A phenomenon that occurs when you present a need or even a want to like-minded people is that they tend to empty their pockets or at least a portion of them. From GoFundMe to Patreon, the model used is loosely predicated on what we in the church have been doing for millennia. This was typically based around a communal gathering of converging beliefs and was a form of obeisance and worship. Now instead of a free-will offering in recognition of our dependence upon sovereign God, we have popcorn monetary distractions all vying for our attention. Some to gratify our spirit with a sense of a good deed done, and others to gratify the flesh.
But why do we give to the church? If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-12) does He really need the pittance that I offer? Why would He ask for the little I have if He needs nothing? How do I know that the money I give to Him is going to be used well? Haven’t we seen examples of men that solicited widows and the vulnerable to facilitate a lavish lifestyle of food, drink, and private jets?
Let’s take a look at these items sort of one by one and see if we can answer both the reason for “tithe” or “a tenth” and its Scriptural basis as well as why we should give and how we should give.
Should we give?
Why do we give to the church? Is the church just greedy? There have certainly been examples in both history and in recent times of avarice within the church. Examples of fund misappropriation and mismanagement are nothing new to anyone in contact with organized religion. Nonetheless, God does call us to generosity and giving. We are to support our ministers and further His work (1 Cor. 9:6-14). Christ even told his disciples not to worry about taking anything with them, but to rely on the generosity of God’s people (Luke 10:4).
In Christ’s “body,” we all have different members or tasks to complete. We do not all get to be ministers or evangelists or teachers, but we can all take a part in those ministries by supporting them. This is where the tithe or tenth comes into play.
How much do we give?
The tithe was part of Old Testament religion where at different times, the people of God were called on to pay certain tithes. These were a sort of theocratic taxation that was part of their obedience to God. Much like other areas of law moving into grace, the update to that “taxation” is somehow less absolute and more absolute simultaneously. What was once a percentage and a requirement is now a command to give generously, even to your own hurt. Much like Christ’s admonition on forgiveness, the New Testament statements on giving, though more open-ended, require more from us.
In the dispensation of grace, we are to give out of the gratitude in our hearts for what Christ has done for us and some of this giving should go to our local church in support of our ministers. The amount (though there are some who argue otherwise) is not directly stipulated in the New Testament and is left as a Spirit-led decision of generosity and not of parsimony. The donor that Christ made mention of in the Bible gave to her own hurt.
How should we NOT give?
If you are giving any thought to yourself, you should re-examine your motives. If you are giving to either assuage guilt or to try and create a quid pro quo scenario with a sovereign God, you will find out that He owes you nothing. God has told us to give and to give generously and though there are mentions in the Bible that He will bless us, do not expect monetary compensation for your giving.
How SHOULD we then give?
You should give from your heart out of gratitude for a God who sent His Son for your redemption and has bought your life at a dear price. It is the least that we can do, to give back to Him out of the abundance that He has given us and to do so with a cheerful heart.
Could the church continue to function if believers ceased to give? Yes. A sovereign God who owns all things would make it work, but we would cease to obey as believers if we don't give. He has given us the opportunity to be a part of His work, by supporting the ministers and ministries that He has called, and what a great opportunity it is. We can help influence lives for Christ in our neighborhood and across the globe.