Of all the questions I am asked to answer, this is beyond a doubt the most difficult. Not only because the subject of tithing is hotly debated, but because I must confess that I personally have not always been faithful in giving a tenth or more to the work of the Lord. And I am not alone. Research demonstrates that not only do the vast majority of Christians not tithe regularly, but many give little or nothing at all. Thus, while addressing this question is incredibly convicting, it also is increasingly crucial.
First, as Randy Alcorn has well said, tithing may well be regarded as the training wheels of giving. As such, tithing is as important today as it has ever been. We all need to learn what it is to stride free and unfettered down the path of Christian stewardship. For in learning to give we also are learning to lean more heavily upon our heavenly Father and less heavily upon ourselves. Those who have traveled the Calvary road for any length of time surely can testify to the truth that God is ever faithful. Not only so, but as we weekly set aside our tithes and offerings we are reminded that all we are, or ever hope to be, is a gift from God.
Furthermore, as Moses communicated to the children of Israel, we tithe “so that [we] may learn to revere the Lord [our] God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). As we all know, learning to reverence the name of God is a timeless principle—as crucial today as in the days of Moses. Long before Moses, the Bible records Jacob’s promise to God: “Of all that you give me I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22). Long after Moses, Jesus reaffirmed the practice of tithing (Matthew 23:23)—not for outward appearances but as an outward expression of an inward reality. Additionally, in the fourth century the great church father Jerome echoed the words of Malachi who intimated that failing to pay tithes and offerings was tantamount to “robbing” God—a prescription for financial ruin (Malachi 3:8).
Finally, it should be noted that tithing in the Old Testament not only prepared God’s people to become hilarious givers but produced a temple of unparalleled splendor. The Israelites who pined for the pleasures and protection of pagan Egypt more than for the One who had miraculously parted the Red Sea had been transformed into joyful givers. The Bible chronicles the prayer of David as he thanked God for the very privilege of being able to give to the work of the Lord: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand . . . and now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 17).
There is no telling what can be accomplished in our generation if we, too, may but catch the joy of contagious giving. Not only would we be empowered to spread the gospel around the globe, but we would be enabled to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. Like our forefathers who founded great centers of Christian education, established countless hospitals, and funded myriad relief organizations, we might yet leave an indelible mark on our generation. For only when the training wheels of tithing come off will the world of free will giving become our playground.
For further study, see Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Eternity, rev. ed. (Wheaton, Ill.:Tyndale House Publishers, 2003).
“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”