Every Sunday at ABC we see the offering plates passed from row to row. People drop something in the plate, and, Magic or Miracle, the church’s financial needs are met. Actually, it’s neither Magic nor Miracle; it’s Motivation. There are many members of the church congregation who are committed to tithing, and that’s why the weekly offerings are able to support the church’s ministries.
Tithing is the practice of donating to God one-tenth of all that we have or earn. An elaborate system of tithing everything, from crops to business profits, is outlined in detail as part of the Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy 14). This was designed as a continuous reminder that our life, breath, food, freedom, safety, everything we experience are gifts from God.
Humans have seemingly limitless ways of twisting and cheapening God’s directions for living, and the practice of tithing suffered over the centuries after the Law was given through Moses. By Jesus’ time, there were some “religious” people who used strict adherence to tithing laws as a substitute for more important heart obedience to God, and Jesus called them out:
“Woe to you! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:42)
He emphasized that salvation could not be earned by following rules and regulations, but that it was a result of God’s forgiveness and loving embrace. The Apostle Paul reinforced this by reminding us that we are “not under Law, but under Grace” (Romans 6:14). Some Christians feel that this means we’re no longer bound by the Old Testament law of tithing in the New Testament freedom under grace.
And yet, there is an added clause in Jesus’ criticism of the scrupulous tithers:
“Woe to you! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.”
Apparently, Jesus was urging his followers to keep on tithing under Grace as they did under the Old Testament Law. What does this mean?
It means that the principle behind tithing is more basic than the Law. A study of anthropology shows that tithing was practiced in many cultures long before God gave the Law to Moses in the twelfth century BC. It has been traced in Egypt, Carthage, Babylonia, Phoenicia, Ugarit and even China. There are several possible ways of understanding why tithing became such a natural and widespread practice. Politically, paying a tithe was sometimes an act of submission, from the subject to the king, or from a conquered tribe to the victor. Even in a stable government, certain elements of infrastructure had to be paid for, and the tithe may have served as a sort of primitive taxing pattern. No economic system can work well if all the profit goes in one direction, so the tithe may have been developed to bring some equity into business transactions. It’s a way of saying that no one is truly self-sufficient, and living in a society with other people involves constant give and take.
It also seems obvious that ancient people groups were well aware that they were deeply dependent on the natural world around them, the air and water, the plants and animals, the mountains and valleys, night and day. Paying a tithe was an act of homage and gratitude. In the modern world we think of this in terms of making efforts to restore our environment.
Of course, when Moses received the Law, all these streams of meaning about tithing came together into an acknowledgment that GOD is the ultimate source of all we humans experience in our lives. Therefor, the paying of tithes became focused into our relationship with HIM.
So, where are we today? Should we as Christians still tithe, or are we freed from tithing because we’re not under Law, but under Grace? Well, I believe being under Grace gives us even more Motivation for tithing. A chorus I learned in my youth put it this way:
After all he’s done for me,
How can I do less than give him my best,
After all he’s done for me.
The Law says we owe God a tithe, or ten percent. Grace says we owe God everything, one hundred percent, and tithing is just a symbol of this.
What about you? Making a commitment to begin tithing may not result in Magic or Miracle, but you may be surprised at the renewed Motivation you feel in every dimension of your Christian life.
— Pastor George Van Alstine