“Charitable giving should make some difference in how we as religious people experience life from day to day. If giving to your congregation is similar to writing a check at the end of the month to pay the phone bill or the electric bill, and then forgetting about it until the end of the next month, you are not giving enough. Similarly if you take spare change or a dollar or two from you pocket or purse for the weekly collection and never notice the difference, your giving has too little meaning either for you or for your church.” - Michael Durall
When it comes to financial stewardship many of us would like to have a clear answer to the question "How much should I give". Unfortunately the Bible does not give us a straight-forward answer which is why there are differing opinions about how much we are supposed to give, resulting in many confused people.
In the Old Testament a number of different tithes were commanded for the Israelites. In the New Testament we are not given any figures. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
I like things to be concrete. I want Jesus to say "give 10% and keep the rest - have fun, treat yourself, splurge" but that's not what happens in the gospel. Though the Israelites were given defined figures, in the New Testament Jesus doesn't give us anything of the sort. He simply asks for everything.
Everything. But, but, but... I don't get it. How do I give him everything. What does everything even mean? I want a rule. I want a law. I want to know exactly what I need to give to be doing "the right thing". But I'm not granted that - what I'm given is a much harder scenario - I need to sit down and look the money I'm given straight in the face. I need figure out how much I will give away and how much I think I should keep for myself.
This is hard work for me because I seem to want to keep a lot of money for my own purposes. I like new things. I like to travel. I like to eat out. I like spas. I like investing. I like having money. And this is exactly why I need to give more away. Tithing is something we do with our hearts and giving our money away helps to free us from the money god which says "more more more for you!". When we tithe we come to understand more deeply that all of our resources are God's.
In his book God’s Thrifty Extravagance – Understanding What the Bible Says About Money, Jonathan Kopke writes: “If God doesn’t need a single thing from us, why is He so adamant that we should give Him so much? The answer is simple: God wants us to give to Him because that’s what breaks us free from the tyrant-god of Money. Giving to God reduces our attachment to the things we’ve loved more. Giving to God builds our commitment to Him by putting our treasure where we want our hearts to be. Giving to God strengthens our koinonia within the body of Christ, the church. Giving to God – as opposed to hoarding – is the most concrete way we have of expressing our faith in the God who promises that He’ll never fail us. And in every case, when we give to God, it’s not God who benefits – it’s us. God doesn’t want our gifts because He needs to receive, but because we need to give.”
When we tithe we come to see that it's not about what part is God's and what part is ours - but that it's all God's. And God asks us to tithe so that the spiritual power that money holds on us is broken. God doesn't need our money - he is the CREATOR of the universe. I hear story after story of God's faithfulness in tangible ways for his people - he has access to all the resources of the world. As Kopke writes a later in his book "Tithing is not God’s way of raising money; tithing is God’s way of raising children"
We are given immense freedom in deciding how much of our God given income we would like to donate. We are given the freedom to choose where that money goes. We are given the responsibility of stewarding God's kingdom resources. It is a blessing to give. It is a privilege to tithe. It is liberating to let money go and cling to the King of kings.
How much should we give? All of it and let the kingdom stories flow as you share wealth for his glory.
What story do you have about God's surprising provision through the gift of another? How have you witnessed your tithes expanding the Kingdom of God?