I believe in tithing. Soon after joining my first church as an adult, I received a membership packet, which included a statement about giving. It read, “As a member of this church, you agree to support this ministry through your regular tithes and offerings.”
Even though I didn’t fully understand it, the tithe concept always made sense to me. I figured a church has expenses to operate, and the tithe is how God planned to provide for them. I also saw this as an example in Scripture, and it seemed reasonable to me, so I started tithing, and I haven’t stopped.
At first, tithing was simply an act of obedience. It wasn’t until much later, after studying it further, that I understood its purpose and meaning. The most important part I learned is that although God wants us to be obedient, He’s more interested in our motivation because if our hearts are not in it, God knows, and I personally believe it breaks His heart.
Tithing is a test of your heart’s commitment. It’s not just doing the right thing. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason. It’s an expression of gratitude and love toward a selfless and faithful God.
Over the years, I’ve met many Christians who don’t tithe. There are two main reasons for this, and I’ll share my thoughts on them below. But first, let me be clear, it’s not my job to convince you to tithe. Actually, it’s no one’s job except for the Holy Spirit. So, I’m not telling you to tithe, but I am asking you to do what I did, study it, and ask God for clarity, then do what He tells you to do.
The two obstacles to tithing
1. A Belief That You Do Not Have Enough
We live in a world where needs and wants are misunderstood and misinterpreted. What we today call needs, just 100 years ago, was barely imagined. Abundance in every area of life has caused us to become so acclimated to comfort that what once was considered extravagant for even the wealthy few is now normal for almost everyone. This lack of clearly defining needs has caused us to live above and beyond what we can afford. Other things influence this, like easy access to borrowing and a culture that has embraced debt as normal. In the end, it all leads to one result, making you feel like you never have enough!
If you’re constantly feeling like what you make is not enough to live on, then tithing seems a bit, well, crazy! You ask yourself, “How could I tithe (10 percent) from my income when I don’t have enough to pay for what I “need?”
I’ve counseled many people who were spending hundreds of dollars more than they made every month. Introducing them to the principle of tithing was a challenge. I would think to myself, “they are $700 in the negative each month! If they begin tithing, they will be $1,200 in the negative each month!” When doing the math in these situations, tithing defies logic. That’s why so many people fail to do it. Their response is, “I would like to tithe, but I just can’t.”
2. A Belief That What You Possess Is Your Own
When someone spends a significant part of their life studying and learning a trade or profession, then gets a job, works hard, and begins to earn an income, it’s natural for them to feel like what they made is their own.
I remember the day one of my daughters received her first paycheck. After examining the pay stub, she was shocked and quite offended that the government had taken taxes out of her salary without asking her; this is a perfect example of an ownership mentality. When we believe what we earn is ours, we think we should be the only ones who get to decide what we do with it. When someone takes it or requires us to give some of it away, it feels like a violation. Perhaps that’s why many people don’t just disagree with tithing; they vehemently oppose it.
This ownership perspective can be understood for those ignorant about the Scripture who have not accepted the gospel. However, for those who confess Christ as Lord, they’ve been enlightened by the Scripture and believe God owns everything, tithing should be easy to embrace. So why is it that so many Christians oppose it still?
The Fruit of Repentance
In Luke 3, John the Baptist began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The crowd coming out to be baptized by John didn’t get the welcome they were hoping for. John called them a “brood of vipers,” coming out to flee from the coming wrath. He warned them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance and not rely on their heritage as Abraham’s children. John saw their lack of sincerity and called it out. How did John know they were not sincere, and what exactly was he accusing them of? We find the answer in John’s response to their questions.
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14 )
Every one of John’s instructions to them had to do with how they managed money and possessions. I find this interesting and revealing! He tells them to share from their abundance, be honest, collect no more than required, not extort money, and be content with their pay.
Today, much like in John’s day, true repentance is seen by how one lives. How one manages money and possessions is the clearest indicator of their commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It was the test in John’s day, and it’s still the best indicator of true repentance today.
Are you producing fruit in keeping with your repentance? Are you satisfied with your provision? Is there an ownership mentality still present in your life, or have you relinquished that right and taken on your role as a faithful steward?
This article originally appeared on the Christian Stewardship Network.