I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Was I disobeying or obeying God? If I did not tithe to my local church and gave to “another ministry”, would Satan wreak havoc on my finances. Cars would break. Unexpected Medical expenses would occur. Unknown taxes and expenses out of nowhere would occur. Malachi 3:10-11 says “Bring in ALL the tithes into the storehouse”. then God would “rebuke the devourer for our sakes” I was taught the storehouse is my local church. So what if I don’t pay my tithe to the local church? Then what?
My focus on tithing the “Right way” to avoid something terrible happening was the wrong focus. But God was about to set me free from my fear and tithing mentality.
Here is how it happened. I sensed God was leading me to give a significant amount of money to a pastor friend that was coming to America. I looked at my limited finances and asked this question. Was God leading me to give an “offering” or my “tithe”? If this idea is new to you. Here is the simple version. I learned, the tithe (which means a tenth) is 10% of your gross income you give to your local church (i.e. storehouse Mal.3:10). An offering is anything above and beyond that you are “free” to give to anyone. I also picked up somewhere along the way, if you give your “tithe” to just “anyone”, watch out! You are on dangerous ground. You are flirting with God’s curse on your finances and in disobedience (i.e. God would NOT rebuke the devourer).
I knew I could give the financial gift IF I saved up my tithe for several weeks. My wife, who did not have such a rigid view of tithing as I did helped me. So I decided to do that.
Oh no! Did I not have “enough faith” to give this amount above and beyond my tithe? Was God challenging me to give well above my means and I was just too weak in my faith? For weeks, I waited for that other shoe to drop. I had never done this before.
During this time, I had friends who had been in pastoral ministry that were like happy “hippy” givers. They gave week to week as the Lord lead. To the church, to their neighbor, to another ministry, to their church. I would talk to them about it and I was dumbstruck. I asked, “How can you be so happy to give”? “Aren’t you afraid you doing it WRONG”? They loved living with God in a way where He directed their giving and they were faithful and joyful. They kept it in balance as Paul said -“Give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” 2 Corth. 8:12 . They were not dogmatic about the 10%, in fact they gave more because it was within their means to do so.
When my pastor friend arrived in America, I gave him the gift in cash. Then he shared with me this story. A prophet in his home country spoke over him before he left for his ministry trip. The prophet spoke many things the Lord was going to do on his trip and people he would meet. They said, “As a sign that all I have said will happen. I have moved on my servant in the U.S. to give you a significant financial gift as soon as you arrive. When this happens you will know I am the Lord and all I have said will occur”.
Whoa! Here I was thinking I am disobeying God because I’m not giving my “tithe” to the local church. Yet God was showing me my dilemma between tithing and offering was artificial. That I was not cursed by doing it ‘Wrong”. I was free. Free to give as the Lord showed me. I became a “joyful giver” as Paul encouraged us to be. I continued to give to my local church in addition to other ministries. But I was free to give as the Lord lead and stopped worrying about laws and rules that the New Testament did not teach.
Here are some scripture to explore more on these topics:
Give and it will be given to you. (Lk 6:38)
Take it at face value, nothing complicated here and no percentages.
Jesus said in Luke 21:1-4 the power of the widow’s mite was more powerful than larger financial gifts.Jesus said “the widow put in more than all the rest.” To the widow, the mite was more than 10% of her income. Also note, Jesus did not stop her from giving or anyone else from giving. Jesus looks at the heart, blowing up the old testament rules and laws approach to tithes and offerings.
Paul provides a super clear new testament model of giving. No percentages and no right and wrongs.
“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.” 2 Corth 9:7
Many churches teach the “storehouse” in this old testament scripture is the local church. This is a logical and reasonable interpretation in light of the scriptural context. The Template Priest were provided for by the people filling up the Temple “storehouse”. My interpretation of New Testament teaching is God calls us to financially give and the old testament temple analogy of financial provision for temple priest no longer applies. Note Paul and New Testament church did receive financial gifts directly but there was no notion of a percentage or them receiving gifts as temple priest. The 10% is an old testament construct and if you are arguing with God about 9% vs. 11% your probably stuck in a Fear and Tithing mentality.
My view is Seek to give as God leads you. Then seek to grow more in your generosity. Give more as you have faith & means to give more. And remember “the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Lk 6:38) God will match your generosity and level of faith. You will discover the joy of giving vs. fear of lack and holding tightly to what you have. God cannot give to a tight closed fist.
“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8) God is trying to provide a path to more life and more blessing not less. Take him up on the offer.