In Part 1 of this series we looked at some examples in the Bible of where people gave 10% of their money and under which Covenant they were living at the time. In this article we will be taking a look at the vast difference between giving to God under the Old and the New Covenants.
What we should really be doing is to not even call it “tithing” in the first place, because “tithing”refers to the giving of an exact amount of money (10% percent of your income), turning it into a stipulation or law again. We can therefore clearly see the difference between Tithing vs Giving. If believers wish to give money to the work of the Lord, they are encouraged to do so cheerfully:
2 Cor 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (NKJV)
If giving 10% of their income does not make someone cheerful, then they shouldn’t give at all! If giving 5% or 40% or even 1% of their income is what makes them cheerful, then that is what they should give. In the end, whatever a person chooses to give, it’s all about their motive. If somebody isn’t giving anything at all and they do so cheerfully, then that is their choice: they shouldn’t give just because the feel they need to give, read 2 Corinthians 9:7 again. So let’s not call it “tithing”but instead “giving”.
Giving in the New Covenant
So in the light of the New Covenant, where then does “giving”fit in? The answer is two-fold:
The first part of this answer relates to our positional standing with God; our identity in Him: Giving fits in exactly where holy living, obedience and loving other people fit in – it is something that happens simply because of who we are. Our inner nature, our born again spirit is now holy and set apart unto God and good works is something that just flows out from us as naturally as breathing. There is no effort or striving, but simply rest and a motive of returning love to the One who loved us first. His love for us is so complete that nothing we do can ever make Him love or accept us more. And if He cannot love us anymore than He already does, then giving money to the church to earn His love really becomes meaningless and perverted, just like all other works of self righteousness.
Secondly this answer relates to the natural realm, to our physical lives and the expansion of God’s kingdom here in the earth. God made the earth in the way that almost everything functions by means of money. Therefore in order to mobilize missionaries, build churches, resource evangelists, etc. the church needs financial resources to function. Paul preached that people, who put their lives into spreading the gospel, should be able to live off the gospel:
1 Cor 9:3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (NKJV)
And because this is true then it means that those who draw benefit from the message (the hearers) have a responsibility to care for the needs of the ones who are bringing the message. But even so, the most important thing is that it should be out of a motive of love and a cheerful heart. Believers are not supposed to be manipulated into giving for whatsoever reason. The amount we give should be “as we purpose in our hearts”as we have read in 2 Corinthains 9:7 (above). There are churches where people are “motivated”to give so much to the church that they take out second mortgages on their homes, whilst the pastor spends luxury holidays on his yacht. Come on!!! We didn’t give up our right to think logically when we became Christians; clearly there is something wrong with this picture!
Where should we give? The answer is most definitely at the place where we are fed (spiritually) in order to financially support those who feed us with the words of life. When we sow into a ministry that produces life and bears fruit, we become partakers and partners of that life because we have sown into it and the Word teaches that every seed brings forth fruit after its own kind (Gen 1:11). Offerings can also be given to people or ministries that we believe are making a difference in the world in reaching the unsaved and getting the gospel to the nations. And lastly alms are given to the poor and needy to the extent we are able to. The Bible further teaches us to give to apostolic fathers (like the churches that sent offerings to the apostle Paul to support him, see Phil 4:14-17) and to live a lifestyle of generosity and sharing (Acts 4:32-36 and also 1 Tim 6:17-18).
On the other hand when we are sowing into a ministry that is promoting Law-motivated living (that teaches God will not bless us if we don’t tithe, or where we are constantly made to feel guilty about our lifestyle or about this and that sin or for not giving enough), we are sowing into a ministry that produces death.
1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law. (NKJV)
We needn’t worry however that we will reap death or curse from such a ministry because Christ became a curse for us:
Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree”). (NKJV)
However, we will not reap life from this ministry either since they are not producing any life. It is always best to sow into the place where we are spiritually fed and where life is imparted to us; the place where we can see that people are being saved and healed.
We can trust that God is always good and that He will always bless and love us, regardless if we give our entire salary away or if we don’t give a cent. Will God not love and bless us the same and even more than He does the lilies in the field and the birds in the air that don’t even give Him anything?