The Principle of Tithing By: Daniel Dickard

I must admit that tithing is a difficult topic to preach-on. And yet, sometimes the most difficult passages yield the greatest fruit. Our Lord cares how we secure money, spend money, save money, and share our money. I have heard Christians say, “Giving is a part of worship.” But that is only part of the truth. Giving is not just a part of worship. Giving is worship. When we give, we worship. When we do not give, we steal. And that is the focus on Malachi 3:7-11. The people of Israel had stolen from God.

Take a moment and read Malachi 3:7-11 in its entirety. Then, consider these four brief thoughts on the passage.
The Problem of (not) Giving (3:7-8). The way in which the nation of Israel handled their money had become an affront to God. God offers three problems related to their giving in verses 7-8.  

  1. It was a continued problem. Verse 7 says, “since the days of your fathers.” The problem addressed here is not a new one. Greed is an age-old problem. Your parent’s generation faced it. Our generations encounter it. Your children’s children will deal with it. The problem of greed will not go away because our hearts are full of greed. It is said that when Alexander the Great had conquered the known world he instructed his officers to leave his hands outside the coffin so that, when he died, all might see that though he had conquered the world he could carry nothing with him into the hereafter. We are born into this world grabbing and grasping, but when we leave this world, we die with our hands open and extended. Don't make the mistake of living your life in constant desire for that which you do not have.

  2. It was a character problem. The issue here is not money. The issue is the heart. Blaise Pascal famously said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created things, but only by God the creator.” The problem of the heart is the heart of the problem. We errantly replace God with money and think our hearts will be filled. Our hearts were not meant for money, things, material possessions, and stuff. Our hearts were made for God. When money is your primary security blanket, it is likely that the god of materialism has replaced God himself. God knows that consecration that doesn't reach the pocketbook doesn't reach the heart. Your heart is not surrendered if your wallet is not. God knows that. God does not ask for your money because He needs it. Your checkbook reflects the condition of your heart. God wants Your wallet represents your worship. When money is on the throne, it represents a life wasted in the pursuit of wealth on earth. When God is on the throne, it represents a life invested in the pursuit of wealth in heaven.

  3. It was a contribution problem. Verse eight begins with one of the great questions of the Bible: “Will man rob Gob?” The supposed answer is no. Who would dare rob God? And yet, God responds to His own question: “Yet you are robbing me.” The pronouns are emphatic. “You are robbing me.” A robber is different than a thief. A thief hides under the cover of night and takes what is yours by stealth. A robber arrives in the middle of the day and takes what is yours by force. The Lord viewed their giving as spiritual robbery. Mark it down. If people will steal from God, they will steal from you. And one of the greatest signs that you have returned to God is not the songs you sing; the sermons you hear; or the Bible lessons you learn. It is in your finances—when you stop robbing God.

The Practice of Giving (3:8). Many people talk about tithing. Few people do it. Only 6 % of Bible believing American Christians give to the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. The Bible says, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to Got the things that are God’s (Mark 12:17). Why is it that some Christians will pay their income tax, but they do not tithe? They fear Caesar more than they fear God.

When you tithe, you’ll do more with nine-tenths and God as a partner than you will ever do with ten-tenths of yourself.

God’s work done is God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Everybody tithes to something. Somethings gets your first. Something gets your best. Something gets the rest. Your immediate reaction when you receive a paycheck often indicates what gets your first and best. Specifically, in this passage, Malachi offers two ways the people of God can give.

1.  Give the Tithe. 
  • The tithe has a designated percentage. The word tithe means ‘tenth.’ You may say, “tithing is legalistic; we are under the age of grace. Tithing was for the Jews in the Old Testament and I am a New Testament Christian.” Tithing is not simply a ceremonial law; it is God’s eternal law. Tithing began far before the Mosaic Law (Gen. 14:21). Abraham started the tithe. Jacob spoke-of the tithe. Jesus supported the tithe. Who are we to scrap the tithe? We are to give our first tenth before the remaining nine-tenth comes-in. When you do it God’s way, he will provide what you don’t have, protect what you do have, and please what you don’t have. That is, he supplies the things that are not, sustains the things that are, and satisfies the things that we will never have. Tithing is a doable practice. If it weren’t, God would not have commanded it.

  • The tithe has a decided place. We bring our tithe to God’s place of worship (1 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 16:2) Where are you to take your tithe? Well, according to this verse, you bring it to God’s place of worship. God’s tithe is to be brought to God’s house on God’s day, that God’s work will be done in God’s way. There are many God-honoring charitable organizations that are worthy of financial support. But we should not support these ministries at the expense of the local church. We do not give to the church. We give to God through the church. Honor the Lord with your tithe.

  • The tithe has a decisive purpose. The tithe indicates trust that God will provide. Unfortunately, many of us trust in our limited resources than we trust our heavenly Father who owns the whole world.

2.  Give the Offering. Offerings are contributions. Offerings were given above and beyond the tithe. Tithing is the duty of giving. Offerings are the delight of giving. If you obey God in the area of tithing and giving, let me be upfront with you: you will live three to four steps behind your peers who make the same amount that you do. This reality should not lead us to a sense of begrudgery.  It should lead us to a spirit of gratitude and generosity. Giving to the Lord is a good Christian practice because it affords the opportunity to say “thank you” to God for his underserved goodness to us. Jesus never called someone a fool for giving too much and keeping too little. He did call someone a fool for keeping too much and giving too little. Someone asked John D. Rockefeller “How much was enough?” He said, “Just a little more.” The human mind grows by taking-in, the human heart grows by giving out.

The Promise of Giving (3:10). As far as I can tell, this is the only place in the Bible where God challenges us to prove Him and to put Him to test. Verse 10 says, “I will open up the windows of heaven and pour down for you a blessing.” Specifically, God offers His provisions in our life. Many times, God “opening the windows of heaven” is putting a little more in the bucket to sustain you. God “pouring out his blessings” is keeping your rent paid. God’s blessing is not always a new car, a big house, a better job.

The Purpose of Giving. Giving is not God’s way to raise money. He owns everything. Man giving is God’s way to grow Christians.  God is watching how you give. God is watching when you give. God is watching why you give. The purpose of giving is that we might trust God. To love God is to trust God; to trust God is to obey God; to obey God is to serve Him; to serve Him is to be blessed. We put trust on display when we give. It is through our giving that we trust God, and, through giving, we make disciples through missions, ministry, and meeting needs in the community. Giving continues the work of God in ministry. Great churches are not built on spare time and pocket change. When you give, you are not just paying bills and salaries; you are investing in God’s work.

Remember: The size of the gift doesn’t matter. It is the heart of the gift. God will stretch the gift, but he stretches the giver first. Whether your gift is little or large, give to the Lord.