Tithing vs. Grace Part 2
Pastor’s Opinion About Tithing And The Church (cont.)
by Pastor Tony Butler
Just a casual glance of the NT church after Pentecost will reveal the kind of sacrificial giving of the early church. Read for a moment Acts 2:45; 4:34-37; 5:1:11; 6:16; 20:33-35; 24:17 and you will not see tithing mentioned once as a means of funding God’s work. In II Corinthians alone you will see the the secret that should motivate believers in Christ.
2. The Foundation For Grace Giving – II Cor. 8 & 9
New Covenant giving is grace based giving out of what one has. It is always accompanied with a proper motivation and is completely voluntary. Please read II Cor. 8 & 9 carefully and prayerfully for a proper context. Paul was taking up an offering from the churches in Greece to help suffering Jewish believers in Jerusalem. In chapter 8 & 9 Paul uses as an illustration a group of deeply impoverished Macedonian believers who sacrificially gave as a challenge to the believers in the Greek city of Corinth so they would keep their word about their committment to take up an offering as well.
As one reads the two chapters above certain realities will pop out at you.
· All the giving was purely voluntary.
· The Macedonian offering was a grace provision of God.
· The Macedonians were extremely impoverished and gave only out of poverty and not abundance.
· The poor Macedonians wanted to be a part of helping the poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem. (Now that is grace!)
· They were going through affliction themselves but were full of joy which led to their liberality.
Think about it! It is perfectly legitimate to receive offerings. There was a need in Jerusalem. In Macedonia there was poverty among the believers. In that poverty God provided for the Macedonians so they in turn could give God’s provision away to the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem.
Paul never commanded them to give or tithe. He never said any of the ridiculous things many preachers say to get people to give. He didn’t hold any law, curse, shame, or guilt over their heads. Not one ounce of pressure was placed on the Macedonians.
I believe as a whole God’s people love to give, but no one likes feeling pressured to give. I don’t like it when a store clerk comes up to me and asks if he can help me. My thought is, "If I need you I will come and get you.” I’m not blaming the clerk, he is just doing his job. However, I do hold pastors responsible for putting pressure on their people when that isn’t their responsibility.
My suggestion to all believers is that whenever they feel pressured to give by any organization, church or pastor, don’t give except for what God puts on your heart! That kind of pressure will never come from God. Grace giving is always motivated by an abundance of joy and love for God. You have the blessing and liberty of God to keep your checkbook in your pocket if pressure is used by men regardless of anything that comes out of the their mouth.
Think about it! One will quickly see in grace giving that poverty doesn’t exempt you from giving. The Corinthians were in deep poverty. That means their arms weren’t long enough to get to the bottom of their pocket. They had to reach deep to give but give they did.
They were full of joy in the midst of their poverty showing that having money isn’t the true enricher of your life. They were steeped in truth and had a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ which led to joy which led to their liberality.
When the Macedonians first mentioned to Paul that they wanted to help give to the need in Jerusalem, it appears Paul tried to dissuade them because he knew they were super poor and needed help themselves. He couldn’t in good conscience ask for help from such people. As a result they had to beg him to give to the cause. (8:3,4) When was the last time you saw anyone imploring the pastor to let them give? That is grace giving! If Paul didn’t expect poor people to give how can pastors command them to tithe? It is better for people to fall in love with Jesus and operate in His grace so He can show Himself mighty in their behalf and thus produce a giving that comes out of poverty through God’s supply.
Just look at the spiritual equation
Salvation/joy + Deep Poverty + God’s supply = riches of liberality (Giving away God’s supply)
This lets us know that super abundance of riches doesn’t lead to riches of liberality in giving. There was an operation of grace moving and working in them that led to abundant liberality. The Macedonians already had a heart of generosity before they had anything to give.
The motivation of the heart in Christian giving is more important than any dollar amount. It is a shame that in so many churches the leadership consists of the ones who give the most dollars more so than the ones who give sacrificially from the heart.
Please don’t miss what is being said in the scripture in II Cor. 8:1-5. When you don’t have money you can still have the joy of the Lord and that joy will lead to liberal heart. God looks on your heart and sees your desire to give and then supplies the need so you can give. Never, never, rob Peter to pay Paul. (Not pay your bills to tithe) Never give under pressure of guilt, accusation, or threat of some pseudo curse being used to manipulate God’s people.
Think about it! The Macedonians gave the money when God supplied the money. They didn’t put it on a charge card. They didn’t fail to pay other bills so they could give. They didn’t break their word and obligations to others in order to give to the church.
It saddens me when pastors tell their people they need to tithe before paying their bills so that God gets His first. That just isn’t true and violates every scriptural principle I know. Those pastors will quickly tell them that if they do it in faith then God will supply the money for your bills and if they don’t do it they are robbing God.
It sounds good and certainly there are no shortage of testimonials out there that will speak to the blessedness of tithing. However, the sad reality is that there are far more testimonials of pressured and misled people who listened to their pastor and didn’t get their bills paid. I can assure you those testimonials won’t be allowed in the church.
Sadly, many of these people feel let down by God because they thought it was His job to replace the money so they could pay their bills. If God came down from heaven He would tell them He supplied the money for their bills but they listened to incorrect bible teaching and made a bad decision.
The people that tithe in most churches that teach tithing are always in the minority. If tithing was such a sure thing why do so few exercise it? Could it be they tried it and found it didn’t always work. I can hear their pastors already indicting them with sin and unbelief.
God makes it very clear in His word that we are not to lie. When we signed our contracts on our homes, or when we signed contracts for our utilitiy bills, we were giving our word we would pay our bills on time. If God supplies you the money to pay your bills then pay your bills first. You don’t rob the electric company to pay God. However, if in your poverty you want to give to God but don’t have the money; I suggest that you, with an attitude of joy, pray and wait for God to supply the money so you can give. This is grace giving. Grace giving is God supplying so that you can give beyond your capacity to give. It is giving with money that you don't have with money God supplies. (see II Cor 8:3)
Think about it! In 8:3 you will see the words, “Willing of themselves”. It doesn’t say they were pressured into it at all. They were motivated by the joy of the Lord. It is the individual’s responsibility to determine what they want to give and no one has any business making that determination for them. Your money is your money and it is completely in your power to determine how much of it you will give away.
If you give to God money without joy, without a cheerful heart, or without an attitude of grace, then that giving has no intrinsic spiritual value to God. You have merely done a legal duty and it brings no spiritual benefit. There isn’t a single person who can benefit in any spiritual way because they give money to God. You can help starving children and you can give to humanitarian causes but it won’t make you an iota more spiritual. If you aren’t a Christian and give you will still go straight to hell. Salvation comes by grace through faith, not by giving to the church. God’s blessing comes after salvation to the believer when he gives in grace out the abundance of joy.
Think about it! In 8:5 you see the key to grace giving. Before the people gave money to God they first gave themselves to God. If God has your true heart He has everything; your job, your money, your family, your will and everything else. God makes it clear that you own your money and can do with it whatever you want, but one can never come into grace giving until our wills reside in God’s will. Once that is done there is abundant joy and a loose grip on the things of this world. Our desires are more aligned with His desires and all of our stuff is seen as His stuff.
God’s blessing doesn’t come on people just because they give or tithe to the church. His true blessing rests on those who have yielded to Him so that the mind and heart of Christ in them manifests into spiritual prosperity. No one should ever prioritize giving with the thought that God owes them or will bless them back financially. Giving should only come out of a yielded heart exercising grace.
I believe God hates it when churches are built on people going into personal indebtedness in the name of tithing. Only give what you have and are able to give to the church in accordance with what your own yielded will has determined. Let that determination flow out of grace and not law. If you have a determination to give more than what you have then wait on God and trust Him to supply your desire. In the mean time, “Pay your bills on time!”
How To Encourage Grace Giving
It is commonly taught by pastors behind the pulpit that “10% tithing” is the beginning place for the Christian. After the tithes come the offerings. The first is mandatory the second is voluntary. That isn’t solid biblical truth!
Tithes mix with grace in the same way works mix with grace. They don’t!!! (Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.)
God wants us to abound in giving but only in a certain kind of giving, GRACE GIVING”!!!
(2 Corinthians 8:7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.)
1. First, Encourage Entire Sanctification 8:7
Christianity isn’t one dimensional. There are other things that need to abound in the believer as well as giving. God wants all the fruit of the Spirit to abound in His people (Gal. 5:22-25). No Christian can come to church and listen to a sermon and put money in the plate and find God’s blessing. God wants us to be sanctified wholly; body soul and spirit (I Thess. 5:23). He wants us to be saved, to have proper a knowledge of His Word, to be diligent in our life for Christ, and to be filled with love for one another.
Giving without growing in personal sanctification is meaningless. God wants us to abound at grace giving but we can never arrive at grace giving without abounding in the work of the Spirit in our hearts as we walk with Him and developing loving relationships with the brethren.
Grace giving is inconceivable without walking with God. If one isn’t sound in doctrine, dedicated to serve, or unloving then he can never operate fully in grace giving. Unfortunately, because of lack of sanctification in the lives of the majority of professing believers, (in my opinion) is why most pastors resort to law, pressure, guilt, manipulation or any other means in order to get the people to give so that the needs of the church are met.
A church’s budget and the size of special offerings are not the spiritual indicators of how blessed a church is, much less how spiritual the congregation is. It might reveal the opposite. It might also reveal just how proficient the pastor is in shaming and manipulating people. There are some expert ones out there!
Unfortunately often times pressure, gimmicktry, emotionalism and competition are tools to raise money in the church. I know the debates about the “what abouts” will rage on this subject until Jesus comes. It is too bad the Macedonians didn’t think about having a cake sale, or putting their pastor in a dunking tank at 1$ a throw. Or better yet, a free set cart wheels to the one who sales the most raffle tickets.
I am not trying to be a legalist, I am merely stating that if the people of God abounded in the fruit of the Spirit and in all diligence and gave in grace I don’t think there would be a single need not met in the church. In our own church we do garage sales and other forms of fund raising. My intent isn’t to condemn but only wonder what if…..
As a pastor I will never command our people to give or tithe. My heart is for them to Know Christ as Saviour and Sanctifier. As they grow in grace I believe His grace will manifest in every area of their lives so that the will of God will be done in the way of God. That we will “Be” before we “Do”, and that what we do will be for the glory of God, having first given ourselves to Him.
2. Secondly, Encourage By The Examples Of others 8:8
One of these days I want to give a sermon called “The Big Buts Of The Bible”. Paul wasn’t about to command the Corinthians to give “but” he would lay before them examples of others. At times, all of us have had the thought, “If they can do it, then I can do it”. I have been so encouraged by other believers that have gone victoriously through trials. When I find myself in the same kind of trial I think about those others that plowed the way for me as an example. I think to myself, “God got them through it, He can get me through it. He is faithful”!
Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "the impoverished Macedonians found a way to give to God and you have more resources than they had." There are no excuses not to give, even if you don’t have the money. If you don’t have the money God is able to supply it. If you do have the money then think about the sacrificial Macedonians and the examples they set by willingly giving through joy. Only spiritual blessing will flow into the lives of all of us who respond in the Spirit concerning giving.
The apostle Paul after sharing about God’s grace in the impoverished Macedonians tells the Corinthians that the Macedonian giving was a test for the them (because they had more money) to prove the sincerity of their love. How can we know the grace of God is truly operating in our lives unless it is tested? How can we properly evaluate what is in us without seeing some examples to use for our own heart inspection?
So often people with more resources aren’t genuine or sincere in their hearts. They take many things for granted and can easily get a superiority complex. I can think of nothing that would make people that have more think about their own sincerity and walk with God than to see people who are deeply impoverished walk into sacrificial giving. Paul made the Corinthians who had so much more think about their responsibility because of the Macedonians who had so much less, yet walked in grace and liberality in the midst of their deep poverty.
I know of a church in Florida that wasn’t a real missions minded church boast that they gave $13,000 dollars to missions. It was a well to do church with about 500 members. They were thrilled about themselves and were so proud to the point of boasting. They had the resources to give much, much more. Our little church of about 175 gave about $45,000. We had a very missions minded pastor. What do you think the congregation would think about their boasting if they knew a little church like ours gave so much more sacrificially than they gave.
Please understand that I am glad the church gave $13,000 to missions, but don’t miss the point. I am merely saying that if missions was emphasized in that church of 500 and the congregation heard examples of miraculous supply and sacrificial giving of other congregations that gave to missions that flowed out of grace and joy which produced great liberality, then it would have been a test and oportunity for them to examine their own genuineness. It is not comparing ourselves among ourselves but rather it is seeing the light of God in others and allowing that light to test our own heart.
When an uncircumcised Gentile (Lk. 7:9) showed more faith than any Jew in Israel ,it had to have made an impact of Christ’s disciples causing them to desire an increase of faith in their own life.
3. Thirdly, Encourage Grace Giving By Him Who Came In Grace - 8:9
The only kind of giving in the New Covenant revolves around grace because the foundation of the New Covenant came by grace. (John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.) Everything Paul is saying is in the context of New Covenant grace giving.
In this passage Paul is using Jesus as an example like he did the Macedonians. Jesus like the Corinthians, had more goods. He was rich. He was the Lord of glory. He had everything. Though He was rich He voluntarily gave of himself to the point of poverty that we could be made rich (possess all things) in Him.
Jesus did what He did for our sakes. In His poverty He went the cross and gave everything He had for those who were completely destitute of any righteousness. By taking our place and punishment on the cross he reached his hand into His own deep poverty and bore the sins the of the world on His own body as a sacrifice for sin and freely offered the gift of salvation to any who will come to Him in faith. All who would would believe on Him would receive of the riches that flowed out of His poverty. His righteousness would be imputed to us by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8,9; 2 Cor. 5:21)
Think about the comparisons between the Macedonians and Jesus and you will see how Paul is trying to reach the hearts of the Corinthians.
|1.||They gave themselves to God first||He first gave Himself to the Father|
|2.||They gave willingly/voluntarily||Jesus went voluntarily to go to the cross.|
|3.||They didn’t give under pressure||Jesus was not coerced to give Himself|
|4.||They didn’t give under emotionalism||Jesus didn’t give under emotionalism|
|5.||They gave out of grace and joy||Jesus came by grace and joy|
Paul’s intent is to show what the heart of those who have been blessed with many goods should be towards brethren in need. We all should think about how at one time we were the needy ones that Jesus saved. We need to think about the riches He possessed in glory and the fact He could not save us unless He gave up His goods and become poor. We profited by His poverty on the cross and were made rich.
If Jesus would do this for us, then we should be willing to give our goods to help other brethren. The giving becomes the riches of others. We should all consider implement such thinking in our giving, especially giving to missions.
4. Only Command What Has Been Openly Promised - 8:11
The only legal aspect of giving is doing what you said you would do. There have been many times people have trusted money from God for a particular reason but then after having received the money, they are tempted not to follow through on what they said. It is an easy thing to rationalize. For example, “God I have set aside this money you supplied for missions, but my car just broke down and I need the money to fix the car. God you know I wanted to use it for missions but I need my car fixed”. NOT!!!!
It is the time to perform what you said you were going to do. Any pastor would be standing on solid ground here. Now the giving is about your word concerning a determined amount of money which was voluntarily promised with no coercion. There comes a time to put your money where your mouth has been. Trust God for more money to fix your car, but keep your word to God.
5. Relieve The Church From All Guilt Of Not Having - 2 Cor. 8:12
Think about it! When it comes to giving, the proper mindset of willingness must be first place in the succession of action. This sets the pace for every other mental and spiritual motivation. The willingness should flow from what you have and not from what you don’t have. It shuts the mouths of those that talk about what they w ould give if they only a million dollars.
A willing mind is the mind that is open to the leading of God. God sees what you have and he understands you can only give out of what you actually possess. That means the amount will vary greatly from Christian to Christian. It isn’t the amount that is important but the willingness that will submit to the leading of God operating out of grace. This is plain speech by Paul as to how we are to give in the church. You don’t give by faith, you give in accordance of what you actually have! ( Pastors screaming everywhere now, “What!!!! Blasphemy!!!”)
What I am saying is biblical. Faith only comes into the picture when you don’t have the money to give but you want to give. Therefore you trust God by faith for what you don’t have. When God brings the money (or whatever it may be for what you are trusting) to you then you have it. Now it is according to what you HAVE! Now that you have it, you do with it what you said you were going to do with it.
The Macedonians gave out of poverty through God supplying to them so they had something to give. The Corinthians had money. They didn’t need to give out of poverty. All they had to do was to determine to give to God how much of what they already had. That is the decision most people have to make concerning giving. For some it could be 3% of what they have and other it could be 90%. It all depends on their willingness and the work of grace God is operating in their hearts. It is totally unique to each person and totally voluntary.
6. Instruct The Church To Meet Their Obligations in life First
Think about it! We all have to pay our bills. We all have to eat. We all have to provide for our families. These are things clearly taught in the bible. If your giving to God excludes these things you are only deceiving yourself about giving to God. (See I Tim. 5:8)
If giving in the church is in anyway over emphasized to the point of your failing to meet your personal obligations then you need to re-evaluate and come into grace giving and give from the basis of what you can give versus what others demand that you give.
7. Encourage That What Goes Around Comes Around - 8:13-15
In this case, “The other men” are the poverty stricken Jews in Jerusalem. What Paul is saying in these verses is simply that he isn’t trying to put a burden on Corinthians so that others are relieved. So many people give with a bad attitude because they think the asking for their money is with improper motive or excessive. (In a way I can’t blame them) Giving and giving can seem more like a taking at times which can feel more like a burden than a blessing.
What Paul is saying, “Give what you can now to help others because a day may come where you are the one in need and others will help you. Therefore your giving will produce an equality.” I have seen this many times in my life and in the lives of others. Jesus said, Give and it shall be given to you.” I am amazed at the times when I am in trouble that God sends someone to help me out. That is the principle of this verse. God didn’t want them to have a burdensome attitude but rather a mindset of equality. What goes around comes around. You never know what life will throw your way. God is saying that when you grace give you can be assured when you are in need that grace is going to be there for you as well. Amen!
Paul told the Ephesians to work honestly with their own hands so that they would have to give to him that is in need (Eph. 4:28). The idea is my gain is another’s supply. This doesn’t work by formulas or by law. It is a work of grace under the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is God in control of our lives and finances. When grace is operating we share with one another meeting each other’s needs. This isn’t communism, this is grace operating in an open, loving, willing heart for the glory of God. No one can legislate this. This is why communism and socialism fail. The biblical church runs on the Word of God, grace, the Lordship of Christ, and the filling/ guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For every need God has the supply when His people give according to grace. It is comparable to what Paul said about love in I Corinthians thirteen, grace giving is a far better way of giving than law giving under Moses.
I am choosing to stop here concerning my remarks in chapter eight of Second Corinthians. So much more could be said but this is enough to get you aimed at grace giving instead of law giving. The vast majority of grace givers will find themselves giving more instead of less. The difference will be primarily the attitude and motivations by which the give. Instead of a attitude of law and duty it will be grace and love. Instead of an burdensome attitude it will be from a heart of joy. Instead of having a resentful attitude of feeling pressured it will result in an attitde of willingness through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Instead of giving out of mis-applications of scripture by church leaders it will be done in the spirit and in truth by a proper understanding and dividing of the scriptures..
I encourage you to go over even more principles in chapter nine. Pray and ask God to help you abound in the grace of giving. God loves a cheerful giver!!!
What I Am Not Saying By Writing This paper
Many pastors would be terrified by the things I have written because they have no confidence in their own people (Or God I think). They are convinced that only by law and coercion can the payrolls, bills and needs be met in the church. These are the very pastors that tell their people to trust God to meet all their needs.
Let me make myself very clear about my views on giving. Every Christian will be called upon by God to give because that is part of His very nature. Some have to give and others don’t. Those that don’t should pray and ask God to supply for them so they can give. The church bills, salaries, and supplies have to be paid. Missionaries must be sent forth which requires money. Everyone knows and understands these things.
For me personally, I began my Christian life as a tither because like everyone else that was what I was told God expected of me. However, noe I am a growing in grace giver. I still give 10% because I can give it and want to give it. I also grace give more than that than the 10% as specific needs arise and as God leads. (I need to say here what we give isn’t just relegated to giving to the church, but also outside the church) I truly want to enlarge myself in the grace of giving. By doing so I have been confronted my own selfishness and materialism. I have found myself arguing with God at times but my greatest prayer is for Him to help me understand this grace and grow in it.
I encourage my people towards grace giving. Grace giving is giving with biblical understanding and progressive spiritual maturity. Grace giving thinks beyond just throwing a dollar in the plate or tithing. Grace giving is foremostly about a close relationship with Jesus and then about giving. Every church has needs that must be met. I will agree many churches go way beyond their needs and force tremendous financial burdens on their people, thus applying the pressure to always give more to the point people feel they hear more about tithing than they do about Jesus.
I am absolutely convinced that great sermons can be preached on the blessedness of giving without going to the law of tithing or using any kind of pressure techniques. I am convinced pastors would be wise to spend more of their time building up the saints by teachings of sanctification than they would by preaching on tithing, worrying about the bills, trying to build more buildings and expecting the saints to pay for it all.
Grace giving proceeds out of sanctification not out of duty. The Holy Spirit knows the needs of the local church and the needs of the ministries that will flow outside of the local church. The Spirit Who leads people to the local churches is quite capable of putting on their hearts where their giving is to start and how to stretch their giving into grace giving. Grace giving is giving that is pleasing to God. If any man tithes to God and thinks he is spiritual let him only say, “I have done my duty under the law that kills”(II Cor. 3:6-9).
For me, I want my giving to reflect God’s work in my heart and my walk with God. Giving is a very serious subject and invokes a lot of passion and debate. This paper is just one more voice in cyber space. I pray that somehow God will use this to help others to discover more about this grand theme of “Grace Giving”and hear what the Word of God and the Spirit of God has to say to them. Peace be to you all.
Summary talking Points On Tithing And Grace Giving
1. The “Historical Tithe” giving in the lives of Abraham and Jacob aren’t sufficient proofs that Christians should tithe.
2. The “Mosaic Law Tithe” was never given to the church. It was given to Israel alone.
3. The Tithe was a theocratical tax on the twelve tribes of Israel to support the priesthood and its ministries.
4. The book of Malachi was written only to Jews and the Levitical priest sinning against God.
5. The curses and judgments in Malachi pertain to the Jews of that day.
6. There is more teaching in the two chapters of II Corinthains 8 & 9 concerning New Covenant giving in the church than all the verses that teach Mosaic Tithing in the Old testament combined.
7. There is not a single instance in the NT where Christians are commanded to tithe.
8. Taking offerings in the church is biblically legitimate.
9. All grace giving is completely voluntary.
10. A willing mind always precedes grace giving.
11. There should never be any pressure put on any Christian to give. Informing of needs is legitimate.
12. The only people who can be pressured to give are those that promised to give voluntarily but are failing to keep their word.
13. Grace giving is preferred over gimmicktry fund raising.
14. All christian giving should come from a genuine cheerful desire to give.
15. No one is to give what they don’t have.
16. No one is give money to the church that has already been obligated to pay for contractual services.
17. The fruit of the Spirit should be developed in the believer’s life along with grace giving. The virtue of Grace giving flows out of that sanctification.
18. Grace giving is a sign of genuine spirtual growth.
19. A believer should only give what he/she has and never should go into debt to give to the church.
20. Meeting the needs of the family come before giving to the church.
21. If a man desires to give to God but doesn’t have the extra money then he should pray to God to supply the money so that he may receive it from God as his supplier in order to give it for the purpose it was asked of God.
I know this has been lengthy but I have done my best to shorten it. I could have filled it with a lot more scripture. But what scripture I have listed is plenty sufficient to start you on a detailed study of this subject. May we all be wholly sanctified resulting in the fruit of the Holy Spirit being seen in our lives unto the the glory of God. Amen