Tithing is often a very misunderstood spiritual concept. You can find Christian teaching that’s all over the map when it comes to the tithe. Some people say that tithing is just an Old Testament principle that doesn’t apply to us today in the New Covenant. On the other extreme there are people that say God punishes people today who don’t tithe. I’ve actually heard sermons where preachers said things like, “If you don’t tithe God will take it from you in doctors bills and car repairs.”
Neither of these extreme views line up with scripture. So let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about tithing.
Don’t Mess With My Money!
A funny thing happens when you start talking about money as a Christian. Most people start to get uncomfortable. Money is one of those things that most people do not want to talk about. Somehow most folks feel like talking about money is unspiritual and worldly.
Some of that ill feeling is warranted because unfortunately far too many preachers do get manipulative when it comes to dealing with finances. When that happens the preacher is getting in the flesh because God never manipulates or controls anyone, not even with their finances.
At the same time, even when ministers teach about money with a Godly perspective some Christians get irritated because they feel like the Church has no business in their business, so to speak. That’s also a fleshly attitude. It’s just on the part of the listeners instead of the preachers.
Jesus and Money
People who say money isn’t appropriate for ministers to talk about will have to set aside much of what Jesus said during his earthly ministry. In fact, Jesus had more to say about money than he did about heaven and hell combined!
In fact the only subject Jesus talked about more than money is the Kingdom of God! And some of his teaching on the Kingdom of God dealt with money too.
In the parable of the unjust steward Jesus calls managing money the “least” of our responsibilities.
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? — Luke 16:10-11
Jesus didn’t mean that we should ignore money because it’s insignificant. When he says it’s the “least” of our responsibilities he means that money is the first thing we need to get sorted. If we can’t even handle our money properly in godly ways, then we are going to have problems in all other areas of our life.
Therefore money is critically important. Our attitude towards money and how we manage it is the foundation that sets the stage for every other aspect of our spiritual lives.
And if our understanding of money lays the foundation of our spiritual lives, then tithing is the place we need to start.
What Is The Tithe?
When we talk about tithing and the tithe we’re not using terms that are common today. Because it’s not a common word, some folks can be uncertain what is meant by tithing.
Simply put the word tithe means the tenth part. Another way to say it is that the tithe is ten percent.
So when we talk about tithing, we mean offering ten percent of our regular income to God. And as we’ll see, we’re talking about giving that 10% specifically to the local church.
Tithing was Before the Law
People who claim that tithing is an old covenant concept that doesn’t apply to us today either haven’t looked at it very closely, or are willfully disregarding what the Bible says about it. Some people just have hard hearts when it comes to money.
The first time we see someone give a tithe is in Genesis chapter 14. Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham) has returned from a successful raid to take back his nephew Lot who was kidnaped in a battle between several kings. Not only did Abram get his nephew back, but he completely defeated the army that took him and captured all the spoils of war that the army had too.
Then in verse 18 of that chapter Abram encounters a guy named Melchizedek, who is an unusual king and priest. Let’s pick it up there.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. — Genesis 14:18-20
Melchizedek is a priest of God. And Abram gave him a tithe of what he gained in battle.
It’s worth noting that God never commanded Abram to tithe. As far as scripture is concerned he did it simply because he wanted to.
Later in the Old Covenant law God does command the Israelites to tithe. But Abram was long before the law and tithed of his own free will.
God’s Promises for Tithing
God formally instituted tithing in the Old Covenant Law of Moses. The tithe was to be offered to the priests and was to be used to support the priests and the Levites. And as with most of the Law, God’s people weren’t very good at keeping up with the tithe.
Then, at the very end of the Old Testament, God speaks about the tithe through his last Old Covenant prophet Malachi and reveals two huge promises that are attached to the spiritual act of tithing. Listen to what he says.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts; — Malachi 3:10-11
Windows of Heaven
God says that when we tithe it unlocks something in the spiritual realm that enables God to start taking action on our behalf. The first thing that happens is that God is able to open up the windows of heaven and begin to pour additional financial blessing into our lives if we’re willing to receive it.
That’s huge. I mean God is blessing us all the time. He even blesses the ungodly in spite of themselves (Matt 5:45).
But when we tithe to our local church we allow God to supercharge His blessing over our finances. It enables Him to bring increase to our finances in ways that we would never expect.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a good deal. I give God 10% and he pours so much financial blessing into my life that it actually becomes a problem for me to deal with the increase responsibly. How would you like to have that problem to deal with? Something tells me you’d find a way to manage. 😉
Rebuke the Devourer
Of course increasing our finances wouldn’t do us any good if all the increase was being wasted, would it?
Fortunately when we tithe it also unlocks something else in the spiritual realm. Then God steps in and actively rebukes the devourer on our behalf to keep our finances from being drained off by all sorts of things beyond our control.
Think about it. How much of what you spend your money on seems frivolous to you. Do you get frustrated at having unexpected bills come up that eat away at your finances? That’s the devourer moving in on your finances.
That preacher I heard years ago say that if we didn’t tithe then God would take the money from us in doctor bills? He was mistaken. It isn’t God that takes from us. It is the devourer, the enemy of our souls whom Jesus said is here to steal, kill, and destroy us (John 10:10).
New Covenant Freedom
In the Old Covenant tithing was required. That’s no longer the case for us as part of the New Covenant because we are free from the curse of the law.
Therefore there is no punishment associated with not tithing. Instead, when we choose to tithe from our own free will, it releases God to be able to actively act on our behalf in two very specific ways. He can then open up additional heavenly blessings into our lives and our finances. And he can act on our behalf to prohibit the devourer from wasting away our finances.
You absolutely do not have to tithe. God will still love you just as much whether you tithe or not.
But now that you know the benefits God promises if you do tithe, why would you not want to enjoy those extra blessings?
My Personal Experience Tithing
Not long after I became a believer the company I worked for shut down their location in my city and I lost my job. While I was unemployed I ran across that passage in Malachi and decided it might be a good idea to start tithing.
Honestly I didn’t really pay all that much attention to the blessings associated with tithing. But I did get that God was saying it was a good thing.
There was something in that passage that did jump out at me though. The NIV says in verse 10, “Test me in this.” That seemed fair to me.
I figured that God knew what my expenses were. He promises in His word that he’ll provide for everything I need because I was seeking His ways (Matt 6:33). Therefore I told God that I’d start tithing with the expectation that He would provide what I needed plus 10% for the tithe. If it didn’t work I figured I’d given it a fair test and I could stop at any time.
But you know what? It did work! God is faithful to keep his promises. Go figure.
That was 20 years ago now and I’ve always had enough and extra, so tithing has never been a challenge.
Now that I’m beginning to understand the blessings that come with tithing I’m starting to believe God for even more than just 10% extra to cover the tithe. Once again I’m taking God at his word and putting Him to the test like he said in Malachi 3:10.
How about you? Are you willing to test God’s promises like He encourages you to do and start tithing to your local church? I promise you will be glad you did.