Tithing vs. Giving: Digging into the Heart of the Matter


If there’s one thing that pastors avoid like the plague, it’s talking about tithing and giving.

It can be uncomfortable to discuss with your congregation, and it can feel like you’re twisting their arms to get money. I avoided this topic for years myself because I wasn’t sure how to address it and worried about how my church members would receive it. But I realize now I was doing everyone a major disservice by doing so. It’s not about what people think; it’s about teaching the heart of the Bible accurately. 

And the heart of the bible shows us that giving is a beautiful opportunity for believers to engage in a true, selfless act of worship. But many church leaders don’t broach the matter this way, and it can become a pretty big problem. Here’s my take on mistakes that are often made, and how we can handle this differently to really make an impact in our hearts, spiritual relationships and churches. 

Which Lens are you Looking Through?

The first step is to look at God’s word. Here’s a passage that all of us at some point have referenced, which comes from the Old Testament. Malachi 3:8-10 says: “‘Will a man rob God?’ Yet you rob me. But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”

So then the follow up with this verse is us telling our members, “you’re robbing God if you don’t give.” But as students of the word, we know what gets lost in this use of the bible is its origin: it comes from the Old Testament. This comes from an Old Testament prophet who deeply had a heart for the poor and needy, who was speaking to powerful leaders in Samaria and Jerusalem about how they had neglected the law of God. 

This is a really important point, because today, in 2019, we have been freed to move on from Old Testament legalism because of the new covenant brought when Jesus came. In fact, the New Testament doesn’t mention “tithing” as a command even once. 

Yet many pastors still use this verse, and Old Testament philosophies about tithing, as tools to essentially manipulate their congregations into giving from a guilty place. This paints God in the same light as an enforcer and makes giving a duty – not a pleasure. When this happens, and pastors discuss giving 10 percent as a mandate, it takes away your members’ choice. Where’s the willingness in this? Where’s the worship in that?

If we look to the New Testament for insight into how to handle giving, we see a very different picture. Second Corinthians 9:6-7 says: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” There’s not a lot of room for misinterpretation there. 

A Cheerful Act of Worship: It All Starts with the Heart

The crux of the matter is this: we need to reframe the act of giving as an act of worship so our church families understand its significance. It’s not merely about funding the church and its operations; it’s about the heart of stewardship, faithfulness, and truthfulness. We should lead by example in demonstrating that giving is as much a part of our worship as singing “Great are you Lord” in our Sunday Services.

To do this, I am unrelentingly intentional about the words I use when I talk about giving. I always say something like: “It’s now time to take up the offering. I appreciate your willingness to be cheerful in supporting the ministry and giving back unto the Lord.” I always use the word offering, rather than tithing, because tithing implies the 10 percent mandate and the legalistic view from the Old Testament. I also have tag-lines I weave into every Sunday about cheerfulness, stewardship and planting seeds in the ground. This reinforces the heart of true giving and reminds us all to regard it as an act of worship.  

I challenge you to do the same. Share the heart of giving with your church. Help them see that honoring the Lord with what we have, whether it’s gifts, money, energy, words or something else, is a blessing. All of it has been given by God, and we must, in turn, be good stewards. We should all give back to the ministry, whether it’s 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent or some other percentage of what you have to give. 

This is a test of faith and may call into question your trust of God. How much do you trust him, with your family, health, children, and finances? Let’s encourage our church body to trust him 100 percent with our finances. Only then will we give generously from our hearts, because we trust in his goodness. 

Trust in Action 

Here’s a true story from my own congregation. Six years ago, we were in need of $9,700 for our church’s kitchen on wheels (which we used in a street ministry outreach). Even though I normally would make our needs known to the church, I felt challenged by the Lord in this instance to keep quiet about the need. So I chose to trust Him. Two weeks later, someone contacted me who doesn’t go to our church and asked if we could have lunch. At that lunch, he gave me a check for $10,000, explaining that he felt the Lord wanted him to give that money to me and our church. Pretty mind-blowing, right?

We need to set an example of trust in the Lord for all things, including our finances, so our congregations can follow suit. Wild trust breeds wild generosity, which God promises will yield wild abundance. And that’s what our God, the God of grace and the New Testament, wants for us. 

I’ll leave you with this final message from Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.” 

May your barns be full and your vats overflow. 

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