What About Tithing

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Giving Series #3

What About Tithing?

By Bill Denton


A.  Illustration

     A woman finished shopping and returned to her car. She found four men inside the car. She dropped her shopping bags, drew a handgun, and screamed, "I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car." Those men did not wait for a second invitation; they got out and ran like crazy.
     The woman, somewhat shaken, loaded her shopping bags and then got into the car. But no matter how she tried, she could not get her key into the ignition. Then it dawned on her: her car was parked four or five spaces away!

Greg Laurie, "A Time to Worship," Decision (November 2001)

B.  When it comes to sermons on giving, I suspect some people feel like they are one of the

     four guys in that car - they feel like they've been hijacked!

1.  In our last two lessons, we've tried emphasizing legitimate concerns about giving

a.  we talked about the importance of attitude - it shapes how you receive what

    the Bible teaches about giving and how you respond as a giver

b.  last week we looked at numerous passages that reveal both good and bad

    example of giving, and we introduced a term called "grace-giving" that

    describes the kind of giving that flows from knowing and understanding grace

2.  I am persuaded that most Christians want to be generous givers, but there are some

     things that get in the way

a.  we are as susceptible to selfishness as the next guy

b.  sometimes we just haven't been taught to give

c.  we may feel the pinch of more bills than we have money

d.  whatever the difficulty we have with giving, we need to know that God is

     very concerned with what we do with our possessions

e.  your stuff greatly affects your spirituality

C.  Over the years, I have probably had more people ask about tithing than any other question

1.  Other churches demand their members tithe

2.  Historically, members of churches of Christ have been told there is no requirement

     to tithe (though I'm persuaded most have misunderstood the point)

3.  I thought we would try to deal with this question today to help you understand how

     tithing fits into giving, and whether it is a good measure of generosity

I.  The Misunderstanding About Tithing

A.  Generally speaking, most people think that tithing was established in the Old Testament and

     therefore, if the Jews tithed, then so should Christians

1.  That's a rather simplified explanation, but it pretty much covers the basic idea

2.  The problem is that it reflects a great misunderstanding about Old Testament tithing

     and leaves us with an unimpressive standard by which to measure our giving

B.  What did the Jews give under the Law of Moses?

1.  There was something called the Lord's tithe, or the Levites' tithe

a.  Leviticus 27:30-33 30‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or

    of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31‘If, therefore, a

    man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32‘For

    every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one

    shall be holy to the Lord. 33‘He is not to be concerned whether it is good or

    bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its

    substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.’ ” NASB95

b.  Numbers 18:21-24 21“To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in

     Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the

     service of the tent of meeting. 22“The sons of Israel shall not come near the

     tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. 23“Only the Levites shall

     perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it

     shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons

     of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24“For the tithe of the sons of Israel,

     which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an

     inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no

     inheritance among the sons of Israel.’ ” NASB95

2.  There was also a second tithe that the Jews gave

a.  Deuteronomy 14:22-27 22“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what

     you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23“You shall eat in the

     presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His

     name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of

     your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God

     always. 24“If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the

     tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too

     far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, 25then you shall

     exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place

     which the Lord your God chooses. 26“You may spend the money for whatever

     your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever

     your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your

     God and rejoice, you and your household. 27“Also you shall not neglect the

     Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.

b.  this was sometimes called the festival tithe and was used as a religious

     celebration to bring together family and friends

3.  There was a third tithe collected at the end of every third year

a.  Deuteronomy 14:28-29 28“At the end of every third year you shall bring out all

     the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29“The

     Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the

     orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be

     satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of

     your hand which you do. NASB95

b.  this tithe was used locally to care for the poor, the stranger, the orphan, the

     widow, etc.

4.  If you average this out, then the Jews were never expected to give 10% of their

     income - they gave 23.33% every year - but that's not all they gave

a.  farmers were expected to leave the edges/corners of their fields, nor

    could they pass through a field for a second harvest - this was to be

    left to the poor and could amount to 1% - 2% of the income

b.  there was a "temple tax" which paid for materials used for worship

c.  there were free-will offerings which were above and beyond any thithes given

5.  A good estimate of what faithful Jews gave is probably a minimum of 25% up to

    perhaps 30%

a.  so to think that Jews under the Law of Moses gave 10% not accurate

b.  they gave much more

C.  The tithe was, however, a standard measure of acceptable giving

1.  Abraham gave a thithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20)

2.  Jacob vowed to give a tenth of all that God blessed him with (Gen 28:22)

3.  Tithing was a recognized standard of giving among the Egyptians, Babylonians,

     Greeks and Romans

4.  Some think that tithing goes all the way back to Adam, though that is a conclusion

     reached by inference and deduction than any plain statements

5.  The point for us, however, ought to be clear - giving 10% was a base standard for

     giving, and the under the Law of Moses, the tithe was used in multiples to establish

     the required giving

II.  Are Christians Required To Tithe?

A.  The question, while understandable, does not really get at the heart of the issue for giving

1.  Rom 6:15 -- "we are not under law but under grace"

a.  we live under a completely different system than the Law of Moses

b.  therefore, God has not legislated our giving, and if he did, would it have been

    10% or 23.33%?

2.  Unfortunately, many people who ask if we are required to tithe are really looking for

     the minimum level

a.  those who believe a tithe is required often stop right there!

b.  the tithe actually becomes more of a limitation not a generous gift

B.  What we need to remember is that whatever the standard is for giving as Christians, it

     necessarily comes out of a background of Old Testament giving

1.  While it is easy to think of the tithe as the standard for Old Testament giving, I think

     tithes did three things important to developing people as givers

a.  it demanded generosity in tangible terms -- we can criticize this, but it did

    demand a lot from faithful Jews, just as giving today should demand a lot

b.  it developed regular, systematic giving habits, much needed today

c.  it provided concrete reasons for giving, something more important today than

     we might think

2.  Today's standard is not set in terms of a percentage, but in terms of generosity

a.  Jesus' all-time best example of a giver was the widow who gave the two small

    coins - but percentage wise, she gave 100%

b.  2 Cor 8 - Paul's commendation of the Macedonian churches is not based on

    a percentage, but on generosity in the face of poverty and hardship

c.  2 Cor 9:6 - Paul encouraged Christians to give bountifully, not sparingly

d.  2 Cor 9:7 - we are to give purposely, not grudgingly or from compulsion,

    and when we do, we can give cheerfully, something God loves

3.  I believe that 10% is a good base from which to grow

a.  I say that because we know tithing pleases God, but a simple tithe has never

     been the limit

b.  despite the fact we are not following a prescribed law, we are following a

     good example

c.  there is something to be said for seeing what we have in Jesus as far better

    than what the Jews had under the Law - should we not be as thankful, if not

    more, and should we not demonstrate our gratitude in our giving?


A.  One thing that is clear from 2 Cor 8 & 9 is that while Paul wanted Christians to be a

     generous people, he never wanted them to feel like they were being forced, pressured, or

     manipulated to give

1.  Paul seemed to believe that people who understood God's gifts to them, would, in

     turn, be generous when they gave as well

2.  Does your giving properly reflect what God has done for you?

3.  God isn't interested in imposing on you a demand that will cause you to withdraw

     and get angry.  God is interested in helping you grow in gratitude for all he has done

     for you, is still doing for you, and will keep on doing for you.  When that happens,

     he won't have to twist your arm to give, your generous heart will automatically

     respond with gifts that don't seem possible.

B.  Invitation

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