Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So much of our lives as Christians involves the things that are unseen; the feeling of God moving through a worship service, the silent prayer you whisper over a friend or family member in need, or the emotion you feel when a sermon truly speaks straight to your heart. However, my prayer for you in this writing is to speak openly and honestly about a way that you can display your faith that is seen; your money.
Did your heart just sink a little? If so, I totally understand your hesitation! Can’t we just focus our hearts and minds on God and worship in a way that isn’t as tangible as reaching into our wallets? As a worship pastor’s wife, I love to witness the beautiful demonstration of our faith when we offer up our worship to God through song. But as an economics professor, I also feel an awesome responsibility to apply biblical wisdom to the study of my favorite subject, and it is clear to me that offerings of money are also beautiful acts of worship.
There are many worthy ways of giving our money to God’s kingdom. For example, you can donate to a family in need, you can sponsor a child in Africa, you can pledge to support the building fund at your local church, or you can drop a twenty in the plate during the offering. However, I believe that God calls us to much more than random acts of giving; we can worship through consistent, intentional, and proportional tithes and offerings.
I’ve always known that giving money was an important part of the worship experience. Growing up in a tiny Southern Baptist church, I was the designated “penny march” leader each Sunday as I walked up and down the aisles collecting spare change from the congregation to donate to the local children’s home. (I was awarded this distinction as one of the two children who attended the church.) When I was ten years old, I competed in Bible drills at my church, diligently memorizing the following verses from Malachi 3 which address tithing: “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings….Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
As a teenager, I heard testimonies of church members who tithed faithfully, and I witnessed my own parents write checks to the church even during months where money was not as plentiful. However, only when I got married did I fully begin to appreciate the profound responsibility and blessing that comes from giving and tithing.
Tithing refers to giving a portion (often one-tenth) of one’s income or property. Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizidek (see Genesis 14) and Jacob promised God, “of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (see Genesis 28). A tithe of one-tenth of crops and animals was required according to Mosaic law.
We now live under the New Covenant. Even though tithing is not specifically commanded in the New Testament, Christ serves as a model of giving that we should seek to emulate: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In addition to the sacrificial giving of Christ, the New Testament is actually filled with financial wisdom regarding giving. Jesus alludes to the principle of giving in proportion to what one has when he says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48) In Luke 11, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for tithing to the letter of the law (even right down to their kitchen spices!) while ignoring compassion and mercy. Mark 12 tells the story of the widow who gave generously despite her poverty. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 reminds us that “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
From these verses, I am compelled to believe that we should give generously and joyfully back to God. Rather than seeing tithing as a rule to be followed, we should approach it as a way of furthering God’s kingdom and as a way of acknowledging that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” This verse tells us that God owns everything, including our money. Giving to His church and His kingdom is the least we can do to thank Him for His provision. Sadly, many Christian families are missing out on the blessing that is tithing. According to Christianity Today, only 10-25% of the average congregation tithes. Tithing helps to support our churches and mission work around the world, but it is also a way God involves us in His plan of redemption.
What should a tithe look like in your life? I urge you to consider tithing consistently, intentionally, and proportionally. Consistent giving implies that a portion of each paycheck is given to the church. Giving intentionally means that you give to God first, before considering other needs, rather than giving God what is left at the end of the month. You should also question whether your giving is proportional to your income. In this way, “he who has been given much” gives more.
So, am I advising that you give one-tenth of your income to the church? The amount should ultimately be determined by listening to God as He speaks to you in your unique situation. Ten percent may be too little!
If you need some practical advice on how to begin tithing, you might use a strategy that I suggest to my students. Begin your monthly budget by writing down your monthly income. Below this, write down every way that you need/choose to spend that money. The very first line of spending that you list, however, should be the amount you have chosen to give to God. If you do this, the black and white contrast of what God has given you and what you are giving to Him may cause you to adjust your giving habits.
As Malachi 3 suggests, tithing is one way that I have been able to see God richly pour out a blessing over my life. It has strengthened my marriage and given me a healthier perspective on spending than I otherwise would have. I hope you will consider worshipping God not just in the unseen places of your heart and mind, but also through tithes and offerings of your money.
Colene Trent, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the McAfee School of Business at Union University. At Union, she teaches classes in microeconomics, international economics, managerial economics, managerial finance, and personal financial management. She enjoys ministering to students through economics, and she loves encouraging them as they prepare for their future careers. Colene serves on the worship team of her church alongside her husband, David, who is the worship pastor and a singer-songwriter. Colene serves as the director of the Miss Tennessee Iris Princess Program, a mentoring program for young girls, so she loves all things that sparkle. When she isn’t teaching, you will likely find her completing a Pinterest-inspired DIY project.