Hello! Welcome back for another installment of Excuses Christians Make. If you missed the last one click HERE. Today we are going to touch on a topic that can be controversial, so grab a seat and join us!
I am in a couple of frugal living and get out of debt groups on Facebook. Once in a while, the tithing conversation gets brought forth into the discussion. The comments range from “you don’t have to give” to “I don’t share in those beliefs” to “my church makes me tithe.” The comments, or should I say excuses, don’t stop there. Many others believe that as an active member of the church, it is not necessary to give a dime. This is one of the excuses I want to discuss with you. However, before we begin this discussion, I believe it is important to distinguish the difference in gifts, tithing, and offerings.
What are gifts?
Gifts are just that – gifts. They are blessings the Lord has given you in the way of talent. Talent comes in various shapes in sizes. Are you a wonderful singer? Do you have a knack for video productions? Do you have the heart for hospitality? Do you enjoy meeting and talking to folks? Maybe God has blessed you with the ability to relate to special needs children. Is holding babies something you truly enjoy? Everyone has a talent. It takes many people to make a church function, including a small church. The saying goes, “many hands make light work.” That saying is describes the function of the church rather well. Using your talents, aka gifts, to serve the church is a way to give. Living here in the Nashville area, I have met many talented folks! Some of these folks, despite their fame, work tirelessly to serve and give back to the Lord. I attended church with Jeremy Camp, his wife Adie, Jo Dee Messina, and Nicole C. Mullens just to name a few. Despite the fact that these are big named stars, their fame took a back seat to their acts of service. Our goal in life should not be to make lots of money and retire. If we think that, we have missed the point. I love knowing that I live so close to the “big names” in Nashville, yet they are just people with a big heart and willing to serve the Lord! I don’t say this to try to put these people on a pedestal. God created ALL of us in His image. I say this because these people who have made their living in the limelight have humbled themselves before the Lord. You will find many of these stars serving in the youth ministry, the choir, small groups and even as ushers. We don’t have to be a star on the billboards to give back to our community and serve the Lord. We are all a part of the body of Christ and each one of us matters.
“Each of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).
All of us have been blessed with a talent that we can use to serve and honor God. It is important that we give back to Him with our talents. This is one way to praise and glorify the Lord. Even if your talent is small or insignificant in your eyes, it matters to our heavenly Father and it matters to the kingdom.
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV)
What is Tithing?
Well this one is a bit controversial to many who discuss this subject. Some claim that tithing is no longer important or necessary. Let us first talk about what tithing is. A tithe is 10% of your income, and it should be given to God faithfully. Tithing honors the scriptural principles of generously providing for religious leaders, giving to those in need, and laying up treasures in heaven.
Throughout Scripture we are encouraged to give the first part of our resources to God as an expression of honor and gratitude. “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9–10).
Here is a story about tithing. I posted THIS about Clay retiring from the military and how we learned to live more frugally prior to his retirement. Well, things seemed to spiral out of control this past summer. We were in a financial crisis. One instance is my husband’s final paycheck from the Army was withheld. All of his pay – travel, reimbursements, everything in between – was kept. I had already budgeted for that money. When it didn’t arrive, we were dealt a hefty blow. I had to prioritize the bills and pay minimum amounts just to keep the utilities on, the house from being foreclosed, car from being repossessed, and our head above water. I was getting stressed more each day. I was begging the car loan company and mortgage company to defer payments. I begged, pleaded and cried for any type of financial relief! I am normally one who pays the bills as soon as they arrive. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. Our grocery budget during this time was only about $50 a week for all 5 of us! Thank goodness for coupons! With all this financial stress going on in our lives, imagine the look on my face when my husband asks me where the tithe is as we’re sitting in church one Sunday. My immediate thought was, “Uh, no! We need this money!” I tried avoiding the question altogether. However, he is a persistent man. As I wrote the check, I could picture all the bills this money could be used for. Needless to say, I was not giving faithfully, but my husband was ready to give faithfully and happily. If only he knew what I knew about the budget, maybe he would think twice. Okay, maybe not. As the offering plate passed through the aisles, my eyes never left it. As we left church, I tried not to think about it. My husband, on the other hand, wouldn’t stop talking about how great it felt to tithe. Ugh! Men! Later that week, we received a check. Later as we continued to be faithful and tithe, we received all the money my husband was owed by the Army. When I told Clay what happened, he said, “In order for blessings to come down, blessings have to go up.” [bctt tweet=” "In order for blessings to come down, blessings have to go up.” Clay Prater”]Make sure you tithe next week. And smile when you do it.” Ugh! Men! I was already dreading it, but continued to be faithful and God changed my heart to a faithful and cheerful giver. Unless we ask, we will never receive. Unless we knock, the door will never be opened. In order to receive a blessing, we must first give a blessing. Could the timing of the checks be a coincidence to the timing of the tithe? Possibly. But that is something I will never know, nor is it something I believe. We honored the Lord with our first fruits and He honored us.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:8-10)
What is an offering?
An offering is something extra we give beyond the tithe. Offerings are something that you search your heart and decide to give beyond the tithe, but not in place of the tithe. This is where we budget in mission trips we want to give money to, the kids summer camps, paying for a needy child to be able to attend camp, buying clothing for those who have a need, taking groceries shut ins, a favorite ministry and other organizations that are not the local church. When Christians mature in their faith and grow in fiscal responsibility they should be giving more and more generously to the kingdom of God through offerings that are over and above the tithe. The Lord desires and values the heart that overflows with gratitude and thanksgiving to Him who saved us and who gives us all things, knowing our needs before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). Such a heart gives generously, willingly, and cheerfully in response to the love and grace that abound in Christ (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). In short, offerings are something that you search your heart and decide to give beyond the tithe, but not in place of the tithe, which is to the local church.
Give joyfully, give thankfully and excel in the grace of giving, but never feel pressured to give. It’s never about the amount you give. Tithing is more about the percentage you give, an offering is more of the joy of giving in your heart because God has blessed you so abundantly. I pray that you would discover the joy of giving and trust God in this area of your life.
Clay and Laura