(Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash)
I was asked the following question, "Can you please write a blog on tithes? One that shows why we tithe to the church? (Is there stuff about it in the New Testament etc. or is it just something we follow from the Old?) Maybe where it talks about the difference of tithing to the church and giving outside the church?"
For the purposes of this blog post I am going to make the assumption that the tithe is something that is practiced, and not argue for its relevance today. Rather, as I understand it the question is more about where the tithe goes. My basic response is that the tithe should go to God's storehouse as described in Malachi 3:10. However, what does God's storehouse mean?
First, a note about giving in the Mosaic law. I used to think that the tithe (10%) was all that was written into the law. However, there are other contributions that were also written in that some scholars believe would add up to 25% (see: www.christianity.com/christian-life/do-i-really-need-to-tithe-to-the-church.html). Giving was a big part of the culture, and I believe it is a practice that helps us to remember God and His community.
The tithe in the law was in particular for the clan of the Levites. They were the tribe that were not given an allotment of land in the Promised Land, but rather their portion was the tithe as they looked after the Tabernacle and later the Temple (Numbers 18). The New Testament does not give us an indication of where the tithe should go now that there is no Levites or Temple. However I would put forward that the heart of the tithe in the Old Testament was to give people, who dedicated their lives to serving God on behalf of the community, a way of existence.
Paul writes in 1 Tim 5:17-18 - The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
There was no set percentage or amount written, but the heart behind it is clear. Giving the tithe to the local church allows the church to operate, and for staff to be employed so that they can devote their time to the running of the church.
Does this mean that the whole tithe should go to the local church? This I'm not so sure about. The guiding principle for me is in Mal 3:10 - 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 there will not be room enough to store it.
God says that the WHOLE tithe should go into the storehouse for the purpose of having food in His house. I presume that this means that the storehouse serves the community in God's house. We are all blessed when the storehouse is full! That being said, what is the storehouse? This can be contentious. There is the local church, and there is the global church. And with the way things operate, there are now parachurch organisations that also do fantastic work. Which is the storehouse of God? Honestly, I do not know the answer to that question. But here are some guidelines to think about:
1. If you are planted in a local church, you are receiving the benefits of that part of the storehouse. It does make sense for you to give generously to that house. If your local church is struggling to pay the bills and make ends meet because there isn't enough money going in, the local community will struggle.
2. Is the organisation you are considering based on Kingdom work and Kingdom principles? There are many great charities out there, but if they aren't set up for the Kingdom, then I would contend that it does not fall in the category of God's storehouse.
3. Is the organisation you are giving to well-managed? What is the fruit of their work? At the end of the day we are still responsible for the stewardship of our finances. We need to know that who we are giving to will wisely steward our finances.
4. Are you being generous above your tithes? Being honest here, the Christian life is meant to be one of generosity. The tithe should be seen as a bare minimum.
My personal conviction is that the tithe is best served going to the local church. It is where I get most direct benefit as a Christian, and because I'm planted in this house, I am fully behind its vision and direction. I get to be a firsthand witness to the work it is doing, and often am a part of it too. Lift Church partners with other organisations too, and we make sure that they are reputable organisations doing Kingdom work. My tithe impacts those organisations too when I tithe to Lift. On top of my tithe, Bec and I budget to be generous where we can and give finances to other organisations that we believe in.
I guess I'm biased but I believe in the local church and the work that it is doing. I want to see it thriving and strong as I believe the local community is most impacted by a healthy local church. This is how I make use of my tithe.