Have you ever heard it said, “if you do not give 10% of your income, you are robbing God”?
Every Sunday and time a church assembles for worship, we are reminded of the importance of tithe and how we will be cursed and judged as thieves stealing from God if we refuse to obey.
Sometimes a courageous soul will ask why we need to tithe. The explanation given is often we should tithe because Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and this happened before the law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai. So, according to most pastors, we should tithe but not obey the law of Moses because tithing came first. When questioned if we should also obey the Shabbat, considering it is a part of the ten commandments, the same pastors would say no because we are under grace and not law.
By now, I hope you see that this does not add up.
First of all, if we are to tithe because tithing was given as a commandment before the law, we should keep the Shabbat because Shabbat was given to us in creation many generations before Abraham. Second, we can not say for sure if Abraham tithed to Melchizedek or if Melchizedek tithed to Abraham. Third of all, nowhere in the Bible does it say we are to give 10% of our income to a local church.
If we allow the Bible to speak for itself, the Bible says we are to give 10% of our crops and harvest, and we are only to do so in Jerusalem to the priests in the temple. If we are too far from Jerusalem to make the journey, we should sell the 10% of our crops to convert them into money and use the money on our heart’s desires. This is actually in the Bible, but you never hear any pastors preach on this because if they did, they could no longer persuade their congregation into giving 10% of their income to them.
Does this mean we should never give money to a ministry or a local congregation?
Paul says in Corinthians those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel. He then draws a parallel between preachers of the Gospel and the priests in the temple, and he says, just as the people provided for the priests in the temple, so should preachers of the Gospel be provided for by the people they minister to. He then further says this is a commandment from God; you must provide for a preacher of the Gospel if they minister the Gospel to you.
So the short answer is yes, we are commanded by God through Paul to provide for and support a ministry or a local church with our finances. The question is, how much should we give and when should we give?
To understand the answer to this question, we have first to know something important about Paul. Paul was a Jew; he never stopped being a Jew. So to understand Paul’s answer, we have to understand a bit of the law of Moses itself.
We all know the law says it is a sin to lie, but we also know it says it is a sin to murder or to cause physical harm to another human being. When we read this as Christians, we tend to think in very black and white terms: we can never tell a lie and never cause physical harm to another human being. But if this is true, you would have a problem if someone broke into your house threatening to rape and murder your wife, who is hiding upstairs. When the thief asks if you are alone in the house, you have two options: You can tell a lie and protect your wife, or you can tell the truth and cause your wife to suffer and perhaps even be murdered. Another example: Anne Frank was murdered in the concentration camps during World War 2. Before she was sent to the camps, the people who helped her and her family lied to the government to protect Anne and her family.
When you have to choose between protecting a fellow human being’s life and telling a lie, the Bible says it is a greater sin to choose to tell the truth if it causes another human being to lose their life or to suffer.
Paul says those who can not provide for their own house are worse than an unbeliever in the letter to Timothy. Paul is saying here: When God gives you the money you need to feed and clothe yourself and your family, it is your responsibility to make sure you use that money to feed and clothe your family. If you use that money on something other than the needs of yourself and your family, you are worse than an unbeliever. If you give away all your money to a ministry, or a local congregation, so you can not provide for yourself and your family, you are worse than an unbeliever.
Paul is saying here: if you have to choose between giving a gift to a ministry/local congregation or providing for yourself and your family, your needs and the needs of your family come first. So how much should you give and when? You and God are the only ones who know how much you can give and when you should give because you and God are the only ones who know when you have something extra to give. But if you have extra to offer and choose not to share, you will be sinning against God, and then you will be robbing God of His money.
So now we know you can not tithe 10% of your income today, but if you have extra to give, you should give something in return to a minister/ministry who has helped you and ministered the Gospel to you.