The Reference Desk | Why We Tithe

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Has God ever repeatedly stepped on your toes about something until you finally surrendered and obeyed? You know, just a little prick in your heart that wouldn’t stop? Maybe it was about reading the Bible consistently. Perhaps it was about forgiving someone who betrayed you. Or it could have been an area where the Lord has been leading you to serve. But you just aren’t sure you can, or even that you want to. 

That’s how I once felt about the topic of tithing. I knew I should, but I just wasn’t sure it was possible. At the time, it was a huge step of faith that seemed too hard.

The practice of giving a tenth as an offering was established early in Scripture (Gen. 14:18-20; Lev. 27:30-34; Num. 18:21-28; Deut. 14:22-29). And it was to be the firstfruits, not the leftovers, as seen in Exodus 34:26 and Leviticus 23:10. In other places in Scripture, we see that these sacrificial offerings, and ours, are a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It is a sweet part of our worship, for Him and for us.

Although I was taken to church since childhood, I wasn’t raised in a home where we discussed giving to the Lord. I was not taught to be disciplined as I gave back to the Lord from my allowance or babysitting earnings. 

After marriage, my husband and I both worked on Sundays, and we didn’t make church attendance a priority until we tried to begin our family. My sweet father-in-law had gently encouraged us to find a local church in the small town where we lived. After we began attending worship regularly, he then gently began encouraging us to tithe, to give something back from what God was giving us to live on.

Now, we didn’t make much back then. I was in school, so we were a one-paycheck household. Even after I did go to work, we didn’t live on my paycheck so we wouldn’t be locked into a double income once we did become parents. Besides, ten percent was a huge chunk of our living expenses. We lived to the end of our paycheck each month right before the next check arrived. And we weren’t big spenders. Our car payment alone was more than ten percent of our income! How could we give that much away when we received our paycheck each month?

We gave a little here and there on Sundays, but something kept nagging at my heart, and it wasn’t my father-in-law. So I shared how I felt with my husband, and since I was the one who handled our budget and wrote the checks (before online banking was invented, and even before the Internet was available!), we decided I would write a check for ten percent when our next check arrived and pray we would have enough till the end of the month. 

This was one of the first “miracles” and tests of faith I experienced as a young Christ-follower. Oddly (or actually “by design”), we lived right up to the end of the month with the same amount left that we had before attempting to tithe—a few dollars! No doubt this was God showing us that, when we obey, He provides all we need. Psalm 23:1 reminds us, “The LORD is my shepherd; I have what I need” (CSB). Philippians 4:19 says it this way, “And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He is worthy of our trust, our obedience, and of our giving back to Him financially. 

I came to understand that everything we have comes from Him anyway. And even though He allows us to manage our finances, it all belongs to Him, not just what we gave back through our church.

Most important is the motivation behind our giving, no matter the amount. It’s our love for Him that urges us to obey and be generous, even above ten percent. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us to be willing givers to the Lord: “The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.”

If we love Jesus, then shouldn’t we want to support the ministry that allows others to know Him? Just like we have monthly bills to pay, so do our local churches. And this is a good time to say, He also wants our time, talents, giftedness, and everything else! It’s all His.

If God has been pricking your heart about generous giving, test Him in this! (See Mal. 3:10-15.) He will provide all you need, and your heart will be filled with joy as you obey.

Chris Adams is an author, speaker, blogger, and women’s ministry consultant. She retired in 2017 after serving over twenty-two years as the women’s ministry specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. Chris helped pioneer women’s ministry as we know it today and compiled three women’s leadership books: Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and Women Reaching Women in Crisis.  

Prior to her employment at Lifeway, she was the special ministries coordinator at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, overseeing women’s ministry and missions education.  

When Chris is not consulting, speaking to women, or training women’s ministry leaders, you can find her reading, with family, or spending time at the beach. She married Pat in 1971, and they have twin daughters, two sons-in-law, seven grandchildren, seven bonus grands, one great-grand, and a seven-pound Yorkie named Mo.  

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