Are we supposed to give 10% of our income for a tithe?
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I Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
We may not reap the rewards of our labor in this life. We may go to the grave as poor as church mice, but don’t let that discourage you. God hasn’t promised that, “Just because we’re believers we’re going to drive cadillacs, and live in mansions.” No way, but God has promised that He is keeping a record of our earthly activities. Then one day we’re going to cash in on the rewards in glory, and remember that Paul is always teaching that. We are to run the race for rewards. Now go to Chapter 16 to wind up I Corinthians. Here Paul is going to deal with something totally different from resurrection. Here he is going to come down to the nitty-gritty of, “How we’re to give.” Many people are hung up on the legal system of tithing. I’ve got nothing against giving. But you are not under the tithe. Now I know this is going to ruffle a few feathers, but remember the tithe was part of the Law. Tithing was given only to the tribe of Levi. I dare say if we could ask some of our Jewish friends whether they teach tithing today, I’d be very surprised if they would say yes. Because they, too, do not know who the Levites are so I just have to doubt that good Jewish people still tithe. Always remember that Paul never says tithe, because that was part of the Law, but that doesn’t say that God doesn’t expect you to give. Let’s look how Paul puts it.
I Corinthians 16:1a
“Now concerning the collection (of money) for the saints,…”
Paul was always instructed to remember the poor saints at Jerusalem. Why? They had cashed in land and everything they had and brought the money to the feet of the Twelve disciples. It all went into a common kitty back there in Acts Chapters 2 and 3 in light of the Kingdom. But the Kingdom didn’t come because the Jews had rejected it. So what happened to these poor Jewish saints? They had to live off the kitty and I imagine it was a pretty good existence for a while. But God took care of them through Paul’s Gentile converts, and the money was taken back to Jerusalem for them. Now continuing on:
I Corinthians 16:1,2
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, (Jewish saints at Jerusalem) as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye (at Corinth). Upon the first day of the week (not on the seventh day Sabbath. Why first day of the week? Resurrection day!) let every on of you lay by him in store, (as a tithe? No, but rather) as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Now that’s one of the beauties of the Christian life, that’s the beauty of God’s Grace. He has left us with that free will. We can give as much as we want to, but God is not putting the thumb on our head, and saying, “You will give 10%! Now that’s a guideline, and I’ll always say that. God more or less lets it be known that 10% is a guideline for giving. But God’s not going to zap you if you don’t give 10%. Now you may lose some reward in glory, but you are under no mandate under Paul’s teaching to give a set amount. That’s up to you as a believer as God has prospered you. And God has enough respect for your free will as a believer that you’re going to give as much as you can.
Paul told these believers at Corinth to take this offering before he came so that they wouldn’t be under his influence. He wanted that all taken care of before he arrived. Paul doesn’t want them to dig down in their other pocket and say, “Paul is here, and he’d better see how much I’ve given.” But Paul wanted that all taken care of before he got there.
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“Who, (speaking of Christ Jesus in verse 5) being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (because He was God, the God of creation, the God who owns everything in the universe) 7. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…”
Now too often we read that word servant and we kind of glide over it without realizing what is the better term for servant? Slave. How much material goods did a slave have? None. He may be here today and gone tomorrow. The rowers in the ships of those days were down there in the stench-ridden hot areas of the ship. They rowed until they died and then they were just pitched overboard. How much of this worlds good did those fellows have? None. Well this is where the Lord Jesus took Himself. He took Himself to the depths of being a slave with absolutely nothing of this world’s goods to call His own. Unbelievable? It is from the human side. I can’t comprehend it, but it’s what the Word declares. The Almighty God Himself in the Person of Christ became a slave in so many words. Now reading on:
“…was made in the likeness of men:”
Now imagine from the exalted area of the Godhead to come down to this earth, and become nothing more than a human being like the rest of us, how far can you go? And yet that’s what He did.
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, (He didn’t have to) and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Now why is Paul using that in relation to Christian giving? Well we have to take that same kind of attitude. If God, in the Person of Christ, was willing to leave that area of absolute control of the universe and took on the role of a slave for our salvation, then who are we to say, “Yeah, but I can’t give anything.” Now back to II Corinthians Chapter 8:
II Corinthians 8:10,11
“And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward, (zealous) a year ago. 11. Now therefore perform (or complete) the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.”
What’s Paul driving at? Well for the last year he has been encouraging these churches in Greece to get their offerings ready for the day when someone would come along and pick them up and transport them to Jerusalem. Now as I was studying this, I couldn’t help but remember something that Gary, the station manager, had told me a long time ago. For those who are in this business of television that statistically – and I know that there are lies, and then there are statistics, but nevertheless statistics do have a certain amount of relevance here. But statistically, out of 300 people who may be listening to me over the next several weeks, most will say, “Now I’m going to send that man an offering.” How many will actually get around to doing it? One. Isn’t that amazing? But you see that’s human nature, and Paul was dealing with the same thing. For a whole year they had been talking about getting these collections ready for the poor saints in Jerusalem. But they still hadn’t done it. So Paul says, “Let’s get busy and complete it.”Paul wanted it all done before he got there so they wouldn’t give because of his presence. And I understand exactly how he felt because you never like to make someone feel obligated to give just because you happen to be there personally on the scene. So this is exactly what he’s talking about. Now verse 12. Remember this is all in regard to Christian giving, and notice there’s not a word in here of him naming ten percent. He never says a tithe. All he’s talking about is the general concept of giving.
II Corinthians 8:12
“For if there be first a willing mind, (remember everything we say or do has to begin with the thought process.) it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”
Now does God expect someone who is on a very meager income, maybe nothing more than just a little social security check, to give all that to ministry or some church? No way. More than once I’ve had to write to someone and tell them, “Now listen, if you’re on a meager income I don’t expect a dime.” Now that’s between them and God, and if they feel that God is still instructing them to give some then that’s fine. But I never want someone on a meager income to feel obligated to support this ministry. Other ministries may not care, but I don’t want it on this one. But here God is making it so clear that giving is based on that ability to give. And now in verse 13.
II Corinthians 8:13
“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:”
In other words, Paul says, “He is not going to make anybody, whether they are wealthy or poor, to feel obligated to give because of his presence. Do you see that? Now he comes all the way down through verse 16 – 24 speaking of the men who would be coming along to pick up these offerings. And again he’s showing the need for integrity in handling the affairs of God. Paul is telling the Corinthians that the men who are probably headed up by Titus, are men of integrity, they don’t have to worry about turning over their offerings to them because they will get every penny of it to Jerusalem where it’s supposed to go. Now I want to come quickly over to Chapter 9 and begin with verse 1.
II Corinthians 9:1,2a
“For as touching the ministering to the saints, (the poor saints in Jerusalem who had been left destitute because of their offerings into the common kitty back there beginning with Acts Chapter 2) it is superfluous (or it goes beyond saying) for me to write to you: 2. For I know the forwardness (the zealousness) of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia,…”
In other words what was Paul actually doing on behalf of the Corinthian believers? He was boasting to other congregations on what a good job they were doing in making these collections. Now verse 3.
II Corinthians 9:3
“Yet have I sent the brethren, (these that will be picking up the offering) lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf, that, as I said, ye may be ready:”
Now I think Paul is using a little psychology isn’t he? He is building them up as he says, “Now look Corinthians, Titus, and the gentlemen that are already making collections up here in the poorest part of mountainous Greece, when they come into a culture and commercial center like Corinth, then it stands to reason there’s going to be more wealth available than there would be up there in the mountains.” So I think Paul is sort of setting them up and preparing them that these men are going to be expecting something of you, because you have so much more to offer than these poor churches up in northern Greece. Now reading on:
II Corinthians 9:5
“Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, (their offerings) where of ye had noticed before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.”
Do you see this constant drumming of the fact, “Now have this done when these fellows get there, don’t put it off, don’t procrastinate, have these offerings collected and ready so that they can pick it up and take it on to where it has to go there in Jerusalem. Now verse 6. Here we come to the whole concept of Christian giving.
II Corinthians 9:6
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
Now you want to remember that the vast majority of people in this day and time were agriculturally connected. So Paul is talking about sowing a crop of grain. And any farmer knows that if you sow half a crop of the required seed, you’re not even going to get half a crop. Now you don’t sow more grain than is necessary, but you put on the stipulated amount to get a full crop of grain. However, it’s brought into the Christian experience on the same level. If you’re going to be tight with your giving, if you’re going to hold back when you have the ability to give, then God will kind of hold back on His blessing.
And that’s exactly what Paul is teaching here. Now I’m not a name it and claim it type. I do not claim that if you give a $1000. dollars a year, then God’s going to pour you out $3000. No way does this Bible teach that. But I think that we all realize that our God is so great that if we do it with the right attitude, we do it by faith, we can’t out-give God. One of my favorite clichés is “There is a line between faith and fantasy.” By faith I can do certain things and realize that God is going to respond, but I can’t be foolish. Fantasy would say, “Well I’m just going to give that ministry $500. because I just feel that God’s going to turn back and give me $50,000.” Now that’s what a lot of people think, but it’s not going to work that way. That’s fantasy.
But we know that God is able, and here I must qualify. A lot of time we think that our giving should immediately have something returned in kind. But it’s doesn’t necessarily have to work that way. Have you ever stopped to think of all of the potential expenses that God can spare you because you were liberal in your giving? In other words, that old car may go another 50,000 miles where otherwise it may break down. You may end up as fortunate as Iris and I have over the years with practically no money spent for medical expenses. Do you know what I call that? That’s the pay back. So you have to look at this whole thing on the big picture, not just in, “If I give a $100, will I get $500 back?” That’s not the way to look at it, but rather look at the whole concept of how God is going to respond. Now verse 7. Here is the very foundation for our giving.
II Corinthians 9:7
“Every man (person) according as he purposeth in his heart, (and the Holy Spirit will motivate the heart) so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:…” (legalism)
I can remember years ago a gentlemen up in Iowa was so upset that his particular pastor had came out to his farm, and looked at the size of his home, and furnishings, his car and pickup, and he turned around and said, “Well it looks to me like you should be able to give $600 a month.” Well, how do you think the guy felt? He was totally turned off. He said, “Nobody is going to tell me how much I’m supposed to give.” And I agreed with him. No one has a right to do that. That’s strictly between the individual Christian and his Lord. Now reading the verse again.
II Corinthians 9:7
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: (legalism, or because somebody has laid it on you) for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
Now if you have a marginal Bible the word cheerful in the Greek meant “Hilarious.” How many people go to church on Sunday morning, and lay that offering on the plate with a hilarious attitude? Not many. They do it out of a sense of duty, they do it because they think somebody is laying a burden on their shoulder that they have to give. No you don’t. If you don’t want to give, and if you can’t give hilariously, God in so many words says, “I DON’T NEED IT, AND I DON’T WANT IT.”
But for a believer to give as God has prospered and do it joyfully, and give it to a place where the Word is honored, where the Gospel is proclaimed for salvation. (I Corinthians 15:1-4 or Romans 10:9-10) then God will give you the direction, and God will show you how much to give and where to give it. I wanted to take you back to the Book of Malachi, Exodus, and Leviticus, and the giving stipulations were all given to the Nation of Israel. All I ask people to do is go back and read Malachi 1:1
“The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel ( not the Church in the Age of Grace) by Malachi.”
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Now remember believing what God says is the whole basis of studying and understanding the Word of God. Now granted we have to be careful. We’re not going to bring into operation things that God told Israel to do back in the Old Testament. In fact we had a call from a person who said, “Doesn’t the Book of Malachi say to bring your tithe and offerings into the store house?” And I said “Yes, but doesn’t the same Old Testament say bring me your sacrifices?” The caller said “Yeah.” Well then what are you going to do? Just because the Bible says to bring an animal sacrifice, are you going to go out and buy a lamb? Well of course not, we’re not under that today, we know better than that. And yet it carries all the way through on everything. Just because the Old Testament told Israel to do something, that doesn’t mean that’s still valid for us today, and so we have to shake these things out. You can’t just pick and choose what you want, like a lot of people are doing. Remember what was for Israel is completely different from what Paul tells us in the Church Age. Now continuing on with verse 7.