This past Sunday, I closed out my message with a statement that I honestly felt was controversial but something that should be said nevertheless.
I said that tithing is not giving to God.
On Sunday, I taught a message to my congregation on the incredible problem of greed and how the antidote to greed is generosity. Specifically, we looked at 2 Corinthians 9 where Paul talks to the Corinthians about their commitment to provide financial help to the church in Jerusalem.
It’s an interesting passage in its own right, but what makes it more interesting is the fact that Paul uses the word normally translated “greed” in verse 5 where we usually translate it “grudgingly given.” Here’s the verse:
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. — 2 Corinthians 9:5
In other words, Paul is specifically contrasting the concept of greed and generosity. Now, if you think that’s pretty obvious, okay, but the real question is this: How do we develop a heart of generosity instead of greed?
If you are interested in that topic, you should probably visit our church website to listen to my message (once it gets posted) at http://lafayettecc.org/news/series/leverage/, but for the moment, I just want to share with you how I ended the message.
Back to Tithing
I ended the message with a challenge to people that generosity truly begins with the realization that God is a God who blesses and so he blesses those who bless others. Since his desire is to bless people, he is unlikely to bless someone who won’t pass those blessings on!
Therefore, the starting point in our journey toward generosity is to recognize the most fundamental giving principle in the Bible: 10% tithing. I have recently written about tithing, but in the message, I briefly indicated that it one of two major kinds of giving described in the Bible.
The first kind of giving is called “Just Because” giving, and it refers to giving that we do “just because” God has blessed us with what we have, “just because” God asked for it, and “just because” it’s the right thing to do. The other kind of giving is “just cause” giving. That refers to the kind of giving where you feel a specific cause is worth giving to and you go ahead and put some money into it. However, the problem is that “just cause” giving is what everyone does all the time. When I buy a computer, that’s “just cause” giving because I have determined that me getting that computer is a cause worth shelling out some cash for. When I go to a restaurant, I have decided that me eating that food is a cause worth my money. When I give to a church project, I have decided that the project is a cause worth my money.
However, tithing falls into the first category of giving. Tithing is a kind of giving that has nothing to do with a cause. I don’t tithe “because of” anything. I don’t tithe because of a blessing that will come to me. I don’t tithe because the church needs the money. I don’t tithe because it makes me feel obedient. I tithe, just because.
Back to the beginning
And so, let me return to what I said at the beginning. I said that tithing is not giving to God, and now I can tell you why that statement is true. For most of my life, I have been taught that God gives us money and we give 10% back to him, but here’s the problem with that way of thinking. God never gave me the 10% to begin with. My bank account might show 100%, but God is only giving me 90% of it. Check this out:
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
Bottom line? 10% of the income belongs to God. Though it might spend a few moments in your hands, it is not yours to “give,” merely yours for a moment to redirect.
Here’s the conclusion. Tithing is not giving to God because it is his already. Tithing is merely redirecting God’s money, through my employer’s bank account, through my bank account, and into the church’s account so that God can use the church to continue his chain of blessings.
As he said to Abraham, he would also say to us as individuals and to us as a church:
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. — Genesis 12:2
“I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”
I’m sure God is blessing you. How much of that blessing never makes it past your hands?