Q: “I have a question about giving. The church I go to expects everybody to tithe, but I cannot find the Apostle Paul actually teaching on it. I also wonder about giving everything to the church when there are also missionaries and ministries that distribute the Word, evangelize, and feed the poor. How can you be sure you are being a good steward with what God gives you?”
A: The Apostle Paul did not teach on tithing because he taught on the real attitude behind Christian giving in 2 Corinthians 9. Tithing was a Jewish practice that was done when the temple was still standing. It involved tithing animals and the first fruits of the land. The church used the concept of tithing to give some type of marker for Christians in relationship to giving to the church, but the Apostle established different markers.
Paul reminded the Corinthians of a very important principle: “He which sows sparingly shall reap sparingly and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). We cannot out give the Lord, but our main responsibility is to be good stewards with what He entrusts to us.
The next marker may answer your question, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). We need to give according to what is on our heart to give, whether it is to our church, missionaries, or ministries. Whether you are giving to the church, missionaries, or some other ministry, it must be for God’s work. God needs to show you where the need is and how much to give, and you need to cheerfully respond in faith.
I realize that there is an emphasis from churches that you are to give to the church you attend because it is feeding you spiritually, but our allegiance should be foremost to God and His kingdom. We need to seek the Lord as to what we give, who we give to, and how much.
The Apostle Paul is clear that when you give, do not give grudgingly or because you feel pressured to give, but you need to give because you love to give to the work of God. There are some who give out of show, others out of duty, and some because of a merit system they have set up in their mind. This merit system is based on the idea of giving in order to receive in like manner.
The problem with such a merit system is that what these people give is considered a sacrifice by them, but what they receive is perceived as a reasonable service and it is never really valued or rightly regarded.
Christians are to give liberally because what they possess is a matter of God’s grace. Granted, they may have worked for it, but if God did not bless their work, they would find their “bags full of holes” and that nothing was truly being blessed and multiplied by God (Haggai 1:6).
The Lord gives to His people so they likewise will give on His behalf to others. We limit God by how we look at His grace and blessings. As a result, we are not a grateful people. Ingratitude looks at the glass half-empty and rarely sees the glass as being half-full because of His grace. They fail to see what they have and grumble about what they think they deserve. James 1:17 summarizes it best, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Avail yourself to be an open-ended vessel where God can entrust you with His blessings. As He pours into you, you will have the insight as to where to direct His blessings to ensure His work in the harvest field and His universal church.