WHY NOT TRY TITHING?
By: Edwin A. Briggs
A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
If we may accept the proposition that voluntary giving is the right way to support the church and her related causes, let us examine of the ways by which people decide how much they should give.
May I begin with the testimony that I am a committed tither? I can scarcely imagine any argument that would cause me to change my mind on tithing. It is one of my most precious and cherished experiences.
IT IS DEFINITELY IN THE BIBLE
We are literally challenged to recover the experience of giving. One way, among many, is certainly the practice of tithing. It commends itself for several reasons:
The Bible teaches it quite clearly. The first step, according to the Bible, is proportionate, or percentage, giving. Genesis 4:4 lifts up this principle when it states that Abel brought the firstlings of the flock as
an offering to God, the idea of giving a percentage from the owner’s flock.
This insistence on proportionate giving is supported in a powerful way by the New Testament statement from I Corinthians 16:2 asking every Christian to give as God has prospered him or her.
Now, since the Bible comes forward with the positive challenge to give, and inasmuch as proportionate giving is definitely approved, the question naturally follows: What proportion? or What percentage? appears to be within the will of God for his followers?
THE OLD TESTAMENT TEACHES TITHING
A clear answer is found in Leviticus 27:30. “All the tithe of the land, whether the seed of the land or the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy unto the Lord.” If the question is raised as to what the word
“tithe” means in terms of a definite percentage, line should refer to Leviticus 27:32 which specifies that the tenth “shall be holy to the Lord.” Frequently people refer to “giving” as if it were synonymous with “tithing.” It should be made clear that tithing is the giving of a tenth of one’s income.
IT IS URGED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
A common reaction to the challenge that Christians should tithe is that this is just an Old Testament law and does not apply to Christians. Three quick reactions: (1) Who do we single out tithing and object to it because it has observed in the Old Testament? We do not reject other Old Testament teaching. (2) On what grounds could anyone contend that less is expected of Christians than of people in Old Testament times? Could not a strong case be made for even greater giving since the coming of Christ and the blessings which have come through his gift of new life? (3) Jesus endorsed tithing positively in Matthew 23:23 when he referred to the tithings of the scribes and Pharisees and insisted, “These ye ought to have done and not to
have left the other undone.”
THERE IS A BETTER WAY
If you have a share set aside for God (and why not?) then you do not have competition between self and the Christian cause when appeals come along.
Some time ago our pastor made an appeal in church for contributions for a special fund in support of seminaries. The next morning our lay leader’s wife called my wife in a critical mood and said, “There it goes again – the church holding its had out for money.” My wife replied, “We tithe our income. We are glad for requests for the work of Christ. All we have to decide is how much we can allow from our fund that is set aside for Christian causes.” The joy of using this method is so great, one wonders how Christians can live without it.
RESPECT FOR GOD
Tithing is a method of giving which shows proper recognition to God. What do human beings possess or use in daily living that is not related to the gifts of God? Certainly any person who tries to do his part in meeting daily needs deserves a fair share of the fruit of his toil. However, it needs little argument to prove that the gift of life, the fertility of the soil, the raw materials in the earth are ours as a result of power and
resources beyond the ability of any human to create.
How do tenants recognize the rights of owners of the property in which they work or live? Certainly, not by a spontaneous, free-will gift determined by the way a person happens to feel at the time the rent comes due, or by what happens to be left on hand after the bulk of the income has been spent for other things. Instead, a definite amount, previously agreed upon, is paid in proper regard for the rights of the owner.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE
Sometimes the objection is made that there are many who should not be expected to tithe because of limited incomes. No one would want to be unreasonable in a situation. However, it is easy to miss the point and overlook the best answer. It is so high-sounding to object to tithing, or even lower giving, on the grounds that it is wrong to take food out of the mouths of babes. But how can one justify the situation in which great care is taken to feed the body, and no interest is shown in the nurture of the soul, mind, and spirit?
PEOPLE NEED AN ANCHOR
High and noble teaching is great, but specific commitment and action are imperative lest good teaching become impotent. Is it good to shield children from the challenge of giving? It is little wonder that giving is
in such a state of turmoil and uncertainty.
I knew a junior high school boy who had a paper route. He was never pressured in any way to become a tither, but tithing was taught in his church, and when he had the experience of earning through his project of delivering newspapers, he decided on his own that he wanted to tithe.
On Saturday mornings he would go out and collect payment from his customers. Then he would go home and spread out his money on the table. First he would take out the amount he owed the newspaper office for his papers. Then he would count the remainder and set aside one tenth for his giving. Only then would he separate some money for payments toward his bicycle and for spending and saving. Is it any wonder that he became a devoted Christian and a leader in his church?
TO FULFILL GOD’S HOPE
In turning over the responsibility for carrying on God’s work our Lord said, “Go ye into all the world and preach and teach and baptize.” St. Paul answered the Macedonian call. Christians have followed in his train. But has the work been done rightly and extensively enough to make significant achievement in fulfilling Christ’s command?
We talk now about the Third World coming to power. But it is happening through bloodshed on so many fronts that one cannot keep abreast of daily happenings. Probably this would not have been necessary if the teaching of Christ could have been carried on as he intended. But, how could such a task be performed with the level of giving that has been maintained? Giving has generally run from one to three percent of income. We gave a higher percentage during our worst depression than during a period of unprecedented prosperity following World War II-unbelievable! Such giving will not result in worthy support of Christian work in the world. Giving as one has prospered is the only way.
Horace Greeley once commented on the efforts of churches to raise funds. He said we have used bazaars, fairs, strawberry socials, oyster suppers, beef stews, turkey dinners, donkey races, mock weddings, grab bags, and bingo -and then he added – inasmuch as these methods have not produced satisfactory results, why not try religion? Why not? God has set forth a way that is workable, fair, and productive. Why not try it?
(The above material was published by Discipleship Resources, Nashville, TN.)
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