Tithing, or giving 1/10 of your income to your local church, is a hotly debated issue around Christian Money. Which makes sense, because what Christians love to do more than, you know, actually follow Christ. Is to fuss over and argue about the particulars of said following.
We either justify the fact that we don’t tithe, or shame people who don’t.
What we miss so often with these kinds of issues is the real question.
The question isn’t ‘Should we tithe?’ The questions is ‘what happens when we tithe?’
Tithing for me, isn’t an act of obedience ; it’s an act of resistance.
Where Did This Crazy Idea Come From?
A Tithe is first seen in the Bible in Genesis 14. Abraham opens a can of “Whoop-ya-butt” on some dudes who did his family wrong. When he comes back he gives the priest of God, Melchizedek, one-tenth of everything he collects of the spoils. The word ‘tithe’ literally just means “one-tenth”.
This concept is codified in Jewish law when God lays out the law to the Israelites in the desert and tells them. That one-tenth of everything they have is His.
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.Leviticus 27:30
So Jews Gave a Tithe, So What?
There’s a couple main arguments against a Biblical ‘mandate’ to tithe.
- Jesus Christ fulfilled the law so we are no longer bound to it.
- The Church just uses this as a mechanism to get money
- I can’t afford it
Rather than refuting these arguments or telling you what you should do, I want to show you how tithing for me has helped as a form of resistance, rather than yet another religious task I need to check off.
Tithing As Resistance
Christians, like everybody, worry a lot about money. If we aren’t worried about paying the bills, we are pursuing financial independence, debt-free living, or a comfortable retirement. We are caught in the chasing of some result other than what we have. Typical Christian Financial Advice placates this kind of worldly thinking by giving it a Christian veneer. But the all-consuming drive for more money, more secure money, or ‘life-giving’ money is outside the experience of the Gospel.
Tithing is a monthly reminder to resist the lies in our culture that tempt me to chase after money instead of the life-giving mission God has for me.
Lie #1: I Am My Own Provider
Say it with me. I. Am. Not. My. Own. Provider.
I know it feels like I am. I wake up every morning, I go to work, I get the paycheck, I build the business, I save the money. I do the ‘right things’ I have money, I do the ‘wrong things’ I don’t.
God gives us the health to go to work. He protects our family while we are away. He allows the world to continue in the midst of a pandemic, and when the work dries up or the job gets lost, provides for us anyways.
Jesus invites us into a trusting obedience of Him. He invites us to lay down our LIVES! How can I lay down my life if I’m not willing to lay down $100, $1,000 or $10,000? When I give the first ten-percent of my income back to God through the local church I am reminding myself where the money comes from. I’m resisting the urge to put my trust in myself, my ability and my wisdom and forcing myself to put my trust in Jesus Christ.
You CAN be your own provider if you want. It is just way more secure to get your paycheck from the all-powerful creator of the universe
Lie #2: My Financial Success Equals my Value
In Christian Finance circles we trade one side of a spectrum for another, and neither end is Jesus. We try to ‘convert’ people who spend without discipline into disciplined spenders. We try to ‘convert’ Spend-thrifts into savers. We try to ‘convert’ debtors into investors.
The problem with this, is Jesus is nowhere in the picture. We are asking people to start obsessing over money in order to stop worrying about money. The Bible says we can’t do that, we can’t chase God and money.
“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.”Matthew 6:24
Whether money is ruling us from a complete lack of it, or ruling us by it being our sole focus, it’s the same trap, just different bait. If the Enemy can’t get us to serve him, the least he can do is distract us to pursue something other than our God given Mission. Money is a perfect distractor!
When we tithe we watch money leave our wallet that could go to the desires of our flesh (clothes, nights out, new countertops) or to our financial success (early retirement, debt pay-off, or kids college) and we resist the urge to put these things in front of God.
We remind ourselves that our security in Jesus Christ’s grace and abundance is more important than becoming ‘financially independent’ by thirty or forty or whether our kid goes to an ivy league or public college or whether we drive the BMW or the Honda.
Lie #3: Things Should Go My Way
In the (almost?) Post-Covid Age the public gathering of Christians has been thrown into disarray. It’s hard to know who’s coming and who’s going. Many people took the closures as an opportunity to sneak away quietly, others found that the comfort of their home was preferred to rubbing elbows with people they found annoying or inconvenient to be around.
Americans suffer from an abundance of choice to the point where if something is uncomfortable, disagreeable or just plain inconvenient, there’s an app for that!
When we tithe, we are resisting the urge to make everything about us. Perhaps the church spends money on causes that aren’t your favorite. Maybe they bought the green chairs instead of the red, or maybe you don’t think they needed to hire that associate pastor (the Lead pastor doesn’t work that hard anyways). When we tithe we say, I’m committed to what God is doing here. Period.
Tithing disciplines us into committing to people that we don’t always agree with and often don’t like. The church gets 10% of my income even if they make me mad, even if they don’t use it right. I’m committed to giving the money to God and the results are not up to me.
I am all for church accountability and we need more, not less transparency in non-profit and church financials. If your church is not missionally minded and spends more of their income on running the organization than on important causes, perhaps that’s a sign of a larger problem, and maybe you should consider if you’ve settled for a church that is your ‘preference’ rather than one that’s ‘on mission’.
But tithing is a prophetic action that says we want to participate in what God is doing, even if it’s not what WE want to do. And you know what? The more you tithe, the more you WANT to do what God is doing.
Instead of thinking about whether or not you should tithe. Why don’t you think about whether or not consumerism or the American money culture has created a barrier between you and Jesus. If there was an easy way to keep the ‘cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches’ from choking out the Word of God that was planted in your heart.
Would you do it?
There is and it’s called tithing.
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