Giving That Transcends The Tithe
An early Baptist leader, Francis Wayland, wrote, “Let us once more take up the forgotten cross, and walk in the footsteps of the lonely, self-denying, Saviour. Let us bring our tithes into the storehouse, and see if God will not pour out upon us a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
In early Baptist history tithing is universally condemned. That may surprise some of you who were raised upon the theology of “storehouse tithing.” You need to understand, however, that the form of tithing that was condemned was the state-imposed tithe to support state churches. Because of Baptist beliefs in separation of church and state, it was consistent to oppose a state-regulated tithing.
As Baptist life developed it was natural to consider how our work was to be financed. In looking at the teachings of the Bible, Baptists turned to the concept of “storehouse tithing.” This was the idea that believers ought to give a minimum of ten percent of their income to their local church. The idea of supporting parachurch ministries was far into the future. A corollary to the teaching on tithing was an emphasis on the “offering” as a secondary form of giving. The tithe was expected; the offering was encouraged.
Down through the years as a pastor I have had numerous conversations with church members as to whether tithing was a New Testament practice. The argument was often made to me that tithing was part of the Law and had been replace by a different standard in the New Testament.
I personally believe that tithing stands apart from the Law and is a principle that God has placed within the human race. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek after his victory over the five kings. This tithe precedes the establishment of the tithe under the Law. I believe that this example reflects this tithing principle established by God in the creation.
In the New Testament, Jesus does not condemn tithing even though He does not specifically command His disciples to practice it. He does give His assent to the tithe in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.
As in many things Jesus brought a fuller understanding of giving that transcends the tithe. In the New Testament a new principle of “liberality” is stressed in the matter of giving. The Apostle Paul, in particular, incorporated this principle (e.g., II Corinthians 9). For the New Testament believer, tithing is the beginning point. Liberality through the offering is a worthy continuation of biblical giving.
One of the things that have been consistent during my years of ministry is that it is the people who struggle with tithing that do all the complaining about it being a legal holdover from the Old Testament. People that I have known who tithed and/or gave above and beyond the tithe have never complained about their choice. They spoke of blessing and joy at being able to share in the work of the Kingdom.
What do you give to your local church? How much do you share in mission giving? What does your heart convict you of in the area of giving? I can only testify that a long time ago God led my wife and I to give above and beyond a tithe. It has been a blessing for us, and I recommend it to you.
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