(10) Bring all the tithe into the treasury, and let there be food in my house. Yes, test me in this matter, says YHWH of Armies, and see if I will not open up heaven’s windows for you, and pour out a blessing on you until you have no more room to receive it. — Malachi 3:10
Whenever a pastor or teacher starts to talk about tithing, there’s sure to be a reaction somewhere in the congregation. It may be on someone’s face. It might be a sigh. It might even be audible. â€œOh no!â€ folks are thinking, â€œWe’re talking about money again.â€
There is much controversy about exactly what tithing means. What is the true percentage that the Israelites actually were to give to the temple every year? 10%? 30%? Were the different â€œtithesâ€ added together, or did they refer to different purposes for the money in different years? In modern times, the question arises if you can tithe your before tax income, your gross pay, or your take-home pay. Then there are a substantial number of people who believe that the law of tithing went out with the Old Testament, and is no longer a standard for Christians.
And indeed I would say that tithing is no longer the standard for Christians. All the arguments about percentages and what portion of your income you figure the percentage on are missing the point of what God asks of Christians today.
God’s request now is for 100%. That all of your time, all of your money, all of your heart, all of your actions, every bit of everything that you are or that you own.
Stewardship isn’t just about money. Now some people want to say this so they can avoid money. But it is definitely about money; that’s just not all that it’s about. But if you react in the way I mentioned above when your pastor starts talking about money needs in the church, then I think you need to examine yourself carefully. There are, it seems to me, two key possibilities. The first is that your money isn’t part of that â€œallâ€ that you’ve surrendered to Jesus. If that is the case, then a sermon on money is probably the most convicting sermon on Christian discipleship you can hear, and the reason you react negatively is that you don’t enjoy that conviction.
The second, however, is that you haven’t gotten comfortable with God about your giving. Consider the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). I have heard this repeatedly taught as a kind of heavy-handed, make sure you give it all message. But the issue, as is made clear in the story, is not how much money was given, but that they told the apostles and the Holy Spirit one thing, but they did another. The issue was hypocrisy. Now I’m not just talking about hypocrisy. I’m talking about being comfortable when you’re doing what God has told you to.
If you spend the proper time with God about the dedication of your money, you should be able to use the money sermon as a path check. â€œYes,â€ you say to yourself, â€œThis is a good message on stewardship, but I already know I’m giving what I’m supposed to, because I talked to God this morning and I listened for the response.â€
You see, some of the rest of that stewardship is going to involve using your resources to go on vacation, for recreation, for time with your children and grandchildren, and even for building the kingdom through creative couch-sitting. (Creative couch-sitting occurs any time when it’s time for body soul and spirit to get some sit-down time!) True stewardship, and being comfortable with that stewardship, involves being in conversation with God about each and every portion of your life.
Are you listening to God about every decision?