Whether you’re rich or poor, staring at your bank account on Sunday morning leads to important questions with encouraging answers: Should Christians tithe today? What is our responsibility in giving our money to the Lord?
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can catch up here.
Many Christians either hold their money tightly and fail to give to God from a cheerful heart, or they robotically hand over an exact amount of their income each Sunday and pat themselves on the back, thinking hitting that mark earns them an extra crown of glory. We need to learn how to avoid these traps of selfishness and legalism.
As we determined what Scripture teaches about tithing and how to defeat greed in our previous article, we’ll learn in this article how legalism threatens a healthy understanding of giving to the Lord and how we can glorify God with our giving.
Give From Your Heart
While we should be happy to use our money for the Lord’s purposes rather than our own, getting hung up on giving a precise amount of money to check off our Christian duties list leads to trouble. Giving money to the Lord’s work weekly (1 Corinthians 16:2) should not be a mindless activity that we practice out of obligation. We are called to give intentionally and thoughtfully as we purpose in our hearts, “not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Giving money to the Lord’s work weekly (1 Corinthians 16:2) should not be a mindless activity that we practice out of obligation.
The first offering recorded in Scripture illustrates a powerful giving principle. Adam and Eve’s sons Cain, a tiller of the ground, and Abel, a keeper of sheep, presented offerings to the Lord (Genesis 4:2–4). The Bible makes no mention of the amount or percentage the two offered. Instead, God evaluated each man’s offering by his heart. Since Abel brought of the “firstborn of his flock and their fat,” and since Scripture makes no indication that Cain’s offering of the ground was from his firstfruits or held any special value, God respected Abel’s offering but not Cain’s (vv. 4–5).
Jesus watched a widow give from the generosity of her heart in the Temple treasury. He didn’t comment on the rich, who put in much money (Mark 12:41), certainly far more than the poor widow did. He took note of the woman who gave two mites, which made a quadrans (v. 42), the least valuable Roman coin used in Judea. We might not be impressed if someone threw a penny in the offering plate, yet Jesus declared, “This poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21:3–4).
Give Humbly and Obediently
Just as we are not justified from sin by our works, we don’t gain God’s favor by the amount of money we offer Him. Our giving should stem from humble hearts directed toward worshiping the Lord rather than from trying to earn His favor by meeting a giving quota.
Consider the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18. The man pompously prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (vv. 11–12). The Pharisee cited his faithful tithing as his justification for deserving God’s favor. But God was not impressed. Instead, He justified the tax collector, who begged for God’s mercy, bearing no gifts or offerings besides his penitent heart (vv. 13–14).
Ultimately, God doesn’t desire our money; He desires our hearts.
Jesus’ parable alludes to the prophet Samuel’s revelation of God’s desire. When King Saul disobeyed the Lord, choosing to save livestock for sacrifices rather than destroy everything as commanded, Samuel told him, “Has the Lᴏʀᴅ as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lᴏʀᴅ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Ultimately, God doesn’t desire our money; He desires our hearts.
The beauty of Christian giving comes from the freedom we have in choosing how we give to God. Scripture is not dogmatic concerning our giving. Other religions weigh members down with tithing requirements. Mormons, for example, can only gain access to their temples through faithful tithing. By contrast, believers in Jesus have access to the Lord forever, with no financial strings attached. Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection afford us eternal life and allow believers to be in His presence at any time unconditionally.
We give generously and cheerfully not because we’re required to but because we find joy in giving back to God a portion of what He has given us.
While we should be giving regularly to support the Lord’s work, trusting Him to provide for us and amplify our gifts, we should remember Paul’s instruction: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). We give generously and cheerfully not because we’re required to but because we find joy in giving back to God a portion of what He has given us.
The greatest gift we can give God is our faithful hearts. He rejoices when we follow His example and bear the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (vv. 22–23). Living righteously out of love for and obedience to Him brings Him glory and draws us closer to Him.
So, should Christians tithe today? Not out of necessity. We should willingly give to the Lord from the gifts He’s supplied us, but we should not live chained to a legalistic regulation. We should listen to the Holy Spirit and act on His leading in terms of how much we give to our local churches and to support the Lord’s work around the world. And, even more important than giving money, we should give God our obedient, grateful, worshiping hearts, patterning our lives after Jesus Christ.