Giving in proportion to income: part of a good life

Posted Oct 18, 2016

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Daily Scripture: Genesis 14:19-20, 28:16-22, Malachi 3:7-10

19 and he blessed him, “Bless Abram by El Elyon, creator of heaven and earth; 20 bless El Elyon, who gave you the victory over your enemies.” Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth of everything.

16 When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. 17 He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven. 18 After Jacob got up early in the morning, he took the stone that he had put near his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He named that sacred place Bethel [or God’s house], though Luz was the city’s original name. 20 Jacob made a solemn promise: “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone that I’ve set up as a sacred pillar will be God’s house, and of everything you give me I will give a tenth back to you.”

7 Ever since the time of your ancestors, you have deviated from my laws and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. But you say, “How should we return?” 8 Should a person deceive God? Yet you deceive me. But you say, “How have we deceived you?” With your tenth-part gifts and offerings. 9 You are being cursed with a curse, and you, the entire nation, are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tenth-part to the storage house so there might be food in my house. Please test me in this, says the Lord of heavenly forces. See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you and empty out a blessing until there is enough.

Reflection Questions

The idea of giving one-tenth of our increase to God (it’s often called by the older English word “tithe”) didn’t start in a church finance office. Genesis said Abraham and Jacob his grandson responded to God’s presence in their lives by giving back one-tenth to God in ways that fit their time and place. After Israel’s return from exile in Babylon, the prophet Malachi said that Israelites who clung to all their resources were “robbing God.”

  • Israel was a largely agricultural society. Their resources were mainly livestock and crops. They didn’t have checking accounts, credit cards or 401K balances. Does our situation today make it easier or harder to decide what percentage of our increase we choose to give to causes that honor God? In what ways does giving as a percentage of income, rather than as a flat amount, create greater fairness in how the range of people who make up the “body of Christ” support God’s work?
  • Giving one-tenth was a guideline, not a law. But passages like Deuteronomy 15:7-11 and Proverbs 11:23-28 also make it clear that one-tenth was meant more as a floor for giving than as a ceiling. It was important in moving God’s people toward a good life because it made the principle of generosity concrete. Do your financial records, whatever the specific amounts or percentages involved, bear clear witness to your faith and commitment to God?

Prayer

Loving God, thank you for the strength, abilities and ingenuity you have given me. Help me to recognize you, thank you and give back to you from the money and goods I have in my life. Amen.

Interview with Doug Smith

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Randy Greene

Randy Greene

Randy Greene is a part of the Communications team at the Church of the Resurrection. He helps develop and maintain the church's family of websites. He is also a student at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and loves to write stories about faith for his blog.

I have never really not tithed. Ever since I was a little kid, I remember that my parents would give me my allowance each Sunday morning (one dollar for each year of my age) and expect me to immediately place at least a tenth of it in the offering plate at church. As a child, I participated simply because I knew nothing else. As I grew up and began working and managing my own finances, though, I was faced with the decision of whether I should continue this practice or abandon it.

Besides the occasional negligent lapse, my wife and I have maintained the giving of 10% of our income throughout our lives, and it’s been a very important part of our relationship with God. As we discussed Pastor Adam’s message this past Sunday, we reflected on why we have been so committed to giving. Was it a rote habit from our youth, or was it something we actually embraced as adults?

By the end of our conversation, we’d concluded that, for us, setting aside the tithe is an act of self-discipline. We tithe in the same way that we might exercise: it’s not always easy and it’s sometimes even painful, but it is a good habit to develop and ultimately it shapes us into becoming more healthy and holistic humans. It establishes a routine by which we are able to consistently give back to support the Church that pours so much into us. In addition, by committing the first of our resources to God, we are forced to more closely consider how we’re managing the other 90% of our income. We have to watch our finances closely to make sure we’re continually living within the portion remaining after we’ve given back to God.

In a very real way, tithing compels us to place our hope in Christ. As a spiritual discipline, it challenges us to live simply and abandon our innate desire to spend frivolously. It reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not found in money or possessions (as the world around us suggests) but, as Micah 6:8 says, in doing justice, living with compassion, and walking in humility with God.

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