The Bible makes the purpose of tithing very clear – to put God first in our lives. We are to give God the first and best of what we earn. For example, what we do first with our money shows what we value most. Giving the first part of our paycheck to God immediately focuses our attention on Him. It also reminds us that all we have belongs to Him. A habit of regular tithing can keep God at the top of our priority list and give us a proper perspective on everything else we have.
2 Corinthians 8:2-5
The churches in Macedonia had given money, for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem, even though they were poor, and they had given more than Paul expected. This was sacrificial giving – they were poor themselves but they wanted to help. The point of giving is not so much the amount we give, but why and how we give. God does not want gifts given grudgingly. Instead, he wants us to give as these churches did – out of dedication to Christ, love for fellow believers, the joy of helping those in need, as well as the fact that it was simply the good and right thing to do. How well does your giving measure up to the standards set by the Macedonian churches?
2 Corinthians 8:7-8
The Corinthian believers excelled in everything – they had faith, good preaching (speech), much knowledge, much earnestness, and much love. Paul wanted them to also be leaders in giving. Giving is a natural response of love. Paul did not order the Corinthians to give, but he encouraged them to prove that their love was sincere. When you love someone, you want to give him or her your time and attention and to provide for his or her needs. If you refuse to help, your love is not as genuine as you say.
2 Corinthians 8:10-15
Four principles of giving emerge here: (1) your willingness to give cheerfully is more important than the amount you give; (2) you should strive to fulfill your financial commitments; (3) if you give to others in need, they will, in turn, help you when you are in need; (4) you should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it. How you give reflects your devotion to Christ.
Tithing is probably the most overlooked spiritual discipline. It is comparatively easy to incorporate meditation, prayer, or volunteering into your life. But tithing? The thought of giving away even $50.00 a month makes many people cringe. Imagine, then, giving 10% of your income back to God through your covenant community.
Some would call that positively undoable. Others protest that they’re already living paycheck-to-paycheck. But are our budgets really as tight as we think they are? Or have we just expanded our comfort zones to the very limits of our incomes (and perhaps beyond?).
The tithe is an ancient spiritual discipline, and it serves three primary purposes, according to the Rev. Kevin Phillips, Rector of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Mountain View, California.
First, it contributes to our spiritual formation. “Every time we make this financial contribution, we remember God creates us, blesses us, and cares for us,” Phillips says. “Returning 10% of God’s abundance reminds us of the Divine covenant promise expressed in a variety of ways throughout the Bible, but expressed most intimately in the words of Jesus when he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
Second, the tithe provides the financial resources necessary to support the covenant community. The covenant community compensates the priests and the staff of a church, maintains buildings, provides worship materials and resources for Christian education, and meets other daily expenditures.
Finally, the tithe enables the covenant community to provide for the needy.
In 1982, the General Convention adopted a resolution stating that “the tithe is the minimum standard of giving for Episcopalians.” It was left to individuals to determine for themselves whether the tithe was to be computed before or after tax, and whether it was to go only to the local congregation or whether it could also include other charitable giving.
While there’s generally little confusion as to the purpose or need for the tithe, most churches report very low levels of compliance with this discipline. We all have our own reasons for why we give, or why we don’t, but perhaps we should look again at our motives.
Setting aside the tithe, or even a smaller percentage to begin with, is an eternal and transcendental acknowledgment that the world is bigger than we are. It is demonstrating to the universe that we walk by faith, and that we humbly accept the blessings we have been given and the small sacrifices we must make to honor God with a portion of what He has given us.
Instead of a painful parting with what we treasure most, the tithe should be a bold proclamation that we have already been given more than we could ask or imagine. It also can be a shout for joy that our eternity will be spent in unimaginable splendor.
Reprinted by permission (C) 2002 FaithLinks, The Living Church Foundation