I think there’s more expressions surrounding money than there is any other thing: “Show me the money”, “Time is money”, “Money is the root of all evil”. You get the idea. Money is near and dear to the heart because it represents the fruits of our labor. As we get older and wiser, we tend to tighten our wallets because we understand the value of what we save for rainy days. Losing money is not something we like to do.
When I first heard someone ask, “Do I tithe from the gross or net?”, I had to laugh. It seemed like a funny question. It still makes me laugh a little bit when the question comes up. God forbid that you’re so greedy by being meticulous in how you slice the pie. Perhaps you forgot it’s a tax deduction?
Despite my indifferent attitude on the earnings gap before our Creator, there are some who wonder about such basics of tithing. If you’re one of those people, I can’t say I blame you. We live in a church age where pastors reside in elite neighborhoods and they run their churches like a Fortune 50 company. Most of them are truly non-prophet organizations. No wonder you have doubts when the offering plate goes by!
I recall from my youth the scandals surrounding pastor Robert Tilton when it was made public that the peoples “prayer donations” were being tossed aside after the check was removed. He’s by no means the only “name it & claim it, blab it & grab it” preacher out there, our modern age is littered with such men. Those kind of leaders really kill the spirit of giving.
Let’s move past the greed of unscrupulous men so we can look at the biblical approach to tithing. We can start by defining the word. As most know, a “tithe” is a tenth. We see the first action of tithing in the book of Genesis with Abram when he came back victorious from battle so let’s read it:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Gen 14:18-20)
The spiritual significance of this account in Genesis is expounded upon by the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews:
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. (Heb 7:6-10)
One could argue that tithing is mentioned even earlier with Cain and Abel but the passage lacks details. This is probably because the point of the passage is not about giving but rather the murder Abel that took place. None the less, the mention of Cain’s offering getting no respect is quite notable.
As we move away from Genesis and further into the pentateuch, we encounter all of the Levitical laws that pertained to tithing for the Jewish people. “For the Jewish people” is an important observation because there is a distinction between Jew and gentile. Gentiles are not under Jewish law. If you want to hammer on that fact, nowhere in the New Testament do you see gentiles or the gentile church engaged in an act of tithing. The oft [mis]quoted Matthew 23:23 is also directed towards the Jewish people. We see offerings in 1Co 16:2 but these are not the mandatory donations of ten percent that Israel was burdened with. The ordinance of tithing, as listed in Old Testament law, does not exist for the New Testament church. The ordinances were done away with (Heb 9 among others talk about this).
So tithing is unbiblical and you don’t need to worry about it, much less worry about the gross or net – wrong! The truth about tithing is deeper than that over used cliche of ‘we are not under the law’. If you’re willing to forgo the truth to save your wallet then go ahead and stop reading here. I’ll even give you a few dot-dot-dots so you have time to think about it . . . . . . . . . . ok, times up. Let’s leave the shallow end of the pool for some heavier doctrine. Ready to sink or swim?
Abram paid tithes BEFORE the law. When Abram met Melchizedek and gave him a tenth of the spoils, he was not under the yoke of Levitical law. The act of giving a tenth of one’s increase came before Moses. To reject the principal of giving on the basis of Old Testament ordinances is an unfounded argument. If it was good practice BEFORE the law, it stands to reason it’s probably a good practice AFTER the law as well.
None the less, some of you are probably stubborn with your reasoning skills so I’ll give you a point that you can argue back with: Circumcision was also before the law but it is not required for the New Testament church. Hah!! You got me. Now I can’t say tithing is required just because it was practiced before the law. If such were the case then the burden of being circumcised would have been placed upon the gentile church as well. We’d be bound by both the circumcision and tithing ordinances. So there, case closed. End of story. Ummmm, not exaclty.
I find the above argument on tithes is pretty rock solid but there’s a needle in the haystack of Scriptures that pulls the rug out from under it. That proverbial needle is found in none other than the book of Proverbs:
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Pro 3:9-10)
Proverbs 3:9-10 tells us to honor God with our increase. That means our paycheck AND our garden veggies if we grow them. That simple passage, unlike the other bible verses on giving, can not be written off as Levitical ordinance nor can it be confined to the realm of ‘pre-law’. It pertains to everyone. If you can do away with that verse (which you can’t) then you can do away with the entire book of Proverbs; in which case you’d be undermining the authority of Scripture. The truth about tithing stands firm. Honoring the Lord with the increase of your wealth is a biblical precendent.
Giving is naturally a hard thing to do. It is even harder in the face of greedy, corporate driven churches who do not honor widows or feed the poor. I could write pages about the financial mismanagement of churches but I’ll refrain. Suffice it to say I have felt that mismanagement first hand. I hate it when the vast majority of verses pastors quote on giving have absolutely nothing to do with your tithes & offerings (Luke 6:38 for example). If you are a member of such a church then I understand why you feel pained every time the offering plate comes by. None the less, your obedience to God doesn’t isn’t contingent upon the obedience of others.
As for tithing off the gross or net, well, that’s just a silly question. You can’t tithe off of what you don’t have! But you shouldn’t get hung up on such questions or try to “split hairs” with God. I’ll leave you with one verse that, despite being abused, remains very true:
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2Co 9:7)