Ten percent doesn’t seem like much; offer me a 10% discount as enticement to eat at your restaurant or shop at your store, and I’ll probably just shrug. But when it comes to parting with our hard-earned money, many Christians see 10 percent as an insurmountable obstacle.
God’s Master Plan for your money begins with providing for your family. And though we all have ways in which we can improve as workers, planners and budget-makers, the priority of providing comes fairly naturally to us. It’s instinctual and innate; even animals in the wild know to provide for themselves and their young.
The second step in God’s plan, though, can be much more difficult than the first. In our human nature, we would love to think that we can provide for our families, and then use the rest of our money to have fun. But it is not so. God earmarks some of your money as belonging to Him, and He has specific ideas about what you should do with it.
Enter the tithe. This is a sort of “Christian-ese” word that you don’t hear outside of church circles very often, but it basically refers to 10 percent of our income that is set apart for God. We first encounter this idea in the Law of Moses, when God commands the Israelites to give a tenth of their increase to Him. Leviticus 27:30 makes it fairly clear:
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.
I don’t know that God could have said it more plainly — He considers the tithe as His own. We must remember that God owns everything, and that by His sovereignty He gives us everything that we have. So if He says that part of our income belongs to Him, who are we to argue with Him? It’s almost as if He believes that He’s in control, and that He gets to set the rules.
Unfortunately, many churchgoers today struggle with the idea of tithing. Some receive blessing and ministry from the church, but give nothing in return; other give sparingly or infrequently. It’s a sad fact that many modern churches struggle today because their members fail to tithe.
How important is tithing? God speaks about it with important words in the text. It says that the tithe “belongs to the LORD,” and that it is “holy unto the LORD.” Another way to say this would be that the tithe is consecrated — though money may seem earthly and mundane to us, God sets a portion of our income aside as having a special, spiritual significance.
Think about the other things that are consecrated. God says that our very lives are consecrated, set aside for Him, bought with the blood of His son. We consecrate other parts of our lives, setting aside daily devotional time to spend with God in the Bible and in prayer, as well as weekly time that we set aside to spend with His people, the Church. Many of us make professional, family and social decisions based on our lifetime dedication to the cause of Christ.
So why should our money be any different? It shouldn’t be. If our lives are set apart to Christ, that includes our money. If we hold our finances back from God’s claim on them, then we’re rebelling against what He wants in our lives. That’s not just a bad habit or a philosophical difference — it’s a heart problem.
There are lots of great reasons for Christians to tithe: It supports the work of the local church, and allows God to pour blessings into our lives. We’ll deal with those ideas in greater detail in coming articles.
For the time being, though, ask yourself this question: God gave His son for us when we didn’t deserve it. Who are we to withhold from Him something that isn’t even ours to begin with?