Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Irony of Tithing

“Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Mal. 3:10)

A tithe is 10%. It’s the baseline for Christian stewardship. Read a couple verses earlier in Malachi 3 to see what God calls it when people don’t give a full tithe (hint: if you did it to anyone else, you’d go to jail for it). But the Lord promises that when the tithe is given faithfully, there will be no more need. In other words, 90% of your income will fill your needs, but 100% will not. More is less. That’s the irony of tithing.

Tithing forces you to acknowledge the Lord as the Giver of all daily bread. Tithing is like prayer. God doesn’t need your money anymore than he needs your prayers. But you need to pray. And you need to tithe.

What God doesn’t promise is that if you give him the tithe, He will give you even more money. This is how TV preachers and prosperity gospel hucksters spin God’s promise through the prophet Malachi. But God does not promise to give more money. He does promise blessing, and He promises to take care of all your needs.

Maybe living on 90% of your income will force you to cut other corners here or there in the budget. Maybe you’ll need to make a smaller car payment or axe your cable bill altogether. But God has promised blessing and the fulfillment of all your needs.

The Pharisees hated it when Jesus preached about money because they were “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). And Jesus knew that you cannot love both God and money (Luke 16:13). That’s why you need to tithe. Giving away money is hard to do, especially when you love it. So God commands you to give it away to break you of your false worship of money. That’s why you need to tithe. It turns you from your false god of money to the true God, the One who has permitted you to receive all that you have.

Withholding the tithe from God will leave your needs unmet because to do so is to worship the false god of money. 100%--even 95%--of your income will not cover all your needs. For that matter, neither will 90%. What do you need more than money? What do you need more than cable TV or a car? What do you need more than even food or clothing? Salvation. This comes only from the Lord, who sent His Son to pay the full price of His life as payment for your sinfulness. The need to have your sins forgiven is the need that will be no more when you trust the Lord to provide for all your needs of both body and soul.

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