What is the tithe? God commanded the Israelite nation to tithe – to give the first ten percent of whatever their income. One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy. Leviticus 27:30 NLT. They took it to the temple, our only way to give it back to God is to give it to a church.
When you read the Old Testament you can see that the people did not always tithe, did not always follow the commands, and often as a result were exiled and enslaved by their neighboring countries. That’s a pretty big price to pay for not following the rules and not tithing. It’s probably also the reason for God’s mercy in sending Jesus – humans couldn’t follow a simple set of instructions.
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi 3:8-10, NLT.
According to my study Bible, the prophet Malachi spoke to the Jewish people after having been released from the Babylonians. (Crossway ESV Student Study Bible). They were supposed to have been profitable and they were not. Malachi speaks to them and reminds them of how things are supposed to go with regard to money.
Several things stand out in this passage. First, God says that they are cursed because they have been cheating him out of the tithe. Cheating is depriving “of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud.” This is cheating because they were ordered to tithe, they didn’t, and they took what belonged to God. They were keeping something that belonged to God in order to gain an advantage. Being cursed doesn’t seem worth keeping the tithe.
The second thing is that when they bring the tithe there will be enough food in the temple. The priests were fed, housed, and provided for by the tithe. The Levites weren’t given an allotment of land because they were to be set apart and serve the Lord. If they don’t tithe, no food.
Another thing is that God will open the windows of heaven in response to tithing. He will bless, protect, and provide for those who tithe. Not just a simple blessing but one so great the receiver will not have room to keep and others will take notice of it.
Finally, God says “put me to the test.” If you recall when Jesus was in the wilderness he responded to Satan “You must not test the Lord your God.” Matthew 4:7 NLT. This was referring to Deuteronomy 6:16. It is wrong to test God and has been for thousands of years. This is the only place in the Bible where God invites the test.
Malachi’s prophecy stands up to the test of time. The pastor of the church is paid from the tithes, the buildings and grounds are paid for by the tithes, and the good works that we are commanded to do are provided for by the tithes. Without the tithes, these would not be possible. Everything we receive is given to us by God – we don’t own anything that we think we own. Everything, including ourselves, is a gift from God and it is loaned to us.
When we tithe appropriately God keeps his promise – he will bless us beyond anything we can measure.
Why should we still tithe? Beyond the promise that God will greatly bless us are some good reasons. The best reason is that we are required to do it. Also, if we don’t, the church buildings and the good works won’t be possible. The priests or workers won’t get paid – just like the Levites they won’t eat.
The Bible says that we honor God with our wealth when we tithe. Honoring is respecting God. We are doing what we are told to do and we are supporting the church when we do it. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 NLT.
We are taught to fear the Lord and remember him when we tithe. “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored…Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 14:22-25 NLT. Here, the word fear is one that means both physical fear and reverence. It is respectful to follow instructions and to respect the one who gives the instructions. It is right to fear the one who created everything and who holds the keys to life, death, and provision. We remember that God gives us everything we own and that it is a gift, not a right, to life and property.
Also, remember those verses about loving God and not money – when we do good works and give to others, we store up treasure in heaven. That’s where our hearts should be anyway. It also seems that when we give and tithe we are experiencing a true life, a better life. “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19 NLT. This sounds like living the Good Life, doesn’t it?
My money story and tithing. I grew up poor and I had many bad habits related to money that come from being poor. When I was a kid, I saw my grandmother put money in the offering plate when I sat beside her in church. I was told tithing is good. I think that’s about all I knew about it until the last few years.
I didn’t go to church during my twenties because I was rejected by a pastor for being unmarried and pregnant. Then I was afraid to return for many years. In 2012, I renewed my faith in God and I prayed to ask forgiveness. I was listening to Christian radio. This station was listener-supported and they had a semi-annual campaign to keep the station running.
I didn’t have any money but I felt this push to give. I listened to the station daily and didn’t want it to go under. So, I prayed and asked God to give me some money so I could give it to the station. Then I called and made a pledge of $5 a month. Every month I had the money to give to that radio station. Semi-annually I increased my donation by some amount of money. I have not stopped giving and I always have that amount of money.
Later, when I began going to church frequently, I began giving random amounts. I’d write a check from what I had left before I went to church. I always had enough for bills and food, but money was often tight. At this point, I still gave to the radio plus I maybe gave 2% of what I earned to the church. I was self-employed and a single-mom to a teenaged boy who ate a lot. I thought that was a good excuse to not give more.
When I look back at my single-mom life, there has never been a time when we had to go hungry. There was never a time that I couldn’t pay a bill. There was always just enough. I didn’t always have what I wanted but I always had what I needed. For most of the time, I had no savings. When I finally did have savings, I struggled to keep money in it.
I didn’t really think much about tithing or my irregular financial situation until I began to go to church full time. I went to church one Sunday, probably in 2016, and the sermon was on tithing and money. My church, at that time, did an annual gift pledge. The pastor explained what tithing was and there was a paper to fill out and put in the offering basket as it passed to say what you expected to give in the next year. I held onto that sheet of paper instead of filling it out there and dropping it in.
When I got home, I estimated what my annual income had been during the prior twelve months. I prayed and told God he had to give me the money for tithing or else I’d not be able to do it. So, I wrote 10% of my usual monthly income on the piece of paper and pinned it to the board in my office where I paid my bills.
At this point, God had given me an education, a home, a job, a car, and a savings account. We always had enough for food plus a little extra. My bills were always paid. When I began to pray and tithe there were times where there shouldn’t have been enough but there was. I noticed it and remembered that verse from Malachi. I nodded and said thank you to God.
As time moved on, God continued to provide. I got engaged. My then-fiance and I continued to tithe while saving every bit of extra money for our wedding. Right before we got married, my business failed and God provided a job so that we would have more than enough. We paid for our wedding in cash. At the last minute, I got a bonus that paid for our plane tickets for our honeymoon – I said thank you to God. It was definitely a wedding gift.
In January 2020, right before we married, I left my job. I thought we’d get married and then I’d go back to work. Then there was the pandemic. The job leads I had evaporated. We were stuck with his full-time income and my sometimes income.
Still, we continued to tithe and we always had enough. In a season where there often wasn’t enough of anything, there was usually enough in our house. Every month, I’d balance the books and we’d review the budget. We use everydollar.com as a budgeting tool. We budgeted every dollar that came in and even saved some money. We struggle to adhere to the budget but we usually did okay.
Every so often, I’d be balancing the books and paying the bills and the bank balance didn’t add up to the balance that I had in the bank book. So, I’d review to make sure everything had come out. It had. I could not find an errant deposit or a mistake in my math. This has happened a few times in the year that we’ve been married. I would just transfer the money to our savings account and it would not have to be transferred back.
This whole time, we continued to tithe. This month our church has issued a challenge to people who don’t tithe. We have been sending part of our tithe to the radio station that we listen to because we are able to worship daily with the station. They referenced the Malachi verses in a couple sermons.
When I paid attention to Malachi’s prophecy I realized that God says “bring all the tithes into the storehouse.” So, I prayed and asked God how much more we should tithe. Within seconds, an amount of money came to the front of my mind that was the exact amount of the tithe that was sent elsewhere. I don’t believe in coincidence. I talked to my husband and we adjusted our budget. That was Sunday.
Monday, I did our federal taxes, balanced our budget, and paid our bills. There was more money than we should have had in our bank account. I reviewed our balance sheet and there was no explanation for it and everything was cleared. So, I checked the rest of the bills against our anticipated income and there would be extra again. We’d have enough to pay the tithe that we originally didn’t budget for, plus give to the radio station, plus extra to put in our savings.
I didn’t forget anything. It was just supernatural God-math again. Once I told God to give me the money to give to him, took it out first, and gave the full tithe, he made sure we were taken care of. Living on less income during a pandemic with pets and kids is difficult. Sending a full 10% of our income out to tithe is difficult especially when one of us is unemployed. Giving extra to a charity we believe in when we don’t have a lot of extra is difficult.
I don’t know if this counts as testing God on tithing. Yet, I asked for him to give me extra so that I could give back to the church and he always says yes. Not only does he give me the tithe, but he gives me more than I asked for. God didn’t say that tithing would be easy, he said it would be worth it. God didn’t say that living as a Christian would be easy, in fact, Jesus said it would be hard. What God did do was send Jesus and Jesus came to give us life abundantly. I’d say that this is a prime example of living the good life and living it abundantly.
What do you think? Do you tithe or have you ever experienced God’s supernatural math? Are you following along with us this month as we look at our money and it has to do with living the good life? Leave a comment below, I’d love it if you entered the conversation.