Ten Percent For The God Who Gave it All

One day a church secretary misspelled a word. She was typing out a financial appeal for a needy cause when in her haste she misspelled the world ‘give.’ So when the Sunday bulletin came out the appeal read:

‘Anyone who wishes to live should drop off their donation at the church office.’

It wasn’t such a bad error. Giving and living are really quite interchangeable, for it’s unlikely we are really living if we have not discovered the joy of giving. And conversely, if we are happily giving, then we are really living, the way Jesus speaks of it.

One of the things that amazes me in the New Testament is the extent to which Jesus spoke about money.

16 of the 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions.

1 in 10 verses in the Gospels deals directly with the subject of money.

Overall the Bible has 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 on faith, yet more than 2000 verses are on money and possessions.

It was as if Jesus knew that money held dangers for both the rich and the poor.

Therefore Jesus says in effect, ‘Be careful. Money is good, useful, serviceable, fun to make and challenging to retain, but be careful. Prayerfully give.’

Somewhere it was once said that money may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven and as a universal provider for everything except happiness.

Scripture teaches us how to handle money, especially in Deuteronomy 14 where we read about the forgotten concept of modern church life; the concept of tithing. Tithing is a Biblical teaching which can help with the renewal of individuals and churches.

1. The Word Concerning the Tithe

Tithing often seems unreasonable to us, but imagine what it means to the Israelites in the 14th year before Christ, in an agriculturally primitive age where there were no sprays, few fertilizers and no tractors. There were frequent droughts and enemies often invaded the region.

The future was so uncertain and yet there, in the midst of this unpredictable life, came the Word of the Lord commanding to set aside 10%. One tenth of all the produce of that often hostile, extreme climate was to be brought to the place where God was worshipped.

It seems unreasonable. The future was so unpredictable and yet a tithe was what God sought. One tenth off the top, the first fruits of the harvest, not what was left, but the first fruits.

This pattern represents God’s invitation to us. The first fruit of our wage packet, our pension cheque and our superannuation payment is God’s. Not what is left over after all our necessities and luxuries have been paid for.

Once we have made our gift to God, then the rest of our budgetary matters are to be attended to. It seems so much easier to budget the other way. Car payment, insurance, mortgage payments first and our pledge out of the remainder.

But God’s way is the reverse. The tenth to him is first, and our lifestyle is to be based upon the money we have left. It may mean that I take my wife out to Sizzler Restaurant less frequently, it may mean that we spend less on photography, it may mean something altogether different for you but whatever we do, we feel so much more in harmony with God’s order when we tithe.

And when we tithe, exciting things happen in our Christian lives and we never lack what is needed.

2. The Benefit of the Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:23 says the tithe comes back to bless the giver.

The giver comes to benefit from her/his own offering. It comes back to bless her and her family and friends. If everyone in this congregation tithed, what would be possible?

At the very least greater visibility, increased membership, attendance, dependence on prayer, building on the children and youth ministries, and reaching out into our community. We would see more people won for Christ, be able to generously support missionaries and Bible translators in crucial overseas locations. We could establish programs to help people cope with life and to share more fully with the wider church.

All this would be possible if we tithed.

You might say, ‘I’m afraid if I give on a percentage basis I would not be able to pay the bills.’ But I would say, ‘Do you think the Lord of Love would expect you to do something which he would not help you with?’

A church member was having trouble with the concept of tithing. One day he revealed his doubts to his minister, ‘Pastor, I just don’t see how I can give 10% of my income to the church when I can’t even keep on top of our bills.’

The pastor replied, ‘John, if I promise to make up the difference in your bills if you should fall short, do you think you could try tithing for just one month?’

After a moment’s pause John responded, ‘Sure, if you promise to make up for any shortage I guess I could try tithing for one month.’

‘Now, what do you think of that,’ mused the pastor, ‘You say you’d be willing to put your trust in a mere man like myself, who possesses so little materially but you couldn’t trust your Heavenly Father who owns the whole universe.’

Tithing is a joyful act of faith that God honours.

3. The Purpose of Tithing

Deuteronomy 14:23b says, ‘Do this so that you may learn to have reverence for the Lord your God always.’

While not being the best known book of the Bible, Deuteronomy deserves to be. It is mainly a book about the good life, the good life that God is unfolding for Israel as it enters Canaan’s best portion.

After 40 years in the desert, Canaan looked mighty attractive. And it was. Yet the Lord realized that once the people settled there, and saw the fine produce of the land in good years and experienced the growth of families that it would be easy to forget God and that whatever good is found in life is a gift from God.

The same applies to each of us.

Do you have a good mathematical mind, or a creative, literary mind, or a beautiful voice, or good sporting co-ordination, or a body strong enough to recover from surgery; these things are gifts to you from God.

Do you have a church you enjoy, a youth group you wouldn’t miss or groups in the church that bless you; these are gifts from God to you.

Or again, do you have a nice home, a reliable car, a pleasant unit and people who care and watch out for you; these are gifts from God.

God has a generous nature. He did not choose to give 10% of Himself to us, but as 2 Corinthians 8:9 shows, ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, rich as He was, He made Himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of His poverty.’

His birth and death on the Cross represent all that He has done for you and I. Therefore let us revere Him in all our life and especially with our money.

By George Robert Iles