One of the spiritual disciplines of growing an authentic relationship with the Lord comes through trusting God more than our money. Scripture provides many references for being stewards of what God has given financially.
Generous giving supports the local church ministries and should come from a cheerful heart. Money is often the last bastion surrendered to the Lord. Tithing is one way in which to help loosen its grip.
Is There a Correct Way to Tithe?
A little boy asked his dad in the restaurant, “Why do we tip the server 15% but only give God 10?” That is a good question. Tithing returns 10%, a portion of income, as a tangible sacrifice of worship.
Giving a tithe contains a promise that God will open heaven and pour out abundant blessings more than we can imagine. So is tithing about a specific amount? Why should I tithe? And what is the correct way?
What Is a Tithe?
The word tithe means a tenth. To tithe is to give the first 10% of income to the Creator and giver of all good things.
In the Old Testament, before God gave the written Law to Moses, Abraham gave a tenth to God. Rescuing his nephew from the enemy camp, Abraham credited God with the victory and gave a tenth to the Priest of Salem. The story is in Genesis 14.
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, also volunteered a tithe prior to the Law. Jacob saw a ladder to heaven with angels ascending and descending.
Above it was the Lord, who reiterated to Jacob the Covenant of descendants and land made to his grandfather Abraham and his father, Isaac. In awe of God’s presence and promise, Jacob vowed, “of all you give me, I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22).
Tithes of Produce and Animals
When the people first settled in the inherited Promised Land, God required tithes of the land, produce, and animals. Returning the tithe recognized God’s care and provision.
First fruits, the first and best of the harvest, were presented to the priest in the presence of God. The giver testified to God’s faithfulness starting with the deliverance from Egypt to the blessings of harvest in the new land saying, “and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me” (Deuteronomy 26:10).
Animals were also given as tithes. “Every tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod — will be holy to the LORD” (Leviticus 27:32). The blood from the sacrifice atoned for the sins of the giver and provided a right standing with God.
The people realized everything originated from God, and by giving back a portion of God’s blessings of land, animals, and produce, they worshipped from a heart of thanks and praise.
Why Should I Tithe?
The tithe belonged to the Lord. The giver was careful to remove the tithe from his possession, giving it for the work of ministry at the tabernacle. “I have removed the sacred portion from my house and given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widows, according to all you commanded” (Deuteronomy 26:13).
Giving the tithe elevated God above possessions. The Living Bible states it this way: “The purpose of tithing is to teach us to always put God first in our lives” (Deuteronomy 14:23). The giver testified, “I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them” (Deuteronomy 26:13).
Moses instructed Israel to bring their whole tithe to the tabernacle, the place of God’s presence.
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine, and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).
A tithe, given at the tabernacle, was “in proportion” to the blessings from the harvest, flocks, and produce. “No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to how the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:15-17).
In the New Testament, Jesus raised the bar of giving. He often talked about money with a warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
And in Matthew 6:24, 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.”
Although the Pharisees tithed, Jesus condemned them. “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11:42).
In contrast, Jesus pointed out to his disciples a poor widow at the Temple who sacrificially gave two small coins, about one-sixteenth of a penny (Barclay). Jesus commended this woman, saying, “This poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).
Her “all” wasn’t the amount but the motivation. Did she believe what Jesus said? Apparently. “Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Some may ask, “How can I give first to God when I’m uncertain of what’s coming with inflation, potential food shortages, and rising gas prices? Can I trust God to take care of my finances?”
A cartoon showing a man immersed under the water of baptism except for his hand holding up a stuffed-with-cash wallet captures the challenge. It’s easier to give God everything except our money.
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries and author of over 50 books, states, “Tithing isn’t the ceiling of giving; it’s the floor. It’s not the finish line of giving; it’s just the starting blocks.” Learning to give to God our “all” includes our money.
Paul commended the Macedonian churches because of their generosity. In a very severe trial, their “overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2). “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Giving the first of our income is a tangible way of putting God first in our lives. Generosity follows. “But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
How can we give less than our best to the One who has given all for us? The Lord called his people “robbers” because of their half-hearted love for God. “You are under a curse — your whole nation — because you are robbing me.”
But God gave a promise. “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 3:9, 10). God’s nature is to bless abundantly those who love Him.
What Is the Correct Way to Tithe?
According to the scriptures, the correct way to tithe is to give first to God, at the place of worship, for the ministries of the church, and from a heart of gratitude.
Tithes, the sacred portion, do not belong to the giver but to God. Giving tithes reveals a heart of trust and love for One, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Perhaps the question, “Is there a correct way to tithe,” is better stated, “Do I trust God more than my money?” The principle of giving, starting with the first ten percent, is a response of a loving heart for God, trusting in His promises of provision.
Tithing teaches us to always put God first in our lives. And tithing grows generosity to a new level. I don’t fully understand God’s economy but living on 90 % goes farther than 100.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Marinela Malcheva
Judy McEachran loves to worship the Author of life and love. She is an ordained pastor and gifted musician who writes and speaks to encourage believers. She pastored churches in the Midwest and after retirement moved to Arizona. She is humbled not only by the gracious love of God but by her devoted husband, two sons, and ten grandchildren. You can visit her website at God Secrets that Impart Life. Find her music on YouTube. Judy’s natural musical giftings invite worshippers into the presence of the Lord.