“What do you think would happen if I told our church to stop tithing?”
I stopped what I was doing and looked over at Colby who was preparing for Sunday’s message at the kitchen table.
“Well, I’m not sure…” I responded, feeling both a level of pride in my scholarly pastor-husband who was parsing Old Testament Law…and a fear that I would soon need to start applying for a part-time job.
“I mean, tithing was an Old Testament command given to ISRAEL as a part of the OLD covenant. There is just no scriptural basis for tithing anymore,” Colby continued.
Colby recently preached this sermon about tithing and I thought it was so brilliant that it needed to be shared. In my experience, the Old Testament has been misunderstood and therefore not taught well.
The audio of the sermon can be found HERE as well and the notes are below if you like a visual (my comments are in orange). Grab a pile of laundry to fold and listen to some great teaching that will not only help you better understand the stipulations of the Old Covenant, but also give you better motivations for giving than the law.
Sermon Notes: Colby Garman (1-18-15)
I want you to have absolute clarity when it comes to what the Bible teaches about financial giving and the church.
- Tithing and Giving are two very different things. (Why have I been a Christian for roughly thirty years and never heard this?)
Deuteronomy 14: “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.  And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.  And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there,  then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses  and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.  And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.  And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
(Deuteronomy 14:22-29 ESV)
a.Tithing was the practice and command of designating 10%(tithe means tenth) of the yield of the land/livestock to be set aside for the Levite Priests, the celebration of certain religious festivals, and care of the needy.
b.Tithing was an Old Testament command given to Israel in association with the Old Covenant. It was a way in which they acknowledged God’s ownership of the land and provided for the Levites who served God as priests.
- Tithing is not what New Testament Christians do when they give to a church or other charity even if they give ten percent. Tithing was a commanded exaction under Old Testament Law. There is no such command in the New Testament in this regard.
- The implications are that it is not disobedient to give less than 10% of your income. If you have heard someone say, to give less than 10% is stealing from God, you should know that they are wrong. (This is so beautifully blunt. I just love my husband.)
- It is also means that generous giving for a Christian in different times and places may exceed 10% significantly. It is not a box to be checked. (I think we like boxes to check…I do at least.)
Illustration: John Wesley as told by John Piper
Take John Wesley for example. He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.
This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”
When he died in 1791 at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote,
I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.
In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. (Quotes from Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 1994, nos. 9–10, pp. 23–24.)
I’ll finish with what Piper said on the subject: –
“I want us to value our riches in Christ, Freedom from Sin, Our Gospel so highly that we would LOVE to give. Possibly even outgive those who were under the law. Brothers and Sisters, why would we want to do less. Everything is greater in the New Covenant.”
- What sort of things did churches collect money for in the New Testament?
- Collections that supported the widows and the poor. Acts 2:44-45; Acts 6
- Collections that helped others continue in the mission of spreading the gospel. Philippians 4:10-20
- Collections that supported local gospel ministers. 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:14
- Collections that provided for other Christians who were suffering. 2 Corinthians 8-9
10 Motivations for Giving that are Better than the Law:
Let your giving be motivated by:
- The example of generosity by those who have less. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
- Maybe you, like me have at some time been struck by the generosity of someone who is less financially secure than you. It is worth bearing in mind brothers and sisters that we live in one of the wealthiest times and places in history. In addition we live in one of the wealthiest counties in our very nation. That means two things. First, We should read our names in all the Biblical warnings on the dangers of wealth to numb us to spiritual things.
- Second, we should consider with great carefulness how we contribute resources to the work of the gospel.
- The love of Christ in the gospel. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9
- The most important point made in this passage furnishes our second motivation for generous giving. Our Salvation itself was accomplished by a great exchange of wealth in which Christ who possessed all of the riches of heaven became poor. And why did Christ who had rightful claim to enjoy these riches become poor. So that we through his poverty might become rich.
- I love what Tim Keller said in one of his sermons on giving. Here is what Paul wants us to understand. Tim Keller – Don’t sit down with a calculator to give your money away sit down with a cross.
- The faithfulness of those who are administering the funds. 2 Corinthians 8:19-21
- There is a third motivation found in this passage. It is the faithfulness of those administering the funds. Here we have a motivation for being involved in and giving to a church where you are committed and have confidence in the gospel ministry being done together.
- There are many charities or missions that I could recommend to you that do good work. But there there is greater confidence when you have the ability to assess for yourself the faithfulness of those administering the funds. One reason I would direct you to give the greatest portion of your gospel giving through a local church is that you should have a greater confidence in those who are administering the funds.
- Paul goes to great lengths in this passage to show how they will honorably take care of the collection. He expects them to give only because of their confidence in those who are watching over the whole matter. This is also one of the reasons we function the way we do here at Pillar. The 5 men who serve the church as Elders and recommend financial decisions to the congregation can be examined by you yourselves. You can observe our manner of life and our financial activities here at Pillar Church are open to all. If you ever have questions or a desire to know more you can. I would hope that this would motivate you to great confidence through our faithfulness to the Lord.
- The Law of Sowing and Reaping. 2 Corinthians 9:6
- For the farmer who rightly understands the multitude of conditions that are outside of his control that must go well for him to have a success. Sowing is an act of faith.
- Sowing a little and keeping back a great deal just in case will mean reaping quite a bit less as well.
- Spiritually this remains true. Sowing to eternal things puts great faith in God’s ability to reward us in the reaping. There is nothing wrong with being motivated in this manner. If you sow to your own abilities you will reap your own rewards. Those who sow to Spiritual/Eternal things put their faith in God’s power and love and stand to reap fruit of their faith.
- Here we do not have some formula for getting yourself rich at the Lord’s hands. That is still all about getting ourselves rich. There is an old story about a boy and a king. The King had given the boy an allotment of land to tend…
- The Joy of God in cheerful giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Charles Spurgeon “But you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the Gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality! There is no law to tell me what I should give my father on his birthday. There is no rule laid down in any law book to decide what present a husband should give to his wife, nor what token of affection we should bestow upon others whom we love. No, the gift must be a free one, or it has lost all its sweetness.”
- The ability of God to provide for your needs. 2 Corinthians 9:8
- Paul adds to our motivation for generous giving by remind us that God is our security and the one who has the greatest ability to provide for our needs.
- When out of sincere motivation we give generously to the work of the gospel, we are placing our faith in the Lord’s future provision.
- The promise of God to increase your seed to sow. 2 Corinthians 9:11
- We see this principle in the parable of the talents and other parables that Jesus told. God provides greater levels of responsibility as we increase in faithfulness.
- Paul uses that to say here that one reason we are compelled to give generously with our small portion is that God uses it to prepare us for the time at which he will entrust us with a greater portion to administer.
- We practice this as a church corporately and teach it regularly to our church planters. There is not some great wealthy time later when we should begin giving money to work that is about the extension of the mission and not just our own work at the present. We give to missions and church planting from the beginning even when it means going without things ourselves.
- We do this knowing that it is faithful to the Lord and also prepares us with the necessary mindset in the days when God entrusts us with greater resources. If God is looking for a Christian to entrust with greater resources, would an examination of your giving to the gospel cause Him to entrust you with more.
- The needs of the saints. 2 Corinthians 9:12
- Our giving to gospel work helps to provide for the needs of the saints. Increased giving will lead to a greater preparedness to do so. There are multiple additional organizations that I could point you to that do this as well. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Baptist Global Response, an the IMB all do a great deal of work to care for the needs of Christians and communities around the world. Christians are like family to us. IF you have little motivation for giving I would encourage you to become more directly involved with other Christians around the world.
- Here is what personal involvement does. Over the past two years we have been helping Gunnar transition his time to establishing a church in Reykjavik Iceland. He has taken steps of faith and it has been financially difficult for them at times. I remember one day when we were Skyping they were discouraged by the difficulty. As Clint and I left conversations like that we felt more motivated than ever to help connect people to them to give. Clint even took a trip with several other pastors just to expose them to the work in Iceland and urge them to consider helping provide for Gunnar to lead it.
- Involvement leads to generosity.
- The harvest of thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:12
- I cannot think of a better motivation than the one found here in verse twelve. Can the use of my money and resources lead to a greater amount of thanksgiving to God.
- When we were in South Asia with Robert this past fall, I was struck by the financial need for the ministry. Robert told us about how powerfully the gospel was advancing in different regions they had been working. Their trainings were making an impact and people were being used by God to bring others to faith.
- The major limit they had for doing a greater number of trainings, was not time. It was money. They had more opportunities than they had money available.
- Here was a ministry where the money provided for training and the training was resulting in people coming to faith in Christ and an increase of people praising and giving thanks to God. Evangelism increases worship. When we give our giving produces thanksgiving to God in a multitude of ways.
- The love and prayers of those who benefit from your giving. 2 Corinthians 9:14
- The tenth and final motivation is the prayers of those who are blessed by our support and giving. I have sat with people in different places in the world and heard them pray for our churches and give thanks to God for them. I have heard them fervently ask God to bless our work and help us remain strong and persevere. I have heard them pray for me and other individuals who have given and often wondered how God has used those prayers to continually sustain our work. When we give we also receive. We receive a harvest of prayers for our lives and our work. Do not underestimate the power of these thankful prayers. We may have money at times but our brothers and sister pray with a fervency that makes us look poor.