TITHING AND VITAL FAITH
By: G. Ernest Thomas
There is a close relationship between tithing and a vital personal faith. However, many Christians have never discovered that relationship. “Faith deals with spiritual matters,” they say, “while tithing is concerned with money.”
Jesus of Nazareth made it clear in many of His teachings that the use which a man makes of his money, and the spiritual experiences which allow him to be aware of the presence of God, cannot be separated. On one occasion he said, “If then you have not been faithful in the righteous mammon, who shall entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:11).
“Mammon” means money. Honesty in relationships with money was regarded by Jesus as the first qualification in order to be eligible to receive life’s more intangible values.
When this passage in the Gospel of Luke is examined from the vantage point where we recognize God as the Creator and Sustainer of all of life, it takes on added meaning. God is the giver both of material things and of spiritual reality. He is the source of the necessities which satisfy physical hungers, and of the courage and strength to meet spiritual needs. Jesus had asked a practical question. If the followers of God have not been faithful in the use which they make of their material goods, how can they expect that the Heavenly Father will feel able to entrust them with such spiritual treasures as courage and faith? Jesus regarded the use of money as the first obstacle to be passed by those who would be faithful to the purposes of his Heavenly Father in the world.
Money has often proved to be the barrier which stands in the way leading to spiritual reality. The nurse who cared for Robert Merrick, the young waster whose story was told in Lloyd Douglass’ book, said to him: “You have something very valuable besides money, but you’ll never use it. It’s in you, all right, but it will never come out. Nobody will ever know you had it. The money will always be blocking the way.”
That is what Jesus was saying. Money blocks the way to triumphant living, and to the assurance which faith makes available to those who know God.
It is evident, then, that there is a close relationship between tithing and vital faith. Tithing is the acknowledgment of belief in God. It reflects a confident trust in the divine providence whose love is expressed in very tangible ways. The “true riches” are entrusted to the tither, not because he has given ten percent of his money to God’s work, but because the tithing habit has fitted him spiritually to receive the greatest gifts of the Kingdom. If money is not surrendered to God, it becomes an end in itself. Men tend to live for money and for those material things which money can buy. Tithing puts everything in the proper focus. Instead of seeing money as central in our lives, we recognize the creating and continuing providence of God at work in our homes and in our world.
Without question, there is a close relationship between the regular habit of setting aside the tithe, and a living triumphant faith.
An Act of Worship
Seekers come to know the presence of God through the reality of faith as experienced in an act of worship. The worship sometimes centers about an appreciation of beauty in nature or in music. It may come through fellowship with others in prayer or in service.
Tithing is also an act of worship. When we regard such a way of expressing thanks as a recognition of the creating and continuing providence of God it is easy to understand the place of tithing in worship.
The Christian’s money is a part of himself: of his mind, his strength, and his life. When he brings his tithe he is giving a part of himself back to God. By such an act he comes close to God in fellowship, and God draws near to him.
The chief barrier to man’s knowledge of God is self. All too often the self gets in the way of God’s presence. In its own sight the self becomes more important than God. Some expression of humble recognition of a Power beyond his own is essential if a man is to renounce his arrogant feelings of superiority and make a place in his life for God.
In ancient times the sacrifices upon the fiery altar were often regarded as an offering to appease the anger of God against people who had offended Him. But many of the ceremonials were developed as a way to thank and worship the Creator. They became the means by which many men learned to know God as a living reality in their world.
So it is with tithing in the experience of faithful Christians. It is not an act of appeasement. It does not buy good will from a God who may prove unfriendly to those who do not obey Him. Tithing is a grateful
acknowledgment of blessings already received. The individual who tithes acquires a confident assurance of the reality of God’s power in the world.
Many tithers can testify to the fact that their knowledge of God and of His presence were intensified by the habit of tithing. Here is what one Christian wrote about his experience: “I accepted the challenge to
experiment with tithing during the Lenten period last year. Frankly, I approached the idea with suspicion. It seemed to me a legalistic way to decide what my family owed to God. But I have been surprised at what
happened in my own life, and how it seems to have affected my family. We feel closer to God than we ever did before. I guess it is because tithing has caused us to remember Him more often every day.”
During the sunset years of his me, Edward Bok had a spiritual radiance which was evident in all his relationships. Many of those who knew him remarked on the changes which came during those later years. He was convinced that every person’s life should include three periods: the period of education, the period of achievement, and the period of service. While he proved a tremendously useful citizen during his active career, it was in his later years that he gave unstintedly of his time and efforts toward the making of a better society. It was during those years that he became the benefactor of all mankind through his gifts to numerous projects which have served humanity. During that period he set up the “Bok Peace Plan” by which creative minds might be led to consider ways to insure lasting cooperation among the nations. Tithing brought to Mr. Bok’s life a new and deeper knowledge of the presence of God. His faith was deepened by the practice of tithing.
Many of the current doubts about the nature and works of God in the modern world can be answered if the questioner is willing to acknowledge the divine presence by setting aside a tenth of his income for God’s work. All too often youth and adults alike decide that there is no God, when, in reality, there is no awareness of God in their lives, and that fact causes them to decide that God is not to be found anywhere in the universe.
Any person who will acknowledge God’s presence by setting aside a tithe will come to know that God is alive, and that the reality of His presence can be experienced by all those who seek Him. Tithing prepares the mind and heart of Christian people to know God. The inner longings of men and women for assurance are, in a wonderful way, satisfied as they give continuous evidence of their appreciation of all the Heavenly Father has done for them.
Working With God
Another of the “true riches” of tithing is a sense of partnership with God in the work of the world. Tithing gives the individual who shares his material goods the daily consciousness that the problems of humanity do not need to be borne by men through their own strength alone. It suggests that the world is all a part of God’s creating efforts, and that man shares with God the privilege of using His blessings to benefit all mankind.
One tither puts it this way: “When we tithe, we have the realization that we are actually in partnership with God and that He is in partnership with us. It’s glorious to have God as a partner. An ever-present God to whom we can take our problems any time, any place, anywhere we happen to be. An all-loving God who knows what is best for us. An all-powerful God who can bring to pass those things that are best for our spiritual or physical and our financial advantage!”
These are days of rapid changes in society. The threat of war hangs continually over a stricken world. The newly developed means of destruction affect the thinking of every person on the planet. Confidence in the future tends to be displaced by a growing anxiety which casts its shadow over me every day. But the tither has resources sufficient to meet the uncertainties of his world. He is aware of a partnership with God in the
planning of his life. He feels no compulsion to solve, by his own strength, all the problems of humanity. He knows that he is privileged to work with God in doing everything which can be done to make a better world, so does not feel that great responsibilities must be shouldered by himself alone. He is a partner with God He is able to say, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.” The one who tithes knows that the final decisions about the ends of life are in the hands of God. That removes the burden of anxiety from his life. He experiences every day a sense of joyous comradeship in doing the tasks which need to be accomplished.
Tithing builds confidence and trust. It banishes fear by instilling a sense of partnership with God in the heart of each one who faithfully tithes his income.
Helps Prayer Life
Then, tithing makes a contribution to the prayer life of faithful Christians. It deepens, also, the other spiritual experiences by which divine power is made available for personal living.
Effective prayer depends upon a knowledge of God. It is impossible to pray if God is a stranger to the person who seeks Him. Prayers which do not have a foundation in fellowship with God are like those which the heathen utter to a stone idol. Vivid experiences of prayer require a basic understanding and friendship between God and the one who is seeking Him.
Tithing gives continuous reminders of God’s reality in the world. The tither feels a daily consciousness of the divine presence. He finds it easy to talk with his Heavenly Father through the method and avenue of prayer.
There are many people who try to pray without surrendering their lives to God. They look upon God as far removed from their world, a sort of magic wonder worker who can be persuaded to perform miracles which will prove advantageous to them. They feel that God is too far removed, or too uninterested in their lives to bother to examine what they themselves have been doing. They do not ask themselves if they have any merit which should allow them to ask favors of God. Often they assume that their national background qualifies them to approach Him. They believe that they are one of a chosen people, a people who may command a special interest on the part of the Creator. Sometimes they boastfully assume that their personal virtue is such that they can command the will of God to do their bidding.
But true prayer grows out of a surrendered me. It blossoms as a result of a close and intimate fellowship between the seeker and his God. It is here that tithing makes its important contribution to prayer, for tithing is an act of surrender. It is a daily confession that God is, and that He is at work in His world. The tither has a solid basis of faith in his assurance of God’s presence. That faith becomes the foundation for a daily sharing of fellowship through prayer.
Fellowship With God’s Children
Another of the “true riches” of faith which is realized by the tither is a sense of companionship with the children of God.
All of me is sacred for the one who tithes because every part of it is the creation of God. The people in the world are God’s, as well as the splendor of nature in the physical world. The tither sees himself and all other men as possessing life because it was given by his Heavenly Father.
A minister told of visiting a lady in a home for the aged. She had been a faithful Christian all her days, and, knowing that death was not far off, she requested that a special hymn be sung at her funeral service. This hymn was her confession of faith:
“My Father is rich in houses and lands;
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands;
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full; He has riches untold.
I’m a child of a King, a child of a King.
With Jesus, my Saviour, I’m a child of a King.”
Every tither has that confident faith, not only for himself, but for all other people in the world. He sees all mankind as “children of the King.”
Such a faith dispels much of the tension which results from unfortunate personal relationships. A great deal of the unhappiness in the current world has its source in misunderstandings between people. And many of these are caused by selfishness. Tensions develop when people want their own way, or when they yearn for prestige and power.
The tither sees me as the gift of the Father’s love. All mankind is a part of His creation. Because the tither is a partner with God he shares a concern for all the natural wealth and beauty of the world, but especially
for all of God’s people.
John and Harriet Stewart, of Haddonfield, New Jersey, demonstrated that tithing builds a sense of comradeship with the people of all nations. As part of their Christian dedication they recognized that those of every race and nation are worthy of their love. For many years John and Harriet gave of their money to support boys in China. Sometimes there were letters of appreciation from students whom they had helped. Often the reward was only the tithers’ joy in doing what they felt was the Lord’s will. But one day David Lin came from China to stay in their home, and to express his gratitude for their kindnesses across the years. He had become president of one of the larger Christian Colleges in China. Dr. Lin told how his faith had been strengthened by the knowledge that his friends in America were dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. Harriet and John learned the lesson that tithing money builds a sense of fellowship which crosses all barriers of language and race.
Tithing has a way of lifting the horizons of those who share their national goods for the work of the Kingdom. It takes the individual out of a narrow and selfish interpretation of God’s relationship to the world. It brings him to the place where all of creation becomes holy in God’s sight. Faith is deepened and broadened through the regular habit of tithing.
Tithing the Key
In this generation, as in others which have preceded it, many individuals are struggling with problems of faith. The philosophies which compete for the allegiance of mankind are numerous. Some promise their followers both success and wealth. Many assure their adherents that they can abolish injustice in the world.
The Christian faith is a full and satisfying approach to the problem of how men may know God, and how they may understand His relationship to mankind. Christianity proclaims that the Heavenly Father revealed Himself in Jesus Christ in order that we might know the eternal meanings and realities. The
nature of God and of His work in the world is dramatically set forth in the birth teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Yet many Christians do not reap the treasures of faith. The implications of a God of love whose power is unfailing never comes to be realized in their lives. God may be the Heavenly Father whose grace is without measure, but such a faith does not make them triumphant in daily living and victorious in the hour of death.
The barrenness of faith in the experience of many Christians can be explained by their attitude toward money. Jesus expressed the idea with clarity: “If you then have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who shall entrust to you the true riches?” Men must be right with God in the use of their material treasures if they are to possess the true riches of faith.
Tithing is a practical acknowledgment of God’s goodness, and, at the same time, an open doorway to a living and triumphant faith.
(The above material was taken from the book Spiritual Life Through Tithing.)
Christian Information Network