I’m sorry to report that we had NO questions this week (maybe we were too busy celebrating CLC’s 25th Anniversary). So I went into the archives and retrieved a question from almost exactly four years ago, in March of 2011:
One of our newest attenders writes, “I am considering membership, but the requirement to tithe is a stumbling block for me. It feels like bondage to be required to follow an Old Testament order, and just this one out of many. I thought that we are free from the law, as New Testament Christians. I thought the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Giving under compulsion is rarely cheerful.
I do feel that members of a church should support that church through regular giving, but that the amount given is between the individual believer and God. Certainly, if you love God, no one has to require you to give, you will do it out of love.
Other than this, I feel at home at CLC and have already established some wonderful relationships. But if I do not agree with this aspect of CLC’s practices, do I belong here? I am conflicted. Please help.”
Great question! And I’m so glad to know that you have felt at home at CLC and have already begun building relationships here with our wonderful family of CLCers.
This type of question is probably best answered in person, but since there are probably lots of others with similar questions, I’ll try to at least begin answering your concerns, in order:
1. It would definitely be ‘bondage’ if we required anyone to follow an Old Testament order, for we are indeed free from the Law, and living under Grace. However, tithing is NOT just a part of the Law; it actually began 400 years before the Law in Genesis 14, and it was born out of a heart of gratitude for God’s blessings. It was practiced by others who loved God as well (Gen. 28), long before it was incorporated in the laws that God gave thru Moses. And of course, Jesus Himself said that tithing is something we “ought” to do in Matthew 23:23. (Personally, if I didn’t have any other verse in the Bible to encourage tithing, the fact that Jesus said I ought to tithe would cause me to tithe!)
2. The book of Hebrews describes tithing as an ongoing practice, many years after the Law had ended and the Church came into existence. All of the history of the early church also indicates that tithing was their practice.
3. Another often overlooked fact is that while we are ‘free’ from the Old Testament Law, the teachings of Grace actually require a ‘deeper’ obedience than just outward compliance. If you read Matthew 5:17-48 carefully, you’ll see what I mean. The Law only said, “don’t murder”, but Grace says, “if you have hatred in your heart, you’ve already murdered”, etc., etc. So for us to think that Old Testament believers gave 10% of their income to the Lord faithfully, but that we would do less than that in the New Testament just doesn’t make sense. After all, “to whom much is given, much shall be required”, Jesus said, so it would seem that tithing is just the starting point for a New Testament believer who has received so much because of the Grace of God!
4. Taking that Law analogy a step further, if a Christian murdered someone today, would we say, “well, that’s ok, since murder was under the Law”? Just because something was included in the Law doesn’t in and of itself make it invalid for today. In fact, if you notice Malachi 3 (which is the primary passage that many use regarding the tithe) – just the placement itself would make it seem quite strange that tithing would be done away with – since Malachi was written at the END of the Old Testament, just before the New Testament age of grace would begin (after 400 years of ‘silence’, when there was no word from God). Yet Malachi 3 opens with prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, and chapter 4 closes with prophecy concerning the last days – and right between those two prophecies is a detailed passage about tithing. That doesn’t make sense if it would soon be ending – why would God take the time to include it in that last book of the Old Testament if it would be done away with shortly?
Now, regarding the rest of your comments, I couldn’t agree more – God does love a cheerful giver, and personally, I’m thankful to give my tithes to the Lord each week, and I believe millions of believers around the world agree with me. (I love Genesis 47:23-25, where the Egyptians faced starvation during the famine, so Joseph required them to give 20% of their income to Pharaoh, and the people thanked him! I guess it really does depend on one’s perspective, how they feel about giving God 10%, considering all He’s done for us)
I also agree that the amount we give in offerings (which Scripture would indicate is anything given freely after the tithe) is strictly between the believer and God – and we would never make it a requirement that anyone give offerings to missions or to a building program, or for any other reason at CLC.
I hope this helps explain our position regarding the Lord’s tithe.
As to whether you belong at CLC, only God can answer that question, since HE is the one who ‘plants’ believers in the church where they can flourish and grow (Psalm 92:13). I know that we want you here, and we want you to be able to use your gifts to minister here. As a pastor, I feel certain we have members and regular attenders who do not tithe, probably because they’re afraid they won’t be able to cover their own expenses if they put the Lord first with their finances, which is why we often issue a “90-day tithe challenge” in which we encourage people to “try it” (we got that idea from Malachi 3:10, where God says, “let me prove it to you”). We say, try tithing 10% of your income faithfully for 90 days, and at the end of that time, if you honestly don’t see that God has blessed you as a result, just notify our office, and we’ll cheerfully refund 100% of the monies you gave during that time.
I hope you’ll believe me when I say, “it’s really not about the money”. I’ve lived long enough to see that tithing really is a trust issue. And if any believer will trust the Lord with their finances, they soon see that God’s plan works, and His blessing is worth far more than the 10% they give. I would encourage you to try that as well, with a money-back guarantee, so you really can’t lose.
Hope that helps. Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?