All too often, we Christians want to complicate Christianity. We come up with rules we think must govern what it means to be a Christian. We make up rituals and rites and all manner of complication that have nothing to do with the Christian life.
A woman asked a question in a comment on my recent post about tithing that is a perfect example of how we complicate life for other Christians. I’m not sure whether someone had told her she had to tithe in a certain way or she just questioned herself because of comments or teachings in general she’d heard on the subject. In either case, I’d like to simplify things for her and anyone else having this quandary.
If you have not read the earlier posts on this subject, find the “Categories” list in the right-hand column of this page and click on “Christianity 101.” This will pull up all the previous posts so you can read through them in order.
This lady wrote: David I like your post on tithing as money excites me. What if you’re not a regular tither, but you give regularly to the work of God? You sow big seeds into the ministry and give to the poor. Will God according to Malachi resist the devourer on your behalf? Or does that verse refer only to regular tithers?
Apparently, someone has been telling this woman her giving did not qualify as a tithe because ________. Fill in that blank with whatever they’ve been telling her disqualified her tithes. My guess is that she’s been told she has to give ten per cent of her income to her local church, separate and apart from anything she gives to ministries or to the poor. How we Christians straight-jacket one another and put one another on guilt trips!
Malachi talks a lot about tithes God considers insufficient and a stench in His nostrils. In Malachi’s time, tithes were generally animal sacrifices, and the animals were to be clean and whole and the best one had to offer. A lot of people were sacrificing sick or blemished animals, and that is what God was reproving.
In Malachi 3:10 & 11, God says:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
“Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.
In contemporary times, tithes are generally made in money rather than animals, so the condition of an animal presented doesn’t enter into the discussion. But where is this money to go? Verse 10 says to bring it into God’s storehouse. What does that mean?
The storehouse under the Old Covenant was a building attached to the outside of the temple. It was where all tithes (sacrifices) were to be brought.
Okay, so what’s the New Covenant equivalent of the storehouse? Under the New Covenant, there is no building designated as a temple. The temple of the Holy Spirit is the body of any born-again Christian.
At this point, I must clarify that I’m about to state my opinion. I cannot point to a specific chapter and verse and say, “It says right here . . .” But I think a fair exegesis of the word as a whole would support my opinion on this.
If the temple is the body of a Christian, then I believe anything we give to any born-again Christian or to any ministry run by born-again Christians for the sake of God’s work and His kingdom would be considered a tithe.
Note that I said for the sake of His work of His kingdom. My daughter is a born-again Christian, but giving her a gift just because I love her does not qualify as a tithe.
James said in verse 17 of the second chapter of his epistle that faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. He’s talking there about feeding the poor. I believe anything given in the spirit of what James is talking about is given for the sake of God’s work and His kingdom and would be considered a tithe.
There are many hundreds—maybe thousands—of ministries whose purposes are to minister God’s love and His kingdom to people. In my opinion, anything given to any such ministry qualifies as a tithe, but I also believe if there’s a brother or sister in your church who needs help, anything you give unto him or her is given unto God and His kingdom and qualifies as a tithe. To satisfy the IRS, you have to give it to the church and let the church help the person, but God doesn’t work for the IRS. I believe a direct gift from you to such a person qualifies as a tithe.
What do you think about where a gift must be given in order to qualify as a tithe?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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I concur with you regarding tithing. So much additional good can be accomplished in this world by not limiting one’s tithes to only his/her church.