person for tithing. Actually, to be totally honest, I decided the other day to find the verses I knew were in the Old Testament about tithing and the blessings that come with it, something about “so much blessing you will have no place to store it.” You know, to pray back to God and ask for blessings and stuff. I flipped through Malachi (I was pretty sure that’s the right book) looking for a section heading titled “tithing” or something equally descriptive. I flipped through the whole book and didn’t find anything. Maybe it was the wrong book? No, I thought. I looked closer. I found the passage I was looking for–under the heading “robbery.” Robbery? Huh? I looked closer.
The book of Malachi, I noticed, is a dialogue between the people and God. God makes a statement, the people ask a question, and God explains what he meant by his statement. In this section, God asks, (and I paraphrase) “Can a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” “How have we robbed you?” The people ask. “By not bringing your tithes to the storehouse.” Whoa! Hold on. Let’s talk about this.
I remember a few Sundays ago, my pastor said, “A girl emailed me this week and told me I shouldn’t tell the congregation about my tithes. But I tell you so you know I’m with you, and I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not doing myself.” I thought he had a great point. I want to know my pastor practices what he preaches. And the passage in Malachi brings new light to the question, “Should we talk about our tithes and offerings?” First, let’s talk about an important distinction.
What’s the difference between tithes and offerings? A tithe was 10% of the traditional Jew’s income, and it went to the temple to support the Levites who served The Lord there, since they couldn’t make a living otherwise. Offerings were different: they were voluntary and not required by law, simply brought to please God or thank him for something he did for them. Nowadays, tithes and offerings are basically unchanged: we support the clergy with tithes and give offerings for other, extra purposes.
Let’s talk about offerings. There are a couple of places in the bible where we are told to “not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing” And that those who give in plain sight of men have received their reward in full. These verses are talking about OFFERINGS, not tithes. This is very important. I’ve heard many people apply these incorrectly to tithing, as well as this well-known verse: “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give: not under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” But Paul isn’t talking about tithing here. He’s talking about collecting an offering to support apostles like himself when they come to the church to teach. Going back to Malachi, we see that tithing isn’t about “what he has decided in his heart to give.” We are commanded to “bring the WHOLE tithe into the storehouse.” The whole thing. We don’t get to decide how much or how often. If we don’t tithe, we are robbing God.
Offerings are voluntary. If we don’t give an offering, we aren’t doing anything wrong, we’re just also not doing anything particularly right. But when we don’t tithe, we are robbing God. We sin when we don’t tithe. Why is it sin? For a few reasons:
1) Because God commanded it.
2) Not tithing is showing a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide.
3) Holding back our tithe is hoarding resources that literally belong to God.
We are never told not to talk about tithing, because it’s a duty, not a gift. It would be like talking about how you love your husband, wife, or children, about getting baptized, or about turning away from some sin we’ve been convicted of. It’s something we are commanded to do, not something extra we are more holy for doing. We are only doing our duty.
And yet, though the tithe is a duty, God promises incredible blessing to those who obey. It’s the only time in the bible we are told to test God, to “see if I do not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will have no room to store it.” That’s reason enough for me to tithe!
Here’s a staggering figure: only about 20% of churchgoers tithe. 80% don’t tithe! Do you know how much good we could do in the world if everyone tithed? Do you know how much more blessing we would receive if we all tithed? If we stopped robbing God of what belongs to him?
I can’t help but think that God protects everything I own because I tithe. My phone was stolen last year at school in a sketchy part of town. The odds weren’t good that I’d get it back. But the police station called me and said they’d found it a week later! God protected my belongings, as he has so many other times. I believe it’s mostly because I’m faithful to his commands in my finances.
I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty by saying all this; I simply want to bring important truth to the table so we can change our lives to reflect it. It’s not me admonishing: it is the Bible that speaks. Who knows what discipline we might be undergoing because we don’t tithe? Who knows what blessings we miss out on because we don’t? When we tithe, we are giving in faith to the most generous and powerful being in the universe, the owner of “the cattle on a thousand hills”: “he who gives to the poor lends to The Lord.” He never asks us to give without promising to pay us back more than we invested. He is a gracious God.
If you tithe, take this as encouragement to continue, to trust God and be found faithful always with what he’s given you. I have made a covenant in my heart with God that I will always tithe to him, that I will always obey even when it’s difficult. If you don’t tithe, ask yourself why. What are the fears or apathies keeping you from doing so? Is there something in your heart you need to confront and change? Pray and ask God to help you have faith in him if it’s hard for you to do so. He will gladly help you obey him, and he WILL bless you for it.