In last month’s edition, we opened the subject of church membership and the importance of being connected to the body, to the fellowship, on an ongoing basis for the good of both the individual Christian and the corporate local church. Regular attendance is but one of the integral factors the Bible teaches regarding being a member of the body of Christ (rf. I Cor. 12:27). We should be diligent in the giving of our tithes as well, for these provide the lifeblood for the operation of the church’s ministry as it always has been for God’s people.
The principle of giving to God the first tenth of that which comes to us as income was begun by Abram with Melchizedek after the battle of kings in which Abram rescued his nephew, Lot, and, in the process, restored the spoil of Sodom and Gomorrah to its rightful owners, all by the grace and strength of the Lord (rf. Gen.14:1-20). In gratitude, Abram offered to the Lord’s priest, Melchizedek, also king of Salem (read Jerusalem), a tithe of the spoils as a token of his thankfulness for the Lord’s intervention on his behalf in giving Abram the victory. From that time forth, the tithe, as commanded by God and established in the Law (rf. Dt. 14:22-29), was to show the gratitude of God’s people in providing their needs on a daily basis. Anything monetarily given above the tithe was considered to be a freewill offering and/or a gift, but was never accepted in place of the tithe. The tithe was always the starting point for financial giving to the Lord. The first ten percent always belongs to Him (rf. Mal. 3:8-9).
The New Testament assumes the same teaching, because it does not in any way contradict it. What it does do is to provide new parameters as to how we are to give our tithes and gifts—cheerfully (rf. II Cor. 9:7)—and when we are to give them—the first day of the week (rf. I Cor. 16:2), Sunday. The New Testament, thus, reinforces the truth that the first tenth still belongs to the Lord and His people should be committed to giving it regularly.
Since Jesus plainly stated that we are to “render unto Caesar (i.e. the government) what is due Caesar, and to God what is due God” (rf. Matt. 22:21), applied to our own time and the means of income disbursal, common sense tells us that our pay structure is already set up to pay our taxes to the government first prior to our income arriving in our hands. Therefore, the paychecks that we receive represent our actual income over which we have control as to spending. It is on this amount that we make our family budgets and upon which we base our tithe. Though we often complain about the percentage of our taxes in the US, they are relatively low compared to other parts of the world. There are believers in other countries whose national income tax rates range from 50-75% and higher, not counting province and local taxes, the combination of which is overwhelming, allowing them very little spendable income upon which to live. If they based their tithe on their gross income, they would have little, if any, money upon which to support their families. The tithe was to be based on that which comes into our hands to spend, over that which we have control. As it was with Abram, so it is with us.
The tithe was meant to be an act of worship and thankfulness, not an overwhelming burden of legalism. When done correctly, God will show Himself great by blessing His people as they tithe by taking care of all of their needs (rf. Mal. 3:10) and by providing for all of the ministries of His Church. If we obey, it gives Him the opportunity to do wondrous things. The question is this: Are we tithing so that He has this opportunity?