Have You Checked Those Numbers Lately?
Many people are “numbers-conscious” these days. We keep an eye on that blood pressure. It should be under 130/85. We watch our cholesterol; it ought be below 200. Some need to monitor their blood sugar. Between 80-120 is normal for early morning. When a child is sick, we get concerned when his temp goes much above 98.6.
But what about your contribution-to-the-Lord numbers? Do you give those much concern? There is significant emphasis on this theme in the Bible. There are solid reasons to believe that God is concerned with percentages.
The Hebrew word asar, rendered “tithe,” derives from a term signifying “ten.” In ancient times it represented a tenth of a certain portion.
Under the patriarchal regime, Abraham gave a tenth of his captured resources to the king/priest, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20; cf. Heb. 7:4-10). Later, Jacob’s vow of ten percent seems to suggest an established practice among the patriarchs (Gen. 28:22).
When the Mosaic economy was instituted, the Hebrews were required to annually give ten percent of their produce and livestock. Actually, this was a tenth of the residue after other offerings had been made (Ex. 23:19; Dt. 26:1ff; Lev. 27:30ff.).
Many are surprised to learn that there is not a solitary New Testament passage that suggests the “tithe” as a standard for Christian giving. Rather, certain principles are set forth which instruct and challenge the child of God to give in a manner that is superior to Judaism. Note the following truths — set forth in an abbreviated format.
“Every Sunday, let each one of you lay aside by himself, if he earns anything, and put it in the treasury; so that there will be no collections when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2, McCord’s Translation). Giving is mandated in a weekly act of worship.
Giving is required “according to [one’s] ability” (Acts 11:29), for the act of giving is acceptable “according as [a man] has, not according as he has not” (2 Cor. 8:12). Those who earn more are required to give more — all other factors being equal. One person’s prosperity compensates for the another’s lack; for the time may come when their circumstances could be reversed. In proportionate (percentage) giving, a sense of “equality” prevails (2 Cor. 8:14). This suggests an equity among the saints that evinces fairness.
The Christian giver is one who donates of his income in a “generous” fashion (Rom. 12:8; cf. 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11). The Philippian saints were so gracious that they gave beyond their ability, even begging Paul and his associates to accept their gift (which implies the apostle’s hesitancy) (2 Cor. 8:3-4).
While it certainly is the case that one may give to various
good causes to the glory of God (cf. Mk. 14:7), as opportunity presents itself (Gal. 6:10), it is likewise a fact that one is obliged to give each Lord’s day into the “treasury” of the congregation of which he is a member (1 Cor. 16:2). Without such consistency the local church cannot conduct the sacred business to which it is obligated.
The joy of giving in not developed accidentally. Early on, the experiences of life condition people to be self-centered. It is, in numerous ways, a dog-eat-dog world. From multiple sources we are negatively influenced with the “me-first” doctrine. And so, the need to be industrious, so that we can help others (Eph. 4:28), is a learned duty. How thrilling it is, then, when one, after considerable study and training, begins to realize how much happiness giving generates within the heart. Jesus said that those who are on the giving end of the equation are happier than those on the receiving end (Acts 20:35). God loves the person who has mastered the art of cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9:7).
The conscientious Bible student eventually learns that ten-percent, under ordinary circumstances, should be the starting point for a giving that will ripen with the years. If our giving to Christ does not exceed ten percent, we need take a serious look at our finances, and immediately work towards a nobler level of Christian service.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.