What Is Tithing?

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Tithing is one of the most controversial topics both within and outside the Christian Church. Most of this controversy has to do with a misconception of what tithing really is. Before you can appreciate what tithing is, you must understand what it is not.

1. Tithing is NOT payment for services rendered. When you take your car to the garage to have some work done, you expect to pay for all the parts that were necessary and for the time it took for the mechanic to do the work. You are going to pay for the work that was done for you, not the work done for someone else.

Some people view tithing like that: paying for services rendered. They “tithe” according to their perceived value of the personal services or benefits they receive from the Church. But that is not what tithing is at all.

2. Tithing is NOT an admission fee for attending church. If you go to the movie theater, you expect to pay an admission fee before you are allowed in. But when that mindset is applied to tithing, it becomes self-serving instead of God-honoring.

If you profess to be a Christ-follower, then everything you have belongs to God. It’s not your money; it’s His money. So you must use it in God-honoring ways. That is true even on weeks when you are sick or out of town. Even though you may not attend the worship service at your church on a particular week, the tithe still belongs to Him. You should honor Him with it at your earliest opportunity.

And remember, even though you may give that money to God through the church, it remains God’s money. As such, the church is responsible use it appropriately to carry on His work. You do not tithe to the church as an admission fee; you tithe to God as worship.

3. Tithing is NOT a membership due. You are entitled to no special privileges at your church just because you tithe. You do not buy an extra vote at church meetings or get to sit in the comfy chairs just because you tithe. There are no “membership perks” that you acquire.

4. Tithing is NOT a get-rich-quick investment strategy. You may have been told that if you give to God then he’s going to make you prosper financially. Give him $100; He’ll give you $1000. Give Him $1000; He’ll give you $10,000. This is called a Prosperity Theology, and it’s wrong. God does not make that promise to you, you cannot make Him obligated to you, and there are plenty of examples in the Bible and throughout history of God-honoring people who were poor and stayed poor.

In the Old Testament book of Malachi, God does promise to pour out a blessing on tithers. But this does not necessarily mean a financial blessing. It is not a guarantee that He will make you rich.

5. Tithing is NOT a Church-devised system to pay the bills. Giving your tithe to God through the church is not something churches invented in order to get your money. It is a practice rooted in the Bible—in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was instituted by God, not by the Church.

So with those misconceptions out of the way, let’s turn to what tithing really is.

A. Tithing is a step of obedience. God has asked each one of us to give to Him first. We don’t wait to see what’s leftover at the end of the week; we give to Him first. That’s what He’s asked us to do. The question is, will we do it? “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.” (1 Corinthians 16:2, NLT).

B. Tithing is an act of worship. Consider the Wise Men who traveled from an eastern land to find the newborn Jesus. What did they tell Herod they had come to do? To worship Him. And when they found Jesus, how did they worship? They gave Him gifts. Giving gifts is an act of worship. You’re not really worshipping Him until you’re worshipping Him completely, with everything you’ve got.

C. Tithing is an expression of trust. This is perhaps the primary reason many people find it difficult to tithe. They have a trust issue. Trust is about letting someone else be in control, and it can be difficult to trust anyone else—including God—in an area as personal and powerful as our finances.

Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT). When you tithe, you are placing your trust in the truth of those words.

D. Tithing is a catalyst for spiritual growth. This is what is in it for you. As soon as you learn to trust God and break the hold that your money has on you, you are set free to grow in the grace of God. You can reach new depths in your relationship with Him.

How you handle your money has a direct correlation to your spiritual growth. When you refuse to honor God with your finances, you are limiting your growth potential. But when you choose to put God first in every area of your life including your finances, you can begin to grow exponentially. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).

E. Tithing is an opportunity to participate in God’s ministry. It is a privilege to partner with God through tithing. God invites us to invest in His Kingdom-building work. He gives us a role to play in transforming lives.

The Christ-followers in Macedonia understood this privilege. The apostle Paul wrote about how the Macedonians were facing a time of financial hardship. But even so, they expressed tremendous generosity toward the work of God. “For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4, NLT).

Tithing is a God-designed way for His people to participate in His work. But the greatest beneficiaries are the tithers themselves. If you do not currently give a tithe to God in worship, consider starting today.

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