DETERMINING HOW MUCH MONEY TO GIVE TO A LOCAL CHURCH
Christians often are confused as to how much money they should give to support their local church. Most churches teach that Christians are obligated to give a “tithe” (10%) of their gross income, and they use verses from the Old Testament to prove their point. However, an objective study of those Old Testament passages by the impartial Bible student reveals that the Old Testament “tithe” wasn’t a free-will gift to God at all, but a tax to support the theocratic government of Israel (like income taxes that are automatically deducted from your paycheck each month to support the local and federal government). We believe the New Testament to teach that the principle of giving to the local church is based on free-will giving, NOT the O.T. tax of the “tithe.”
Like salvation, which is by God’s “grace” (Ephesians 2:8-9), the New Testament teaches that financial giving to God should also be based on “grace.” Since it is impossible for the Christian to pay God back for His “grace” in providing salvation, all financial giving to the local church should also be based on “grace” (which will be referred to from this point on as “Grace Giving”).
The New Testament gives Four Principles to help the Christian determine how much to contribute to the local church through “Grace Giving.”
The first principle of “Grace Giving” is found in I Corinthians 16:1-2 where the Apostle Paul teaches that on the “first day of each week” (Sunday) Christians are to give “as he may prosper.” The phrase “as he may prosper” means that God wants Christians to give a percentage of their earned income. But what percentage is that? The remaining three principles will help determine that percentage.
The second principle of “Grace Giving” is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7a, where the Apostle Paul taught that giving is to be planned (“purposed in his heart”). That means that the percentage amount should be decided in the privacy of one’s home, without waiting for an emotional sermon to motivate giving in a spontaneous, haphazard fashion.
The third principle of “Grace Giving” is found in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. There, the Apostle Paul taught that giving to the Lord must be sacrificial (“beyond their ability they gave of their own accord”). Christians are to give to the Lord, not what they have “left over” at the end of each month or what they can spare, but a “planned percentage” that includes some sacrifice (doing without other things) on their part.
The fourth and final principle of “Grace Giving” is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7b where the Apostle Paul indicated how Christians determine their “planned sacrificial percentage.” He said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” That is how the “planned sacrificial percentage” is determined. The Christian should start at 1% of their gross earned income and keep moving up a percentage point until they lose their cheer and then go back a percent. Any amount donated above what can be given “cheerfully” is not “Grace Giving.”
How do these four New Testament principles of “Grace Giving” relate to the Old Testament “Principle of the Tithe?”
The Old Testament “Principle of the Tithe” was based on the fact that (hundreds of years BEFORE God revealed to Moses the “Law of the Tithe” on Mount Sinai, when the Israelites were taxed over 30% a year) the “tithe” was given to God as a sign of His ownership of the WHOLE. The “tithe” of 10% of gross earned income was part of the creation of man having ten fingers and ten toes. The world’s mathematical system is rooted on the base number of 10, so as you count from 1-9 and reach 10, there isn’t a new numeric symbol but rather a “1” with a “0” after it. All numbers, no matter how large, are fixed on the base number of 10. The “Principle of the Tithe” was what motivated Abraham to give Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils in Genesis 14:20 and what motivated Jacob to give God a tenth of all he owned in Genesis 28:22.
We believe that New Testament Christians should use the “Principle of the Tithe” as the goal in their giving to a local church, but to not stop there. It is clear from the New Testament that many people gave much MORE than the “Law of the Tithe” required (Zaccheus gave 50% and the widow gave 100%).
Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth and rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Notice that Jesus said “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus did NOT say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” So, if you want more of your heart to belong to the Lord, then give more to God. The more money you give to God, the more your heart is fixed on Him.
If last year you were able to give cheerfully 7% of your gross income, try to raise it a percentage point this year and see if your joy doesn’t join you at your new commitment. Make it one of your spiritual goals to someday use the “Principle of the Tithe” as the starting point of your “Grace Giving” to God.