This week we continue our series called For the Love of Money. Last week, we learned how the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6.10) and how it can cause us many griefs. This week, we’re focusing on the opposite: how handling money in a way that honors God can produce some of our greatest joys as we focus on the practice of tithing and giving.
Often during conversations like this one, several questions come up regarding tithing. Is tithing still relevant, or was it just an Old Testament discipline? If tithing is so important, why did Jesus say so little about it in the New Testament? How are Christians called to respond to tithing in this day and age?
Question: What’s your attitude about giving? What currently encourages you to or prevents you from giving?
Tithing is still relevant and important because of how early and often the Bible teaches it. As early as the fourth chapter of the Bible, we see themes of tithing.
Read Genesis 4.2–5.
Up to this point in history, God hadn’t commanded His people to tithe. Rather, what Cain and Abel gave was a reflection of their hearts and attitudes toward God. Cain essentially tipped God, sharing a bit of what God had given him back with God. Abel, on the other hand, offered God his firstfruits—the first and best part of his flock. God responds to Abel’s offering favorably, for that’s the heart that God is looking for. God doesn’t want what’s left; He wants the first of what’s best.
- Read Genesis 14.18–20.
In this passage, we see an encounter between Abram (who later God renamed Abraham) and Melchizedek, one of God’s leaders. What’s interesting about this passage is that, up until this point in biblical history, there’d been no explicit teaching on tithing. God hadn’t given the Law to Israel yet. In fact, Israel, as a national-political entity, wasn’t even established yet. Regardless, even this early in history, Abraham knew that the first of his income belonged to God.
Throughout these verses, we see that tithing is woven into creation. From the very beginning, humanity reveals it’s heart toward God by giving back to Him a portion of what He’s so generously given to us.
While we see that giving is a natural part of our relationship with God from the beginning of time, we also acknowledge that Jesus changed something in regard to tithing when He came. Through Jesus affirms the practice of tithing in Matthew 23, He doesn’t get hung up on it. Instead, all of Jesus’ examples of giving actually go far beyond the tithe.
For example, as Jesus observes giving in the temple, He sees rich people giving some of their money while a poor widow gives all that she has. Though the women’s gift has less monetary value, He esteems it as more because she gave all that she had (Luke 21.1–4). At another point in His ministry, Jesus calls a young rich man to sell all that He has and give it to the poor so He can fully follow Christ (Mark 10.17–31). We also see Jesus interacting with a tax collector, Zacchaeus. After encountering Jesus, Zacchaeus is compelled to give half of what he’s taken from the poor and to give back what he has taken unfairly. Because of his response, salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19.1–10).
Throughout these examples, we see that, while Jesus affirms tithing, He puts much more emphasis on sacrificial giving. Why? Because Jesus didn’t tithe His life; rather, He gave up everything—His family, ministry, relationship with God, and very life—for our sake. As we touched on last week, we give out of gratitude for what God’s given us.
- Read 2 Corinthians 8.2–3.
Perhaps one of the best examples of Christian giving is found within these verses. Here, we see that Christian giving is defined as giving as much as we’re able and even beyond our ability. Thus, tithing isn’t the end goal of giving but a starting place. It’s like the training wheels of Christian generosity. It helps us break down the stranglehold of money in our lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart is as well. Tithing is the first step in moving our heart and trust away from money and to God.
Question: How does this biblical history and background change your perspective on giving?
However, tithing and giving aren’t dry practices that somehow make us more spiritual. Rather, God makes several promises for those who are financially faithful. More than just finances, these promises are really about spiritual faithfulness that’s evidenced by financial faithfulness.
Read Malachi 3.7–12.
The first promise that we see comes from verse 10. In this verse and throughout Scripture, it’s clear that we serve a God who loves to bless His people. 2 Corinthians 9 tells us that whoever sows generously will also reap generously and that God is able to bless us abundantly, providing everything that we need, that we may abound in every good work. God promises blessing to the financially faithful. As we see in 2 Corinthians, this blessing doesn’t always come in the form of finances; God can bless us relationally, spiritually, occupationally, etc, as well. Though these blessings aren’t always obvious, we trust that God will use our financial faithfulness to bless us.
Question: How have you experienced blessing as a result of giving?
The second promise comes from verse 11. Here, we see that God promises protection to the financially faithful. In a world overwhelmed by evidence of Satan’s destruction, it’s reassuring to know that God’s got our backs. For more on God’s protection to the faithful, check out Psalm 112.5–8.
The third promise is also found in verse 11. Here, we see that the laborers wouldn’t work in vain. Rather, God promises effectiveness to the financially faithful. Do you know that it’s possible to be very busy but not at all fruitful? This is why the Psalmist prays for God to establish the work of his hands (Psalm 90.17); he knows that anybody can work, but only God makes our work worthwhile. While we may still experience setbacks in our plans, we can hold fast to the promise of Romans 8.28 that tells us God works for the good of those who love Him. As Christians, our setbacks can serve as springboards toward God’s greater faithfulness. Thus, financial faithfulness yields effectiveness in our work.
Question: How has God enriched the meaning of your work? What does it mean to you to know that you’re working for God rather than just for a paycheck (Colossians 3.23)?
The last promise that we’re going to look at comes from verse 12. In this verse, we see that God promises honor to the financially faithful. The reason for this honor is obvious: when people see God’s blessing active in our lives, His protection present in our living, and His effectiveness manifested in our work, they naturally want to honor us. Others recognize that there’s something special going on in our lives that deserves to be appreciated. As we’re honored, we’re able to return this honor to God and further glorify Him.