When my wife and I most recently moved, we had to go through the process of applying for a new mortgage. I had to turn over every last detail about my financial situation. They wanted to know deposits, where the money came from, where my money was going. I had to turn over details of all of my bank accounts. They learned a lot about me—and so did I.
Looking at someone’s finances tells you a great deal about their values. Jesus Christ said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Tithing is a Christian way of giving to God what is His. It is to be used for the support of the most important work on the face of the earth.
What does God know about your heart, about your values and what you hold dear? How dear is your money to you?
Let’s consider a biblical practice that tells us something about the most important relationship that we have in life. We’re going to look at tithing—and what it tells us about how we view our relationship with God.
Why should Christians tithe?
I learned about tithing when I was a young man. I’ve tithed virtually all my adult life. At times, particularly when teaching tithing principles to others, I’ve had to ask myself all over again: Why do I tithe?
Why is it that I go through this regimen, this process, this part of my relationship with God regarding tithing? Every time I come back to the question, the answer comes down to several reasons that I’d like to share with you. It has to do with much more than just money.
Let’s first define what we mean by tithing. The word tithe comes from an old English word that means 10 percent or a tenth. A tithe is 10 percent of one’s income, and when the Bible talks about tithing, it refers to setting one tenth of your increase aside for God.
Let me share the question I’ve had to ask myself again: Why do I tithe? Why do I set aside 10 percent of my income to give to God?
I tithe because that is what the Bible shows we are to do. We first see it in the example of a man named Abraham, a man called the father of the faithful and “the friend of God” (Romans 4:11; Romans 4:16; James 2:23). I believe that his example sets the tone for a fundamental approach that Christians should have toward this aspect of God’s law and God’s work in our lives in bringing us into a relationship with Him.
An ancient example of faith
The story of tithing begins near the beginning of Scripture, in the book of Genesis. At one point in his life, we read of Abraham saddling up his troops and going off to rescue and bring home his nephew Lot, who had been taken prisoner by regional warlords. In addition to rescuing Lot, Abraham also won much treasure as the spoils of battle. At this point in the story another figure enters the scene:
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). This mysterious individual then pronounced a blessing on Abraham. And Abraham then did this: “He gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:20).
This is a very compacted version of an interesting story, but these facts point to several lessons for us to learn in regard to tithing as it is introduced into the flow of the Bible through the example of Abraham giving a tithe to Melchizedek. Right here we begin to see the character of Abraham—a man later called the father of the faithful.
This is really the story of Abraham’s character and obedience. In Melchizedek, Abraham saw the God whom he had left all to follow. When you understand the whole story, this priest-king was a manifestation of Jesus Christ before His human conception and birth. Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness.” And He’s presented here as the King of Salem (or King of Peace) and as the priest of the Most High God (see Hebrews 7:1-3).
Tithing supports the work of God on earth
Abraham gave a tithe—10 percent of his gain—as an act of worship. It can be hard for a modern mind to think about giving 10 percent of income as an act of worship, but that’s exactly what it is.
In this act of worship, God learns something about us. When we order our financial affairs and our heart around the treasure of our lives and get God in the right perspective and priority, God truly learns where our heart is.
Another purpose God has for tithing is to support the work He is doing here on earth. God has a practical side. He has not left the most important work on earth, the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God, without a means to be financed.
This is also something I learned very early in life. My mother taught me about tithing, and she taught me to put aside a small portion, 10 percent out of the allowance that I would get. And when I began getting a small check for the jobs and chores that I would do, I put a tithe of that money aside as well. I learned where that tithe was to go, in terms of supporting the work of God. It’s a very practical lesson with great spiritual consequences.
Tithing represents a Christian way of giving to God what is rightfully already His. It is to be used for the support of the most important work on the face of the earth.
Tithing has always been part of God’s plan for people. We see it within the various laws given in the Bible. Leviticus 27:30 says: “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.”
God says that the first 10 percent of increase is holy to Him. When you think of what you earn in those terms, it begins to redefine how you look at physical things.
Tithing helps us remember to put God first
In Numbers 18:21 we learn that God apportioned the tithe to the Levites because they had the responsibility of doing the work of God within the temple. Today, God’s command to tithe is really a means by which Jesus Christ does His work through the spiritual body of the Church. The Church has a divine commission to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20).
I’ve learned that it is folly to abandon this true way of God and to try to substitute another way. Tithing helps us to develop good habits of stewardship and selflessness. Tithing helps us understand God’s blessings in our lives and become better stewards of what He’s given us by developing patience and wisdom in how we use our money. Tithing helps us prioritize properly by the fact that we automatically put God first. Tithing is an essential part of developing a godly ethic towards money and our physical blessings. I’ve come to understand that this ethic of faithfulness and good stewardship is really the most important lesson of God’s law of tithing.
As we watch what is taking place in our world today, with one crisis after another, the value of faithfulness and stewardship should be obvious. In the United States we see an economic crisis that began in 2008 partly due to a lack of these two virtues in society. A lack of these is also responsible for similar problems in other parts of the world.
We live in a world of various economies within various nations under various forms of governance. The truth is that none of them are founded upon the most basic spiritual principles of economic theory that we find in God’s Word. Tithing is the chief of those principles. And failing to tithe is actually to “rob God,” which brings a curse (Malachi 3:8-9).
When the foundation of tithing is not in place, so many other matters are layered on top of it that create problems. The result is economic ups and downs and the cycles that we see in our national economies and our personal finances. God’s financial system—built on His law of tithing—produces a balance and an evenness in life that gives us a firm footing And when we understand that tithing teaches us to put God first, we won’t get caught up in a way of life built on greed and materialism.
When we develop a relationship with God that has as one of its fundamental principles the law of tithing, we’re then prepared to look toward God as the Creator, the giver of all. It’s the same way that Abraham viewed God.
Tithing is really a means of walking in the steps of our faithful spiritual father Abraham. We’re told in the Scriptures that, through Jesus Christ, we are the spiritual children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). His heart was fully with God, and he showed it by giving a tenth of his treasure. The question for us is: Is our heart in the same place as Abraham’s?
Experience a deeper relationship with God through tithing
Tithing is one key to a very deep faith and reverence toward God. That’s what we are seeing when we look at the story of Abraham who tithed to Melchizedek and set the example as the father of the faithful.
There’s a larger lesson to draw from all of this. I’ve sat and talked with people many times over the years and taught them these principles out of the Scriptures and helped them gain a measure of basic financial stability based upon God’s Word.
I’m not a financial analyst. I’m not an expert in budgeting or finance in that way. But I do know a little bit about what God reveals as a fundamental principle within His Word, the Bible.
I know what works because it has worked in my life, and I see that it works within the lives of individuals who step out and put God to the test in this matter as He says to do, resulting in great blessing (Malachi 3:10-12).
Tithing is not a means of getting something from God. Tithing is not a bargain that we make with God. It’s not an insurance policy. We have analysts, stockbrokers and financial planners to advise us on what we do with our money in that particular way.
Tithing is something that defines a deep, personal relationship with God—and it works. When we get our priorities right, we are on the way toward greater financial stability in life, particularly as we apply other fundamental principles and laws that define stability.
Then we’re on our way toward a better life—and, most importantly, we’re on our way toward a deeply personal life of worship toward God. Tithing represents submitting to God’s total claim on our lives.
I tithe because it is both a law and a blessing. It is a barometer, a guide, that points toward the fact that I need to put God first in all I do. I tithe because it finances God’s work on earth today. I tithe because Abraham, the father of the faithful, tithed, and I want to follow in his footsteps.
Why should you tithe? Ask yourself that question, and begin to follow the important principles of tithing in your life.