What constitutes worship? Most Christians think of singing praise songs or hymns when they think of a “worship service.” Numerous times throughout Paul’s letters, we are told to do everything for the glory of God (such as in Colossians, Ephesians, and Colossians again). Everything can and should be a form of worship. I had a youth pastor that used to say that he defecates to the glory of the Lord. A bit crude, maybe, and said to catch the teenagers’ attention, but true nonetheless. We could talk at great length about what it means to do everything to the glory of God, but let’s focus in on what that means for our finances.
What is a Tithe?
A tithe is a regular offering of material possessions to the service of God. In today’s American culture, that usually means a regular amount of money that is given to the church. Many people also offer their skills or time in service to the church and to the Lord.
Why Do We Tithe in the First Place?
As I searched through Scripture about tithing, I found that there is really very little basis or explanation for tithing in the New Testament. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for tithing without really caring about what God cares about. In his statement, he does say that the Pharisees should not neglect tithing. Outside of Hebrews using tithing as an example of the priesthood of Melchizedek, there isn’t really any other discussion on tithing in the New Testament. At the coming of Christ, the Old Covenant is transitioned to the New Covenant, where the law is not written on stone, but on our hearts. Instead of being compelled by law to give, our giving is now more of a response to what we have already received in Christ. This point is argued more fully by this article.
How Much Do We Tithe?
There is actually no mandate in the New Covenant to give a certain amount of our resources. The common practice is to give about 10% of one’s gross income. The 10% number comes from precedent established by Abraham in Genesis. It is then later given by law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Humans love clear, cut and dry guidelines, but New Testament writings about giving (such as 2 Corinthians 6-8) seem to be much more concerned with the heart behind the giving. This is demonstrated by Jesus’ parable of the widow’s offering. God certainly doesn’t need our money – there is nothing that God wants to do but has to wait for the funds to come in. He wants us to trust and worship, and one of the ways we do that is through giving. God wants to work through us. One of the ways he does that is by using our resources that he has already given us.
The Problem With Tithing
Tithing can be very easy these days, practically speaking. We can and have set up automatic donations that go to our church each week from our bank account. We don’t even have to think about it. But that’s a problem, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we want to think about it? How can it be worship if our minds are not actively engaged? Every form of worship can become routine – singing, reading, listening to sermons, serving, and tithing. God doesn’t want our empty rituals, traditions, and sacrifices. He says so in Hosea 6:6, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 9:11-13. Traditions and sacrifices are great, but they need to be full of worship, heartfelt worship, each and every time.
For my wife and I, this meant changing how we tithe. It used to be something I set up online to be automatic. I had suggested an amount, she was fine with it, and that was that. That’s as far as our thought on the issue went. It wasn’t really worship at all – neither of us were thinking about it on a weekly or monthly basis, and it was much more of my decision to do it in the first place, rather than hers, or ours. We recently decided, after some discussion, to change how we tithe. We knew we wanted to be intentional about it, and that we didn’t want the decision to be from only one of us, so we thought the best way to meet these goals would be to sit down once a month and write a check to the church after talking and praying about how much to give. The amount may change from month to month, and that’s okay. I think being prayerful and thoughtful about it is much more important than using a certain amount just because that’s how much we always give.
We are going to give this method a try and see how it goes. If it becomes an empty routine, we’ll have to change it. Look for a post down the road as to how it goes. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. How do you tithe? How have you changed your tithing over the years?
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