Can you believe we’ve made it eight weeks into a series about money – at church – and have yet to talk about tithing or generosity? I mean, seriously, what kind of pastor am I?
So far, I’ve been working to establish the fact that God wants you to prosper. He wants to take the responsibility of meeting your needs so you can focus on multiplying what He gives you.
Your identity is royalty. You are a son or daughter of God, the creator of the universe, the owner of all things. And everything He has is yours! He wants you to have it and enjoy it and multiply it.
God wants you to prosper. Actually, He needs you to prosper. It takes resources to accomplish God’s will on the earth. And if we don’t have those resources, the enemy has them.
It’s time for the wealth of the wicked to transfer to the righteous. But it’s never going to happen until the body of Christ understands that God wants us to prosper.
If you don’t get that, you are going to be so tied up into thinking that money is bad that when God tries to resource you for good works, you’ll turn it away. You probably already have.
It’s time to stop that nonsense. I expect every one of you to prosper. I expect every one of you to get out of debt. Why? So we can do what it takes to disciple nations and get the gospel to the entire world.
Y’all, I’m so ready for Jesus to come back. We’ve got to get this done. And it takes all of us walking in God’s promise of wealth.
We can’t just hide out until the rapture. No. Jesus can’t come until the gospel is preached to the entire world. So we better get after it. Every one of you has a responsibility to prosper and resource God’s work on this earth.
So the day has come. You’re ready to talk about tithing and generosity. Now that you identify as wealthy because your Father is wealthy, you can hear this message without screwing it up.
Before, you were likely to hear a message on tithing and generosity and then try to use it to earn something from God. Now you know, you already have everything He has. So generosity is just a response to what God has already done.
It is simply cooperating with His financial system. God set this thing up. In order to prosper, you have to participate in the act of sowing and reaping. You sow financial seed, you reap a harvest.
So let’s talk about tithing and generosity. I’m going to start with a statement you’ve probably never heard at church before. You ready?
You’re not obligated to tithe.
Isn’t that a strange thing for a pastor to say? Again, what kind of pastor am I?
Well, I don’t want to disappoint you. So let’s head to Malachi, the scripture that has been used for centuries to guilt people into tithing.
Malachi 3:6-9 NLT – “I am the Lord , and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’ “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “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.
Isn’t this starting to feel more familiar? A lot of pastors like to use this scripture to guilt you into tithing. After all, if you don’t, you are going to be cursed. How many have heard a message like that?
This causes us to believe that tithing is like paying protection money to the mafia. It’s the only way we are going to stay out of trouble with the big man! If we don’t tithe, God will break our washer or even worse, send us to the hospital with some kind of sickness.
For clarity, I’m kidding. God does not do these things, and I will get to that here in a bit. But I am helping you revisit some of these old teachings so we can get rid of them.
I even heard of a large church where, if someone came to them in need, the first question they would ask is, “Are you a tither? Because if you’re not a tither, you are cursed. And we are not going to bless what God has cursed.”
Tithes AND Offerings
I know, that’s extreme. But if you are going to have this viewpoint, you might as well go all in. And since we’re going all in, let’s revisit Malachi where God replied:
Malachi 3:8 NLT – “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”
Why are we only picking on the tithe? This verse says tithes AND offerings. Some of y’all have been taking a shortcut!
Oh! Did you notice that tithes is plural? You mean to tell me, there is more than one tithe?
Oh yeah, baby. There are three tithes required by the law. The first tithe supported spiritual leaders (Numbers 18:21-24). The second was called the festival tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22-23). The third was taken every three years for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
So, 10% plus 10% plus 3.33%, since the third tithe is divided over three years, equals 23%. Now, now. How many of you have only been giving 10% all this time? I’ll help you figure your back pay after church.
We haven’t even gotten to the offerings yet. So, let’s talk about that.
There was the firstfruits offering, the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering – which, depending on your lifestyle, could get quite expensive – the trespass offering, the drink offering, the food offering, the new moon offering, and every time you had a child offering. Beth and I are in trouble on that one.
Add all the mandatory offerings up, and it would be about 33% of your income. And if you include voluntary offerings, it would be about 50% of your income.
So, let’s see, 50% offering plus our 33% tithe equals 83%. This is getting kind of uncomfortable. But on the bright side, the back pay around here is going to be legit.
Rescued from the Law
If you are going to hold on to this idea that God is going to curse you if you don’t tithe, then you better be accurate and give ALL the tithes AND the offerings.
And you are going to have to bring back the Jewish sacrificial system while you’re at it. But we don’t have to do that. Why?
Galatians 3:13-14 NLT – Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
The curse has no effect on us who believe in Jesus Christ. And it’s not because we followed the law perfectly. It’s because Jesus paid the price for our wrongdoing.
And it gets even better in the next verse:
Galatians 3:13-14 NLT – Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham.
Jesus didn’t just redeem you from the curse; He gave you the blessing. Again, not because we’ve followed the law perfectly, but because Jesus paid the price for our wrongdoing.
Giving from the Wrong Place
I’ve heard people say, “I’m a tither, so God owes me the blessing!” Nope. You’re a beloved child of God who has already been given the blessing through Jesus Christ.
Am I shattering anyone’s religion today? I’m not sorry. You need to be free from that because it’s your attitude that is keeping you from God’s promise of wealth. Take a look:
1 Corinthians 13:3 NLT – If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
You can do all the right things, but if it’s with the wrong motive, you would gain nothing.
Before Jesus, you had to follow the law perfectly to walk in the promises of God. After Jesus, it’s simply about the heart. What is your motivation? Is it love? Or something else?
I want to press pause for a moment to let the Holy Spirit work. Go ahead and close your eyes, and in your own way ask the Holy Spirit, “What’s the lie I’ve been believing about generosity?”
Let’s recap. In Malachi 3, we learn about the curse on all those who don’t follow the Old Covenant laws of tithes and offerings. We’ve been rescued from the curse through Christ.
So now we’re left with a question:
If I have no law telling me to give, why should I give?
Let me tell you a story to illustrate. There was a woman who was married to the most demanding husband. Maybe some of you ladies can relate? Don’t raise your hand.
Nothing she ever did was good enough. He would leave her a list of things to do each day, she would do all of them, but there was always something she didn’t do right.
As you can imagine, this was very exhausting for her. But one day, her husband died. Later, she married a man who showed her unconditional love.
It wasn’t about what she could do for him. He just wanted her heart. And you know, she ended up doing more for him out of love than she ever did out of fear from her first husband.
This is the story of us with the law. We used to be married to a demanding taskmaster. And if we didn’t do it just right, we were punished for it.
But we died to the law and married Jesus Christ who just wants our heart. There’s no more demands. But the reality is, we will do more out of love than we ever did out of obligation.
How much to give?
Now that we no longer have the law to tell us how much to give, what does the New Testament tell us about how much to give?
You are not going to find a prescribed amount to give in the New Testament. You will find a wide range of generosity.
The widow gave a penny, but it was everything she had. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume gave a year’s wages.
The early church sold all of their possessions and brought the money together to be shared. And look at what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church:
2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT – You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
This is the guideline of New Covenant giving. How many of you have ever given reluctantly? You just really didn’t want to do it. How many have given because the pastor pressured you to?
If you are reluctant, or feel pressured, you have the Apostle Paul’s permission to refrain from giving. Why? Because God is not trying to get something from you. He wants you to give, but only if your heart’s in it.
The ball is now in our court. We decide in our heart how much to give. And there are two things to keep in mind when you are making this decision.
Does this amount bring me joy?
Does this amount require faith?
Those two questions will get you to the right number for you. If you only paid attention to the joy factor, you’d probably never stretch yourself. Add the joy factor with faith and you’ll figure it out.
Excel In Giving
Let me show you what I mean:
2 Corinthians 8:7 NLT – Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
Our giving is not to remain stagnant, but it is expected to grow as we grow. So if you’ve been giving the same amount for the last twenty years, it’s time to mix in some faith and excel in giving.
This message isn’t to discourage you from tithing. It’s meant to set you free from the obligation of tithing.
And now that you are no longer stuck at ten percent, you can examine your heart and step out in faith so you can excel in giving.
For those of you just getting started, you may be at a loss now that I took the whole ten percent thing out of the equation. How do you know how much to give?
Like we read earlier, you decide in your own heart how much to give. But I do recommend you decide a percentage, not a dollar amount. That way your giving will always grow with your income.
I’ve heard a statistic that, on average, American Christians give less than 2% of their income. So now you know, it doesn’t take much to be more than average here in America.
Abraham and the Tithe
When it comes to the tithe, or 10%, I do believe there is something special about that number. Abraham gave a tithe before the law even existed.
In Genesis 14, you’ll read about Abraham defeating four trained armies with 318 of his servants. Like he took the guys who were taking care of his sheep, and cooking food, and rounded them up to defeat four armies full of men trained to fight.
How did he pull this off? Well, there’s only one explanation and scripture points it out for us.
Genesis 14:17-20 NLT – After Abram returned from his victory … Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.”
It wasn’t Abraham’s crew that defeated the four armies. It was God who defeated them with the cooperation of Abraham’s crew.
We should be encouraged by this with everything we face in America right now. It really doesn’t matter how big or fierce our army is. We will defeat this evil because God is working through us.
Now, let’s look at how Abraham responded to this news:
Genesis 14:17-20 NLT – Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.
Melchezidek: A Type of Christ
Melchizedek was an example of Christ to Abraham. God used Melchizedek to give Abraham an understanding of what was to come with the New Covenant through Christ.
And all of this went down before the law. There was no law at this point. The ten commandments didn’t come for another four hundred years.
Yet Abraham gave a tenth from his own heart. No one told him to do it. He just wanted to do it because he understood that God is the one who blessed him with this victory. And when he saw Melchizedek, he saw Christ. And His response was giving a tenth.
When studying the history of the tithe, we find that the tithe is truly the way of God, not the way of the law. The law just adapted something that already existed and made rules out of it.
But don’t forget, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Some discover this and use it as an excuse not to give. But for Beth and I, it actually freed us to tithe from the right motivation. It was no longer reluctant or in response to pressure. We just wanted to.
I know I freaked some of you out when I opened this message telling you that you are not obligated to tithe. But it’s the truth. You’re not obligated. You should only tithe when your heart is in it.