Here’s a question that I’ve often been asked over the decades. Do I have to tithe?
I got that question back in the days when I was pastoring, and I’ve gotten it many times since that day. It always reflects a basic misunderstanding. Maybe more than one misunderstanding just by virtue of how the question has been framed.
When People Don’t Want to Tithe
“Do I have to tithe” sounds like it’s something I don’t want to do because it’s a negative thing. It implies, number one, “I don’t want to support whatever it is that I’m being told I should support. Whether it be supporting my local church through my tithe or supporting missionaries, I don’t want to do it.”
That reflects a problem, because if you’re truly a believer in and a follower of Jesus, you would want to see his kingdom furthered. Right? Right.
If there was a way that you could help it be furthered, if there was a way that you could contribute to the gospel going to more people so that more people could hear the good news of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really believe in Jesus you want other people to also have the same blessings that you have.
There’s a fundamental problem when somebody who professes to be a Christian expresses that they really don’t want to support the gospel that saved them. We have to question whether the gospel did save them. Okay, so there’s a problem.
When Tithing Is Seen As Wasteful
Then on another level, it reflects a misunderstanding because the question is posed from a very negative standpoint: not something that I get to do that’s going to benefit me, but something that I have to do that hurts me.
We know that Jesus surely gave us some wisdom in that regard, didn’t He? He said, “Don’t lay up your treasure on this earth where thieves break in and steal and moth and rust consume, but lay up your treasure in heaven where there are no thieves, there are no laws, there is no rust consuming it, because then you can never lose it” (see Matthew 6:19-20). It’s an eternal investment. It’s a wise investment as contrasted with the foolishness of laying up treasures on this earth.
When we say, “Do I have to tithe?”, that’s like saying, “Do I have to lay up treasure in heaven for myself and have eternal blessing waiting for me throughout forever and ever rather than consuming it here on this earth or piling it up here while I will leave it behind and it will benefit me in no way?” I hope you’re seeing that when someone asks the question, “Do I have to tithe?”, it reflects a misunderstanding on at least those two levels.
How Much Should You Tithe?
All right, now, do you have to tithe? Let’s just talk about the fact of the ten percent, because that’s what tithe means: ten percent. Probably most Christians, if they’ve been around very long, realize that tithing was something that was stipulated under the law of Moses.
The tithes primarily went to support the Levitical priesthood, but there is some scriptural evidence that tithing went beyond that to take care of widows and orphans and the poor and so forth, and perhaps that was even a secondary tithe. Scholars debate this.
I never personally felt it was necessary for me to get into the intricacies of tithing under the Old Covenant, because Jesus simplified it so much. He never really talked so much about the importance of tithing, but He emphasized in His Sermon on the Mount, “Don’t lay up treasures on the earth, lay them up in heaven.”
It’s Not About Percentages
If you have the ability to lay up more than just ten percent of what God brings your way in heaven, well then you’d want to do that, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t want to get bogged down and only give ten percent if you had the ability and the discipline and the blessing to lay up more than ten percent.
To put it simply, true followers of Christ who understand the wisdom of what Jesus was trying to say in those scriptures about not laying up treasures on this earth, but laying them up in heaven, get it. They want to keep their pile on earth as little as they can, and they want to get that pile up in heaven as big as they possibly can.
I never got worked up around the percentages and so forth. Really, primarily, I think we can all agree on this, that the ten percent, it was kind of like a tax on the people of Israel to take care of the Levites who were in the service of the tabernacle, and ultimately the temple.
God just stipulated that’s what it’s going to take to run this particular program, ten percent. God also stipulated quite a lot of other things within the law of Moses, things like taking care of the poor, taking care of widows and orphans and so forth. He’d go way beyond the tax of the tithe of the Old Testament.
What About the Story of Melchizedek?
Of course, somebody will point to the fact that tithing predates the law of Moses. And yes it does. We read early on in the Bible in Genesis of Abraham tithing to a mysterious guy by the name of Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God. Yeah, it seems like a nice number to be thinking about when you’re thinking about, “What should I be doing to support the ministry of God and the human representatives and servants who are called into ministry?” That’s what Abraham was thinking when he tithed to Melchizedek, that’s what tithing was for under the law of Moses.
We ought to be thinking, “Okay. Let me support the ministers of the gospel through my tithe.”
May I say as we wind this down, and I think I’ll have more to say about this in our next little lesson, the ministers of the gospel under the New Covenant are not just pastors. God has given Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. If you want to use your tithe to support those who are in ministry and service of the gospel, better be thinking beyond pastors, even if pastors tell you differently. I think that’s what I’ll talk about tomorrow: pastors and tithing.
Okay, thanks so much or joining me. God bless you.