I recently had breakfast with a friend and during our time together the conversation drifted into the topic of tithing. While few would know it, this man is remarkably generous to the church. Listening to him talk about his experience was such an encouragement to me that I asked him to share his perspective with others. He agreed, and this is what he wrote.
“It’s more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35
My path to faithful giving has been a long one. Like most people, experiencing the passing of the basket (or plate) during a worship service was my introduction to the practice of giving. I remember, as a child, glancing into the basket and feeling a sense of awe that so much money was freely given away. As I grew older, I would occasionally throw in some loose pocket change or a bill or two just to avoid feelings of guilt. It wasn’t until I saw my mother write out a check for $400 that things began to resonate with me. Keep in mind, we were a lower middle class family and my parents were a case study in living the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. It was hard for me to understand why she would give such a large amount of money to the church when that money could have been used for better things—specifically me. As time passed however, I began to understand the importance of giving.
The act of tithing is clearly communicated to us through scripture and there are many useful resources that elaborate on this responsibility. My favorite Christian authors on the topic are the late Larry Burkett and Howard Dayton. Howard Dayton’s book, “Your Money Counts” is a wonderful resource for believers on how to handle money and possessions. Dayton points out that Jesus had a great deal to say about how we handle money and possessions. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with the handling of money. In Chapter 9 of his book, Dayton states, “we must give with the proper attitude, which is out of love.” He further notes that when a gift is actually given as though one were giving it to the Lord, it becomes an act of worship.
Ultimately, he writes, “ the giver benefits in four significant areas: First, giving increases our intimacy with Christ by directing our attention and hearts to Him. Second, it helps to develop our character and to be more unselfish like Christ. Third, we are making eternal investments into our Heavenly account. Finally, giving with the proper attitude results in a material increase flowing to the giver.
I still have thoughts about how much easier it might be for me to keep the money and invest it, or pay down our debt, or simply use it for my family’s enjoyment. But as I write out the check, enclose the envelope, write out the address, place the stamp, and walk it to the mailbox, I remember that Jesus can do much more with the money than we ever could. This is why my wife and I have decided to trust the Lord with our money.
The question then becomes, how much are we to give? The verses that I use as a beginning point for my giving are found in Malachi 3:8-10.
8“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.” “But you ask, ‘how are we robbing you?’” “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 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 there will not be room enough to store it.”
Determining how much to give is a personal decision but I have found Dayton’s guidance very helpful. He cleverly points out that “giving”, as found in the New Testament, can be termed as “Paul’s Pod of P’s.” Giving should be personal, periodic, private, and premeditated. If we use these principles to guide our giving we will be a blessing to our families, our church, and the poor (Matt 25:34-45).
I pray these guidelines will help answer questions and ultimately lead you into a deeper relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May you be blessed in your giving to the Lord and to those around you.