In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to pay ten percent of their income to support the Levites, the religious teachers of the day. And there was not just one tithe but three, averaging roughly 23% of their annual income—in addition to the temple tax and voluntary offerings. Today, we have received so much more blessing in Christ than those Old Testament saints could ever have imagined. Giving for the Christian is a wonderful opportunity to take the temporal money that God has given us and invest it in returns that are eternal (Matt. 6:19-21). By prioritizing our finances to give first to the Lord, we honor Him in all that He has given us (Prov. 3:9). Generous giving also loosens the chains that money can wrap around our hearts and keeps our lives free from the love of money (Matt. 6:24; Luke 12:15-21; 1 Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5).
Many Christians assume that their responsibility starts and ends with a gift of 10% to their local church—though few do even this. But this is far from an accurate picture of Biblical giving. Ten percent of our income may well be a good starting point. After all, Abraham tithed to the high priest Melchizedek hundreds of years before the tithe was required by the law that was eventually fulfilled in Christ (Gen. 14:17-20; Heb. 7:3-10). And Jesus nowhere tells us not to tithe. But it’s notable that in all the instructions to the churches in the New Testament, the tithe is absent. Instead, we see Paul instructing each Christian to give “as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2)—in other words, give as much as he is able, which infers beyond what was previously required by the law. And he writes to the churches in Galatia, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:6-7). All good things—not just 10% of what God has given us. From the very beginning of the New Testament church, we see believers prioritizing their generous giving to the local church by selling their possessions and bringing the proceeds to their leaders, trusting them to discern how best to steward the gifts (Acts 4:32-37).
So, where should you start? Start at giving 10% of your income and see every dollar as an opportunity to bring glory to God. It is important to note that your time, talents, and service are additional forms of worship but are nowhere shown in Scripture as a substitute to financial giving.
Four points to consider:
1) Give to your local church first. Prioritizing the local church in your giving contributes to sustaining the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, baptism, communion, and prayer), which are the institutions of Christ that are to be faithfully practiced in the local church for the good of the believers and for the glory of God (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:25-26; 1 Tim. 2:1, 8). In addition, since your local church is your primary source of teaching, it should be the primary recipient of your giving (1 Cor. 9:7-11, Gal. 6:6, and 1 Tim. 5:17-18).
2) Give regularly and deliberately. Paul told the Corinthians to set aside money on the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:2). Giving to the church should not be a spontaneous decision but should be a deliberate act of your regular worship of God.
3) Give sacrificially and gratefully. It is true that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7) but taking up our cross and following Christ (Luke 9:23) doesn’t always initially feel cheerful when dying to self and living for Christ. So, use your giving to make possible a life lived in sacrificial obedience, knowing that whatever you give up pales in comparison to what you are receiving in Christ.
4) Give generously unto a generous God. God has given us bountifully every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and has lavished upon us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7). We are encouraged to be generous, knowing that we can never outgive God: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
This article was adapted from How Much Should We Give? by Capitol Hill Baptist Church