If Not Tithing, Then What?
What would you say to someone who asked, “What guide should I use when I consider how much I should return to the Lord of my financial resources in my local congregation?” Believe it or not, most Christians are interested in your answer.
Let me be very clear about this: I know that all of our financial resources are evidences of God’s grace to us, not earned or deserved. Luther got it right in his explanation to the first article of the Apostles Creed when he reminds us that everything God gives to us He does so “purely out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy without any merit or goodness in me.” Moreover I know that we Christians are set free to be good stewards of everything He has so freely given to us. We are not bound by the law any longer.
But what principle do the Scriptures provide? I am struck by the fact that on the two occasions Jesus spoke about “tithing” (returning 10%) he affirmed it (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). I am also intrigued by the fact that the first two “tithers” in the Old Testament were Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20) and Jacob (Genesis 28:20-22). What fascinates me about these two stories is that they occur several hundred years before the law regarding tithes and offerings where given through Moses.
A careful study of the Old Testament regarding tithes and offerings reveals that for the devout follower of God, a minimum of 23 1/3% would have been given each year. This includes the Lord’s tithe, the festival tithe, and a tithe over three years for the poor. Since our forefathers lived under a theocracy and we in a democracy it is dangerous for us to simply “lay the law down” regarding what we return to the Lord as followers of Jesus.
Shortly before I “repositioned” from the pastoral ministry a man came to me and said, “Pastor, I want to thank you for teaching me the principle of the tithe. I never felt good about what I was giving. Now I can start with this principle as a guide and give additionally as the Lord prospers me.” My question is, “If not tithing, then what would you suggest?”
Born in Walburg, Texas, the second youngest of nine children, John received a B.S. in Education from Concordia Teachers’ College, River Forest, Ill. Throughout his ministry, John has served on a variety of synodical boards and committees, both national and district (Texas). He has authored numerous stewardship Bible studies and programs.