Ever gone to church and the plate was passed to receive the “tithe”? Ever been a member of a church and had the elders, or pastor, or other designated person pay you a visit, or ask that you give a “tithe” (a tenth of your earnings) to the church? I know of people who have left a church because they were asked, one might even say badgered, to “give of their firstfruits”. Ever listened to a televangelist who promised that if you gave a tenth of your income to their ministry God would reward you in kind?
Did you know that “tithing” isn’t required? Do you know it’s origins? The Levitical law required that farmers and ranchers contribute a tenth of their harvest and livestock to the priests to support them as well as be distributed to the needy. But only farmers and ranchers; not everyone. If you were a carpenter you were not obligated. And in terms of the New Testament; it is not even mentioned except when Yeshua criticized the Pharisees for tithing to the leaf of their herb gardens, and yet neglecting the important matters of justice, mercy and faith.
We are, however, asked to give to others. There is a big difference between tithing and giving. Tithing was measured, required; giving is voluntary and the amount left up to you. There is a Biblical principal that the more generous one is, the more one will reap in return for their generosity. The “reaping and sowing” principal. This whole “tithing” thing is one more example of some misusing the Bible for their own purposes. The Pharisees misused the practice in Yeshua’s (Jesus) day, and many still misuse it today, whether intentional or not.
Story time!! I had gone to a concert at a church several years back to hear a singer/musician I liked. The church taught the “prosperity” message that was evident from the parking lot to the sanctuary. The pastor gave a mini teaching on giving-to get before the concert began. I clearly remember his point that once we got the giving “pipeline” going, God could take a “coffee break” (seriously, those were his words!) and the monetary blessings would flood our lives. Kind of like the divine slot machine in the heavenlies!! If I hadn’t been so offended I might have thought it was funny; I didn’t. Sadly, teachings like his are commonplace in many churches today.
What we decide to give and how much is a matter of the heart, and God is most interested in the condition of our hearts. If we “give to get” as is often the case with the teachings of some televangelists and churches, our motivations become suspect. But if we give with purity of heart, to genuinely help another in need, we are doing God’s work.
Giving isn’t always about money. We can give of our time, be a listening ear to someone who is hurting, help others in whatever way is needed, pay for someone else’s coffee in the Starbucks line, the list is truly endless. The point is we reach outside of ourselves and touch another’s life.
God uses people to bless other people. When we give to others in need we are sensitive to God’s voice and leading, and in the process we find ourselves drawing closer to God. It’s a win-win really.
Paying it forward has become a buzz phrase, but the principal is Biblical. It has been said we can’t out give God…..give it a try!