Money, Tithing and Being Generous

 

The Bible has much to say about money. It is not wrong to possess money because it is God who gives us the power to make money (Deut 8:18) and it is God who alone “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17), but the love of money and possessions has been the downfall of many and caused many to wander from the faith (1 Tim 6:10). Achan’s love for money brought disaster to himself, his family, and even the whole nation of Israel (Josh 7:1-25). Judas’s love for money led to a betrayal of Jesus and caused him to damn himself to eternal torment in hell (Matt 26:14-16). Ananias & Sapphira’s love of money led them to hypocritically lie about their giving resulting in God’s execution (Acts 5:1-10).

The Bible commands us to guard our hearts when it comes to our money. We must guard against loving money, which is the root of all evil as many who have longed for it have fallen into ruin and destruction (1 Tim 6:9-10). We must guard against covetousness because our lives in the end do not consist of our possessions or money (Luke 12:15). We must guard our heart against greed, because money will never satisfy us (Eccl 5:10). We must guard against putting our trust in our money rather than God (Heb 13:5, 1 Tim 6:17, Prov 11:28) because it can become our master instead of Christ (Matt 6:24).

 

Money is a Heart Barometer
Money is morally neutral; it is neither good nor bad, but what we do with our money is a sure indicator of our heart’s condition and acts as a sort of barometer. Just as a barometer measures atmospheric pressures, how we spend our money measures the condition of our heart. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). When the infamous tax collector Zacchaeus was saved, his heart attitude toward his money was drastically transformed. He immediately gave half of his money to the poor, and repaid his victims four times the amount he had stolen from them (Luke 19:1-10). Unlike Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler’s hard heart was revealed when he went away sad after Jesus commanded him to give his money away and come and follow Him (Matt 19:16-22).

Be Generous BUT Is Tithing Required?
Many of us have been raised believing that we are required to tithe, and legalistically look down on others for not regularly giving a ten percent offering into the “storehouse” (Mal 3:10).  A closer look at the New Testament will prove that tithing was an old covenant requirement for Israel. There is no command for tithing anywhere in the New Testament. Thomas Schreiner, a professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a great article explaining seven reasons why Christians today are not required to tithe. You can read the article here, but the following are his seven arguments:

  1. Believers are no longer under the Mosaic Law. (Rom 6:14-15, 7:5-6, Gal 3:15-4:7, 2 Cor 3:4-18)
  2. The examples of Abraham & Jacob are not normative patterns.
  3. Tithes were given to the Levites & Priests, but there are no Levites and Priests in the new covenant.
  4. The tithe is tied to the land of Israel received under the old covenant.
  5. If tithing is required, how much should we give since old testament saints were required to give closer to 20% annually?
  6. When Jesus affirmed the tithe, it was before the dawn of the new covenant.
  7. Nowhere is tithing mentioned when commands to give generously are found in the New Testament.

If you would like to explore a counterargument, read the article here by William Barcley.

To Whom are We to Give?
While the New Testament doesn’t command us to tithe, it does command us to be generous. Just like God, we are to be givers. We are primarily to give to three groups:

  1. We are commanded to give to destitute family members (1 Tim 5:8) including children, aged parents & grandparents, brothers & sisters (1 Tim 5:3-16). This does not include lazy, irresponsible family members who are not willing to work and squander their money on alcohol & drugs (2 Thess 3:10).
  2. We are to give to our local church and other doctrinally sound ministries to support the preaching of the Word (Gal 6:6, 1 Tim 5:17-18).
  3. We are to give to needy persons to help them with physical needs such as food and shelter. We should first be concerned about believers in the household of faith (Gal 6:10) and then help unbelievers as a part of our witness of the Gospel to the world.

How are We to Give?
One of the largest sections of Scripture that addresses giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Paul instructs the Corinthians on how they are to give. He uses the churches from the region of Macedonia (Thessalonica, Berea, & Philippi) as examples of how to give. The following is a list of ways we are to give from 2 Corinthians 8-9.

  • We are to be motivated by God’s grace; just as God gave to us we are to give. (8:1)
  • We are to be committed to give even in difficult times. (8:2)
  • We are to give with joy. (8:2, 9:7)
  • We are to be generous even when we are poor. (8:2, 1 Tim 6:17)
  • We are to give according to our ability or as we have prospered. (8:3, 1 Cor 16:2)
  • We are to give voluntarily not out of compulsion, duty or fear. (8:3)
  • We are to consider our giving a privilege and an opportunity to participate in Kingdom work. (8:4)
  • We are to consider our giving as worship and obedience unto God. (8:5-6)
  • We are to view our giving as proof of our love for Christ, others and Kingdom work. (8:7-8, 1 Jn 4:20-21)
  • We should give systematically in a pre-planned manner. (9:7, 1 Cor 16:2)
  • We should give in secret to the Lord. (Matt 6:1-4)

 To listen to a sermon I recently preached on this topic, please click here.

Need for a Change in Attitude
Many of us are trapped in a self-absorbed mentality. We make and spend our money primarily on ourselves. But as we mature in our faith, we must take on a new change of mind. Instead of being worldly minded, we must be Kingdom minded. A change in our attitude will inevitably lead to possibly radical decisions to get out of debt in order to free up money to be used as the Lord leads. Oh may we be faithful with the use of our money!