Tithes and Offerings - Part One

Bible Book: Matthew  23 : 23
Subject: Tithes; Offerings; Giving to God; Money; Possessions; Stewardship

Tithes and Offerings - Part 1

Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Part one of two sermons on Stewardship:

Is tithing really a New Testament teaching? What is tithing? Who is expected to tithe? Why should I tithe? These are some of the questions we are going to answer in today’s message entitled, Tithes and Offerings.

Jesus addressed the subject of tithing with the teachers of the Law and Pharisees. The Pharisees were strict adherents to every minute detail of the Law. Since the law stated clearly that the people should tithe, the Pharisees did so, even on the leaves from the herb gardens they grew in their yards. If a mint plant produced ten leaves, they would sell one and bring the money to the Temple. Should they have done that? The answer is, “Yes.” Even Jesus said that they were not to leave that act of tithing undone!

There was, however, a problem with the tithing of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The problem was that their motive was wrong. They often did things to be seen of men, or simply to protect their way of life. They had forgotten the real reason for the tithe. Jesus actually told them that they should be tithing, He only pointed out that the motive behind the tithe had to be correct. Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:23 leaves no doubt that Christ upheld tithing in the New Testament; however, Jesus was very adamant about the fact that tithing must arise from a true devotion to God!

Today I want to address the subject of tithing in a way that will help us understand the Principle and Purpose of the tithe. Before we look at these two dimensions of tithing, we need to be sure we know what a tithe is.

A tithe is the first tenth of all income. The teachers of the Law and Pharisees were always looking for ways to appear more spiritual than everyone else. They would find small areas where most people had not really thought about the tithe being applied and they would condemn everyone for not living up to that standard. Apparently most people in Bible days grew small herb gardens near their homes in order to put a little sparkle in the taste of their food. These people would not have thought about tithing on the tiny leaves of mint that had been grown in an herb garden. The Pharisees chose this oversight to show how unspiritual these people were because they failed to tithe on these items. Jesus agreed that tithing on a mint garden was correct, but that the spiritual effect was negated if a person was unspiritual, hateful, selfish, or filled with pride like the Pharisees.

Friend, a tithe is the First ten percent of all income that you receive given with an attitude of gladness to the Lord in the local church with a spirit of humility before people and a spirit of devotion to God. Eliminate one item from that description and the tithe is corrupted. For example, if you give less than ten percent of your income, it is not a tithe. Some people ask if they should figure their tithe before or after taxes? Well, that concerns whether you put the Eternal Revenue Department first in your heart, or the Internal Revenue Department first in your heart! If you give it grudging or reluctantly, it is corrupted. If you give it somewhere other than your local storehouse (or local church where you worship), it is not a tithe. If you give it to be seen of men, out of pride of simple as a matter of habit without real devotion to God, it is less than a tithe in the eyes of the Lord.

So now that we know what a tithe is, let us look at two elements this morning regarding God’s tithe: The Principle of Tithing and The Purpose of Tithing.

I. The Principle of the Tithe

Some people ask if tithing is actually a New Testament requirement. The mere asking of this question reveals an ignorance regarding the nature of tithing.

First, we need to remember that tithing preceded the Law. Look at Genesis 14:20, “And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” Abraham, who lived before the Law was given to Moses, paid tithes to Melchizedek. In Hebrew 7:14 (and the verses following 14) we read, “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!” revealing that Melchizedek was a type of Christ. The tithe actually began before it became Law.

To fully understand the tithe we must go back to the creation in Genesis. Look at Genesis 2:15-17, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.      And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."“

God gave man every tree to enjoy. But God required man to refrain from eating of one tree in the garden. Just think of all the fruit Adam and Eve had to enjoy from the trees in the garden. Every kind of fruit, perhaps even some that does not exist today, was at their disposal. But, one tree was to be kept sacred. One tree belonged to God.

When the devil came to tempt Eve, he tempted her to disregard the restriction of God and told her to eat of the tree. Eve could have responded, “I have plenty of fruit to eat. I can enjoy the fruit of the trees until I can’t eat another bite. Why should I disobey the Lord and eat from the tree that the Lord has claimed for Himself?” But that is not what she did. She ate from the one tree that was prohibited.

Now come up to modern times. When a person is saved, he or she belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. God tells you that the first 10th of all you earn is actually HIS! Now don’t miss this point - the first 10th in not yours, it is HIS. If you keep it, you are stealing from Him. That is why we read in Malachi, “Will a man rob God, yet you have robbed me.” Then the people asked, “Wherein have you robbed you?” And God responded, “In tithes and offerings.” You can never actually refer to your tithe. You don’t bring YOUR tithe, it is HIS tithe! It belongs to Him!

Now think about. Just like Eve and Adam, God blesses us with many trees, or with earnings in one form or another. He then tells us that we must not TOUCH, that is keep or eat from, the one portion He has claimed for His own. What is it God has claimed? The first 10th of all we earn belongs to Him. That is the principle of tithing.

Now what does this teach us about the principle of tithing? Three things.

A. Ownership

The first truth is the fact of God’s ownership. “The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof.” God owns everything. Since He is the owner, He has a right to use what He owns in His own way. He has chosen to give you 9/10ths of all you earn. He has chosen that the first 10th belongs to Him. To refuse to give Him what is rightfully His, is to deny that He is the owner of all that He has created. In essence, it is to try to usurp from Him His rightful place and God and Master!

B. Stewardship

Secondly, we learn that we are mere stewards. God has placed certain possessions in our hands and we are to be proper stewards of ALL he gives us. The tithe is not His only concern, but it is true that the first financial demand that God makes is that we be good stewards by bringing HIS tithe into the storehouse. He expects this of ALL of us.

Malachi 3:10-14 reads, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

This passage clearly states that we are to bring WHOLE tithe into the storehouse, meaning all the tithe into the local place where you worship. God expects us to be good stewards and act properly toward Him with the tithe.

C. Lordship

Regarding the Principle of the Tithe I would have you notice thirdly, the Lordship involved in tithing. Tithing acknowledges that He is Lord. Remember, when Satan tempted Eve, He tempted her to replace God with self. He told her she would be a god if she would but eat of the tree. Quintessentially, he was pointing out that one attempts to topple God from His throne when one takes or keeps that which actually belongs to God. Dear Christian friend, think about this carefully. To keep God’s tithe from Him, is not merely a matter of breaking the law, it is a matter that goes to the core of who God is and what sin is. God is Lord and sin is an attempt to be your own god!

II. The Purpose of the Tithe

If God owns everything, why does He need a tithe from me? Again, such a question reveals a core ignorance in the inquirer. God does own everything, but He is allowing you to have part of it. A 10th of all He allows you to have is His, just as the other 9/10ths are His also. After we tithe, we don’t have a right to do whatever we want with the remaining money. We still should be responsible stewards of that which God entrusts to us. The truth is, God has chosen to work through the tithe to accomplish some very interesting results. Let’s face it, God made things in a certain way for a purpose. In the process, He made many things for us to enjoy. For example, He made you with a capacity to eat, and with a necessity to eat, in order to stay alive. But aren’t you glad He gave you taste buds so you could enjoy the capacity and the necessity with the added ecstasy of food? Well, be sure that God did the same thing with regard to money and possessions. He made you with the capacity to earn money, the necessity to have money and He knows how to give you the ecstasy of enjoying money. But in order to do enjoy it, you must follow the directions.

Now, what is the purpose of the tithe? Actually, there is three-fold purpose for the tithe.

A. The Upward Purpose

The tithe blesses the Lord! You see, it is God’s nature to love and to give. Now, you may think that God is asking a lot of you to give HIS tithe into the storehouse of the church, but I want you think about something with me. God is not asking something of you that He has not done Himself! You might ask in what way God has given a tithe? God did far more than give a tithe. When you were lost in your sin, God gave His Son. But God did not just give one of ten sons, He gave His Only Begotten Son. God gave ALL He had to save your everlasting soul! That is why you hear Jesus proclaiming the excellence of the poor widow who gave her last two mites (pennies) into God’s treasury. He pointed out that she have ALL she had. That is why you hear Jesus defended and praising the woman who poured out a full years wages in perfume upon just prior to His going to the cross to die for us. He said of her, “She hath done what she could.” In other words, she gave the best she had. Hear me well, ladies and gentlemen, God has paved the way for us. He gave the best He had. He did not give the leftovers of heaven in an attempt to save us. No! He poured out the blood of His Only Begotten Son! You tithe pleases God. It shows that you have His nature in you. It brings joy to the heart of God.

Admittedly, tithing without a right attitude is not appropriate. In fact, it is sinful. Jesus said that the teachers of the Law and Pharisees were hypocrites in their tithing. Why? They lacked love, justice, mercy and the weightier matters of the Law. God would call on every believer today, to renew you attitude and continue or start the action of tithing. To do otherwise is to dishonor God and displease Him.

B. The Outward Purpose

In Malachi we read where God made promises to tithers. He promised to bless the land (that is the group or people who are tithing - this would apply specifically to a church). He promised to rebuke the pests that eat up the crops. The devil has many pests that eat away at your harvest. Tithing brings the heavenly Orkin Man around to exterminate those pesky little demons that eat away at our victories. I truly believe that this can be applied to a church! It can be applied to a family! It can be applied to an individual.

Tithing enables God’s church to do the ministry that He has planned for it. If everyone tithed in a local church, the opportunities for service and blessing through that church would multiply dramatically. Souls would be saved. Missionaries could be sent. Workers could be trained. Those with needs could have them met. Oh, if only all of God’s children would take this matter seriously.

Many years ago Luther Rice was here in Georgia trying to raise money to send to Adoniram Judson who was a missionary in Burma. Rice hired two black men to row him down a river to another town where he was to speak in an effort to raise funds. As the men rowed Rice down the river, he shared with them why he was on this journey. He told about the great work of Judson in Burma. Finally they reached the town to which Rice was traveling. Rice reached in his pocket to pay the black boatmen, but they stopped him. Instead, they turned out their pockets and pooled their money - 25 cents total, and gave it to him, asking him to send it along with the other gifts to help with God’s work. They gave all they had to help with the work of God. The kingdom of God on this earth is not built by selfish people, but only by those who will give their best to God.

C. The Inward Purpose

Tithing, when done with a right spirit and right heart, puts Jesus in His rightful place upon the throne of your heart. It recognizes His Lordship and honors Him appropriately. Tithing brings you joy, because you know that you are doing your part to Honor God’s person and place in this world. Tithing teaches you to handle the other 9/10ths of your money more carefully. Tithing takes away the gnawing guilt you feel every time you hear a message on this subject and know it is true and know that you are not being faithful.

We need some people today who will take the pledge of Jacob:

Genesis 28:22, “Off all thou shalt give me I will surely give a tenth to thee.”

I read a story some time ago concerning missionaries who served among the natives of the New Hebrides. These missionaries report that the people on the island worship a false god. On a special occasion, the people will hold a feast to their god. They kill several pigs, roast the meat and eat it in an act of worship. Then, when they have finished the meal and have eaten all they can hold, they take the pig tails and lay them on an altar to their god. Think about that. Are we so different? Some of us want to use everything God has given us for ourselves and then lay a pig tail, a useless tiny gift, on the altar to Him. God is worthy of receiving the WHOLE tithe. It is HIS tithe. Bring it into the storehouse and honor Him as the Sovereign God He really is!

Extra Illustration 1

An older couple took their grandson out to breakfast before church one Sunday.  In the car on the way to church, five-year-old Johnny asked, "Grandpa, why did you leave those three dollar bills on the table in the restaurant?"

"Well, Johnny," he replied, "it's called a tip."

"What's a tip, Grandpa?" asked Johnny.

"It's what you give to the waiter or the waitress if they serve you well."

"Do you do that every time?"

"Yes," said the grandfather."

"How do you know how much to give?"

"Well, I usually leave 15% of the cost of the meal if the service was good, and less if it was poor, but hardly ever less than 10%."

"Is that a lot?" asked Johnny with wide-eyed wonder.

"Well, it's not really much to me, but it is to that waiter because that's how he gets lots of the money he needs to take care of his family."

Johnny was quiet as they pulled into the church parking lot and went inside.  During the worship service, the little boy watched carefully as his grandfather dropped his usual gift of two one- dollar bills into the offering plate.

"Grandpa," he whispered, "Is that your tip to God?"

Tears came to the man's eyes, and he bowed his head and prayed, "God, forgive me.  I treat the people who wait on me in restaurants better than I treat You.  From now on, Lord, I will do better. I will give You a tithe, not a tip. And thank you for speaking to me through my grandson." [Adapted from a church bulletin.]

Extra Illustration 2

An inactive church member had become critically ill with a heart attack. He inherited $10,000 from a deceased relative. His wife, thinking the shock of the good news might cause undue excitement, asked the pastor to break the news as gently as possible.

"Brother Jones," the pastor explained, "I know you have never tithed or given much to our church but God has been good to you anyway. He has given you a $10,000 inheritance."

"Great!" replied the fellow. "That means I can give a $1,000 tithe to the church next Sunday."

You guessed it! The pastor had a heart attack!

Extra Illustration 3

"The story goes that while Robert Smith was taking his afternoon walk as part of his therapy in recovering from a massive heart attack, the phone rang and his wife Delores answered.  The call was from the Reader's Digest Association Sweepstakes in New York.  They were calling to inform the Smith family that Robert had just won $1,500,000 and that in a few days the certified check would be arriving.  Well, as you can imagine, Delores was absolutely ecstatic.  Now all those dreams would come true!

"But then she remembered, her husband was just getting over his heart attack, and the doctor had said no excitement over anything.  Dolores was afraid that if she told him they had just won such a large sum, he would have another heart attack and die.  What should she do?  After some thought, she decided to call their pastor and ask his advice because he had had some experience in breaking difficult news to families.

"Delores called him and said, `Pastor, I just got a call from The Reader's Digest Sweepstakes informing me that Bob has just won $1,500,000.'

"`That's great,' said the pastor, `but what's the problem?'

"`Well, I'm afraid if I tell Bob, he'll get so excited that he will have another heart attack and drop dead.  Can you help me?'

"`Well, Delores, I think I can.  I'll be right over.'

"So in about an hour, Bob is back from his walk and he and Delores and Pastor Baldwin are in the den having a nice chat.  The pastor leans toward Bob and says, `Bob, I've got a problem and need your advice.'

"`Sure, Pastor, if I can help, I'll be glad to,' said Bob.

"The pastor takes a deep breath and goes on, `It's a hypothetical situation regarding Christian stewardship.  What would a person - take you, for instance - do if all of a sudden you found out you had won $1,500,000? What would you do with all that money?'

"`That's easy,' Bob replied. `I'd start by giving $750,000 to the church.' Whereupon Pastor Baldwin had a massive heart attack and dropped dead!"

[Moments for Pastors by Robert Strand.  New Leaf Press, 1994.  Day 3.]

Extra Illustration 4

The Sunday school teacher was horrified when she saw the picture one of her pupils had drawn.  "Why it looks like a cowboy walking into a saloon," she said.

"It is," said the child.  "But it's all right. He's not going to drink anything; he's just going in to shoot a man."

Some churches have installed a new type of collection box which has some unique features. When you drop a quarter or more it doesn't make a sound. Drop a dime and it tinkles like a bell. A nickel blows a whistle, and a penny fires a shot. And when you don't put anything in--the box takes your picture.