To tithe means to contribute a percentage of one’s income – normally ten percent – for the work of God’s church. In the book of Malachi, God encourages his subjects to challenge and verify his generous claims. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
It’s been suggested that for the Christian believer, God has a divine claim on one seventh of our time and one tenth of our possessions. The very conclusion of the Old Testament book of Leviticus describes one tenth of what the Israelites possessed – crops or livestock – as actually belonging to the Lord – and that when they gave it to him, they were simply returning what was his by divine right.
In Matthew 23, Jesus affirmed the concept of unselfish tithing, but never when done in a spirit of resentment or legalism. Instead, giving God one tenth of our financial blessings affirms our understanding that all good things come from him, and that we are his creatures, dependent upon him and not our own earning power.
The beauty of God’s system of tithing is that it is proportional, fair, and successful! Jesus pointed approvingly to a poor woman who put two small copper coins into the offering plate at church (Mark 12). On the other hand, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were wealthy leaders in the Jewish hierarchy. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, it was only right that they should contribute much more substantially to the new Christian church . . . and they did.
In I Corinthians 9, Paul enunciates the spiritual and financial model for today’s growing Christian church. God’s work is a mission, a global campaign to redeem a world for Jesus. And this takes resources! An army “travels on its stomach,” and soldiers are paid for their fulltime labors to defend their homeland. Similarly, it’s only right that those who labor for God’s cause as their major livelihood should receive a modest but comfortable living from the tithes and offerings that come into God’s storehouse. This enables them to pour all of their talents and passion into this one key endeavor, without scratching for a living on the side – sewing tents as Paul was forced to do.
Sometimes people ask: “Where should I pay my tithe?” In light of Paul’s teaching, the best solution is to find and join a Bible-believing Christian church where the redemptive mission of Jesus is uplifted and preached – and gratefully give your tithes to support those efforts.