It is well-known among pastors that when they preach about money, they are likely to get angry encounters, e-mails, and phone calls. However, God’s Word speaks to every issue of our life. The issue of personal finance is certainly one of them and one of which Jesus spoke of often.
When a person is born-again (see John 3), they must confess Jesus as their Lord (Romans 10:9-10). That means that Jesus has ownership of that person’s life and all of his or her resources. When a pastor preaches on financial matters and someone gets angry, it is a good indicator that money has become an idol. Faithful church members who tithe are usually excited when pastors preach on what God says about money. So why do Jesus-followers get excited about giving a tenth of their income (the word tithe literally means one-tenth) to their local church?
Reason #1: It follows the example given to us BEFORE the Law was given.
In Genesis 14, Abraham, the spiritual ancestor of Jesus-followers, went to war against several kings and won. When he returned, he gave a tenth of all he had to the King of Salem (that is of the area later to be Jerusalem). The King of Salem’s name was Melchizedek and he served as a priest to the true God of whose priestly order is Jesus (Hebrews 7:17). Abraham gave that God may be glorified through Melchizedek’s ministry.
Some have sought to argue that Jesus-followers should no longer tithe because we are not under the law. However, Abraham’s example of tithing predates the giving of the law by over 400 years (see Exodus 20). Therefore, though the Christian is not under law, tithing did not come from the law but from the example of Abraham, our faith ancestor, who trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Reason #2: God commands that His people tithe
In Malachi 3, God accused the Israelites of robbing Him because they had withheld the tenth of their income that Abraham had set the example in giving. God then challenged them to give the tithe and see how God would pour out blessings on them. Jesus-followers tithe because God commands it and because we trust Him, and not our wallets, to meet our needs.
Reason #3: Jesus commands that His people tithe
In Luke 11, Jesus is pronouncing warnings upon the Pharisees (a Jewish religious sect at the time). In verse 42, He warns them because they would give a tenth even of small things like their spices that they grew or acquired but they neglected justice and the love of God. Many today like to take this and say that we don’t need to tithe but we only need to be just and love God. However, Jesus commands them, “but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Jesus tells them to tithe and to be just and loving toward God. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, give us any reason to think that the command to tithe has passed away.
Reason #4: We value our King and His Kingdom above all else
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches that no one can serve two masters. He then directly pits God as a master against money as a master. If Jesus is Lord, then we joyfully give a tenth of our income to the church. However, if money is our Lord, then we will get angry anytime someone threatens our idol.
Reason #5: We are on mission to make disciples for our King
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives the command to His apostles, and by extension His whole church, to make disciples of all nations. This is the task of the universal church in general and of local churches in specific. This great commission requires taking the good news of Jesus out locally, regionally, and internationally, which all takes funding. It is also important to care for the physical needs of others so they see the love of Christ in action.
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul writes of how the Macedonian churches gave to the mission of God even in the midst of persecution and poverty. He even explains that they gave “beyond their ability.” The Macedonians were so excited about Great Commission efforts that they begged for the privilege to give. Christians today tithe to their local church because we are excited about making disciples!
Reason #6: We desire for our God to be worshipped
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul continues his discussion about giving and tells the Corinthians that when they sow generously, they will reap generously. But what is it that they reap? They reap being part of others praising God! Paul states, “Because of this service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ…” Others come to know and worship our God when we give generously to Great Commission work.
Reason #7: Jesus intends local churches to be the main avenue for Great Commission work
In Mathew 16, Jesus teaches His apostles that He will build His church upon the gospel (that Jesus is the Christ) and that they have the responsibility to share the gospel with others (mentioned here as binding and loosing). The gathering together of Jesus-followers as the church and particularly as the local church is Jesus’ institution in which He cares for dearly.
John Hammett, in his book, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches informs that the local church is greatly emphasized over the universal church (all believers of all time) as the term for church, ekklesia is used overwhelmingly more of the local church as opposed to the universal church (see p. 28). The local church is very significant from a Biblical standpoint.
In Acts 2:44-47, we have a great example of a healthy church. In fact, this was the first church, the church of Jerusalem just after the day the Holy Spirit came upon all the people of God at Pentecost. The picture shows us that everyone in the church gave to provide for one another and that they worshipped God. The result of their giving, fellowshipping, and worshipping was that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church to take up a collection on the first day of the week (Sunday or the Lord’s Day when the church gathered regularly for worship). They were told to do this, “in keeping with your income.” The idea is that if you make more, you give more. If you make less, you give less. This is what happens when a believer is determined to tithe. Whether we make little or much, we give at least a tenth to our local church’s general budget.
Reason # 8: We desire to provide for our pastors
In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18, the Apostle Paul teaches that members of a local church are called to give to provide for the needs of the pastors and their families. Pastors give their time to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This is a time consuming responsibility that takes as much or more time each week than the average career. In order for pastors to fulfill their responsibilities faithfully, they must “receive their living from the gospel.”
Many have said that a pastor should be glad that he doesn’t receive a large sum for his work because it will keep him relying upon the Lord. However, this attitude has done great harm to many pastors and their families and has driven many from the calling. No congregant should expect his or her pastors to have a lower standard of living than they themselves have, but it should be consistent with the average income of the membership of the church.
Reason #9: We trust God to provide all our needs
In Psalm 50, God declares that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The idea is that every resource belongs to God. He never runs out. The one who doesn’t tithe doesn’t trust God to provide from His infinite abundance.
In James 1, we are told that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like the shifting shadows. God has provided everyone with all resources that they have. If we give to Him faithfully, we should not doubt that He is able to continually provide.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us not to worry about physical needs but to trust God who cares dearly for us. When the Bible calls us to give a tenth of our income, it is a calling to trust God. It is not because God needs your tithe, but it is because God wants to show you that He can provide when you trust and obey.
While many have tried to reject the idea of a tithe, we find that both Old and New Testaments teach the responsibility and joy of Jesus-followers to give to their church’s general budget. In fact, if someone followed the teachings of the New Testament alone, one would easily and joyfully give more than a tenth of his or her income just as the Macedonians counted it a privilege to give “beyond their ability.”
A local church cannot do what God has called her to do unless each family in the congregation is giving a tenth of their income. What part of your church’s calling has been abandoned because you have neglected to tithe?
If you have gotten angry or anxious because of this article, I would challenge you to consider: What are you trusting to give you joy? What are you trusting to provide your needs? Who is your Lord whom you obey? There is only room for One on the throne and His name is Jesus!