Tithes and Offerings: An Act of Worship
Every Lord’s Day, both in the morning and evening worship services, the liturgy calls for the giving of God’s tithe and our offerings. During this time, the plates are passed amongst the congregation, gathering in the first fruits of all that God has faithfully provided His redeemed children. The generous, cheerful and sacrificial giving of God’s people is one of the clearest evidences of their love for God and commitment to the health and extension of His Kingdom.
The Bible provides considerable instruction concerning the bringing of tithes and offerings into the Church. In the Old Covenant, God gave the land of Canaan to the nation of Israel. As the owner of the land, God had the right to give it to whomever He pleased (Deut. 10:12). As the recipients of this gracious gift, Israel was expected to give back to God a portion, at least ten percent, of the produce and wealth of the land (Deut. 26:1-15). One writer helpfully states:
By giving the tithe [the Israelites] … recognized the validity of the priests’ and Levites’ role as God’s representatives and acknowledged their right to receive support for the spiritual service they performed on the people’s behalf. The tithe ritual afforded the Israelites an opportunity to remember Yahweh’s blessings as He had remembered them, and to imitate God’s care for slaves, the poor, orphans, and widows. The tithe demanded that the Israelites serve their God at a significant cost to themselves. In this amazing system of tithing, Israel’s economics became a channel for expressing love to God and love to neighbors, the heart of the Torah (Dt. 6:4-9; Lev. 19:18). (E.E. Carpenter, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 863, emphasis mine)
Tithing or the giving of first fruits, therefore, was an important part of service and commitment to God in the Old Covenant. Moreover, it was a very serious sin to withhold the tithe. The Prophet Malachi states, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ By withholding your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” It does not take a theologian to recognize that this passage is teaching that ten percent of what we earn is God’s, not ours, and to withhold it is to rob God. Malachi then reveals what God will do if His people will only trust Him and bring in the tithe. “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” (Malachi 3:8-10). This is a wonderful promise! But what does the New Testament have to say about these matters?
Though the New Testament does not reveal explicit teaching regarding the tithe, the principles of giving are manifold. In chapters eight and nine of II Corinthians the Apostle Paul clearly articulates the importance of joyful and sacrificial giving. Our Lord Jesus does the same (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 10:25-37). The main point of New Testament teaching on giving is that since we have received greater blessings in the New Covenant, our giving should reflect this glorious reality. The children of Israel were commanded to bring the tithe of all their earnings, that is, ten percent. I believe this should be the minimum, or starting point, of our practice as believers in the new covenant.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian Church in the following manner: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (I Cor. 16:2). In other words, Christians in Corinth were to set aside money every Lord’s Day so that Paul could more easily gather the offerings and bring them to Jerusalem to help meet the needs of their brothers and sisters of Christ who were subject to great persecution and suffering. This setting aside of money every Lord’s Day was not meant to be a mere duty, a kind of drudgery, but a cheerful act of worship. It is to be the same for us.
As with the other elements of the worship service –– the call to worship, prayers, confessions, reading and preaching of Scripture, sacraments, and benediction –– the giving of God’s tithe and our offerings is a profound act of worship for the Christian believer. Members of Christ Church, let me encourage you to consider three things in light of this reality. Firstly, don’t let the placing of your tithe and offering in the collection plate during the worship service be a mere formality, a kind of mindless ritual. Rather, as with the other parts of the liturgy, make it a conscious, intentional, and joyful act of worship. One way to do this would be to bow your head during the offering time and say a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s abundant faithfulness, also declaring your trust in Him to continue to provide your daily bread. In evening worship this week I will preach on the precious truth that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). What a promise in light of our giving! Secondly, if you are not presently tithing, I want to encourage you to consider sitting down and organizing your budget so that you can work towards this goal. As with other areas of Christian growth and maturity, the weekly, faithful giving of tithes and offerings is a discipline that must be cultivated. Do not let another moment pass without putting these things in order. For “whoever sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). Thirdly, and finally, remember that our giving clearly reflects our love for God and the “inexpressible gift” of His Son, our crucified and risen Savior (II Cor. 9:15). If we are unwilling to part with our money for the support, health, and extension of God’s kingdom, then we must ask ourselves where our true priorities and commitments lie.
Dearest Christ Church, may our giving this Lord’s Day, and every Lord’s Day hereafter, be a sincere act of worship, demonstrating our passionate and sincere allegiance to the King of Kings and the Church for which He shed His very own blood.
- Pastor Jon