What do you love about your church? Is it great preaching? Dynamic worship? A children’s ministry that has helped your kids develop their own relationships with Jesus? Or maybe it’s the service projects and positive impact that the congregation has in your community. Whatever it is that you love, someone had to pay for it.
Nothing great is ever free. Because everything we enjoy in life comes as a result of the effort and hard work of another person. And that effort and hard work has value.
So it goes with church. You don’t have to buy a ticket to walk in the front door of your church, but none of the great things that happen there is really free. They all cost somebody something. So how does God intend to pay for the work of His church? Through the tithes of His people.
In today’s church environment, it should come as no surprise that many of the things we enjoy in our meetings are costly. We must pay for the buildings that we meet in, the chairs that we sit in, and the sound and lighting equipment that we use. And those are just the fixed costs; even more important are the salaries that we pay to our pastors, ministers, administrators and other employees that work full time to make the church successful.
Fortunately, God has a plan to provide the finances that it takes to do His work. It’s a tried-and-true system that dates back to the time of Moses. God requires His people to tithe, and directs us to use those tithes to support the people that labor in His service. Numbers 18:21-24 spells it out pretty clearly:
I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting… This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD.
In the Old Testament, the men of the tribe of Levi spent their time ministering to God and to His people in the Tabernacle (and later, the temple). Because they had no opportunity to farm or otherwise earn an income, God commanded that the tithes be used to support them and their families. Today, the situation is no different: Our churches employ trained, passionate and committed people in full-time ministry. Those folks help to make the work of the church happen, and they often bless and enrich our lives in the process. The tithes that we give today allow these people to do their jobs effectively tomorrow.
Plenty of Christians would love to circumvent the necessity of the tithe, and give only what they want, and only when they want. But our tithes provide the money to do God’s work. Churches need to budget too, and can only do so effectively when they can count on the regular contributions of their members.
This isn’t just a guilt trip or a plea for money; it’s not just that “pastors gotta eat.” Rather, tithing is a real, tangible contribution that we lay people make to the cause of Christ. The money we give in tithes does not just disappear into the deep coffers of some church committee after we write the checks. These gifts make the work of the church happen. Without tithers, there would be no church ministry.
For me, the tithe is an exciting thing. Every time I write a check to my local church, I’m joining my will and my heart with the heart of God and His vision for my local body. Tithing transforms the “Kingdom of God” from a philosophical idea to a real world-changing mission… and one that I have a critical part in.
We say that we’re seeking first the Kingdom over all else. Shouldn’t we put our money where out mouth is?