One of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard was listening to Mike Bickle share about “Financial Power Encounters” at a Onething conference a few years back. I should really see if I can find it online, because it is worth listening to a couple of times. In the message, Mike shared stories from his own life of how he would sow money into missions only to have it returned to the dime or increased dramatically. His desire to live simply in order to give generously so struck my wife and I that we made a commitment we have been privileged to keep for 5 years or more now. We committed to “double tithing” giving away two-tenths or 20 percent of our income to the church and missions. We committed to reduce our lifestyle before we reduced our giving. It is a commitment we have joyfully kept – we love giving money away to people we love and causes we support.
Money can be a touchy subject with people. Within my own congregation, we have prided ourselves on not asking for money very often. We’ve been happy to steer clear of the money subject in order to rehabilitate the skeptics that think churches only exist to leach money from struggling families. However, I think in doing so I have deprived our people of experiencing the joy and freedom that are found in giving generously.
Tithing, giving ten percent of your gross income to God, is an ancient practice – older, in fact, than the Law itself. Tithing was first practiced by Abraham when he encountered Melchizedek. When Abraham encountered “the King of Righteousness” (which is what Melchizedek means), he was so overwhelmed with reverence that he gave a tenth of all his possessions. Melchizedek was a priest of Almighty God, without beginning and without end the book of Hebrews tells us. In any event, well before the Law was established through Moses, the principle of the tithe was in effect.
I think Abraham’s generosity, reverence and worship so impacted the heart of God that when the Law was established, God chose to officially institute the tithe as a way of honoring Abraham. Does God need our money? Certainly not. But God loved Abraham’s faith – the faith God credited to him as righteousness. I think God instituted the tithe because he wanted to call the Israelites up to a higher standard. In effect, I believe He was saying, “You are Abraham’s offspring – I want his ceiling to become your floor. Even the least of you will be as generous as he was – and the greatest of you even more!” This was where offerings came in.
Technically speaking, you can only tithe from your income, that is, give a tenth. Anything greater than 10% is an offering. As an example, in my case I tithe and give 10% of my income as an offering. I love having money designated for offering. I love being able to support my friends who work in service to the Kingdom. I love supporting our World Vision children. I love giving to the poor – for a while I used to keep $20 bills in my glove compartment so that I’d always have something to give someone on the street if they had a sign or asked for money. It is so much fun to be generous.
Have we had some lean months? Absolutely, but those are the times when the God stories really start flowing. In our nearly 7 years of marriage, my wife and I have had our insurance company call us to say we overpaid and they needed to send us a refund, same with our utility company. We’ve had money in envelopes placed in our mailbox or people give money to us at church. One time, a very generous fellow gave us $500 because we needed it to re-carpet our son’s nursery. We’ve always paid our bills and had enough to eat. In fact, with both of us working just over minimum wage jobs, we were able to pay off over $30,000 of student loan debt in 4 years – I still don’t really know how that happened, it was miraculous to say the least.
Now, am I saying that everyone needs to do what we do and give away 20% of their income? Of course not, but it is something to pray about. I would say, start with tithing. Once again, I’d like to state that the principle of tithing is pre-Law, or rather, it is part of the law of Faith – starting with Abraham and continued by all his descendants. Tithing isn’t legalistic or punitive. For a dime out of every dollar God becomes your business partner, working with you to protect, bless and prosper your finances. Does He do that anyway? I think He does, but there does seem to be something special that happens in the hearts and lives of those who tithe. Tithing is as close to an obligation as Christians have, but it is also so much more – it is the opportunity to see God work miraculously in all areas of your life, including finances.
A few points on tithing:
- Tithing is giving 10% of your gross income to the church (it’s called the “first fruits” for that reason).
- *Ben’s opinion* Along with the first fruits idea, if you are paid more than once a month I believe your full tithe should come out of your first paycheck.
- Tithing is not tipping, you don’t give more or less depending on how good the Pastor’s sermon was.
- The tithe belongs to the local congregation of which you are a part (if you are not part of a local body then you need to be. Arms don’t live long cut off from the body).
- The tithe should be considered “ground zero” for giving, it is just what people of faith do. Think of it this way, all your money is God’s anyway, but He will let you keep 90% of it if you will give just 10% to your local congregation.
A few tips on going beyond tithing (into offerings)
- God loves a cheerful giver, don’t give if it doesn’t make you happy.
- Offerings are primarily designed for fellowship with God.
- Offerings are you taking God up on an offer for adventure. You’re money may or may not be returned to you, but you are declaring that you trust in God’s ability to provide and you care more about serving Him than serving Mammon.
- Choose a percentage you are going to give and don’t back down! Even if you have to sacrifice your lifestyle and fun money for awhile, don’t make light of your commitment to God.
- Keep a journal of your financial power encounters – they are so much fun to read and the share.
Generosity is an amazing gift that keeps on giving. To own things and not be owned by them is a blessing. To give money and see the Kingdom advance on the Earth is outstanding. But to have a personal history with God full of amazing answers to prayer is the best gift of all.