By Benjamin C. Maxson, Director
General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: Tithing is one of God’s primary tools in our ?discipleship journey? to help us focus on Him as we deal with the material world. In tithing, the real issue is always worship. This article outlines six vital steps to improve our worship as we tithe.
Much of the contemporary debate on tithe focuses on limited questions. Should we tithe? Where should we tithe? Why should we tithe? This discussion really ignores the real issues: Why did God establish the tithing system? Does tithe have a purpose beyond paying church bills? Can we understand tithe in a way that helps us grow in our walk with God?
The story of Abraham and Melchizedek (Gn 14:20) is the first example of tithing. The second example appears when Jacob makes a commitment to tithe in response to God’s blessings (Gn 28:22). Neither of these examples are a response to a new directive from God. They are simply a continuation of a normal lifestyle of worship. Through tithe, these men were acknowledging God’s involvement in the material side of their lives. They were not supporting a church—there was no church to support. They were simply worshipping God.
Later, when God gave Israel direct instruction on tithing, it was again in the context of worship. They were to offer their tithes and offerings at the sanctuary—the dwelling place for God’s name (Dt 12:5-6, 11). God received the tithe and used it to provide for the ministry of the sanctuary through the priests and Levites.
As we continue to explore the biblical record, we find tithing connected with the call to revival (2Ch 31; Ne 12-13; and Mal 3). The real issue is always worship—how we acknowledge our relationship with God as Owner and Redeemer.
However, one of the most important points for understanding God’s rationale for tithing is found in what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34. He places money and material things in direct competition with God in our lives. He confronts us with a choice as to whom we will serve and how we will serve Him. It is interesting to note that the context is the basic necessities of life, not luxuries. A life focused on providing the bare necessities of food and clothing is identified as pagan. Instead of such a focus, Jesus challenges us: ?But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you? (v. 33, English Standard Version).
Though it does not appear in the immediate context of Matthew 6, tithing is one of God’s primary tools in our ?discipleship journey? to help us keep our focus on Him, while we deal with the material world. As we tithe, we place God first. We acknowledge Him as the Owner of everything we have in our hands. We admit we are stewards—managers. So we need to explore ways of improving our worship as we tithe. There are a number of things we can do in order to improve our attitude of worship.
Step 1: Accept our relationship with God
The first way is to recognize that true worship can only come from a heart in tune with God. Thus, the first step is to accept our relationship with God. This starts with confessing our sin, accepting forgiveness, and rejoicing in our eternal life. We are then in a new relationship with Jesus, and, when we tithe, we can affirm our salvation in Christ and celebrate Him as our Redeemer. This redemption reestablishes His ownership in our lives.
Step 2: Accept God as Creator
The second step in making our tithe worship is to accept God as our Creator. As such, He can also recreate and give us new life. As Creator, He provides for all our needs. We acknowledge this as worshipping Him by putting Him first in returning our tithe. By seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first, we make a choice to live a new life. In this way, tithing is a tool which helps us change our priorities.
Step 3: Surrender our ownership and accept His
Tithe is worship when it comes from one who has accepted the reality of God as Owner. This is the next step. We choose to surrender our ownership and accept His. It means we recognize that everything we have in our hands belongs to God. We are only managing it. We worship God with our tithe to remind us that everything really does belong to Him—to help us manage the 100 percent to His honor and glory. In this way we accept our responsibility to carefully oversee all the gifts He has placed in our care.
Step 4: Recognize God’s care, guidance, and love. We also make tithe an act of worship when we recognize God’s providential care, guidance, and love to us. The tithe we return to God reminds us that He cares for us—that He is intimately involved in all the details of our lives. That before we tithe, He has already provided for all our daily needs. We present our tithe to Him with grateful hearts, recognizing the bountiful blessings He has given us—for we can only tithe if we have already received His blessings.
Step 5: Accept that we are to be holy to God
Tithe as worship also provides an opportunity for us to accept that we are ?to be holy to? God (Lv 20:26). Because He is Owner and we belong to Him, we are holy—set apart for His special use. In tithing we can recognize that we are completely His, that every part of our lives belongs to Him. Thus our tithe becomes a confession that we too are ?set apart? for God.
Step 6: Reconsecrate our lives to God
When we accept tithe as something which is holy, belonging to God, we recognize the blessing that is ours in handling that which is holy. To do this well, we must bring our tithe to Him in the context of our daily walk with God. Tithing then becomes an opportunity for complete reconsecration of our lives to God. We can rejoice in the reality of our salvation and acceptance in Christ. We can accept our new life in Him. We can celebrate God’s goodness in caring for us in the material world and thus recognize that He has also cared for us in the spiritual world. Tithe then becomes a testimony to God and our own hearts that we accept and worship God in our daily living as disciples.
A thirteen-year-old boy on one of the South Pacific Islands demonstrated this attitude of worship. Bringing a large fish he had caught, he told the local elder of his church that this was his tithe and asked how he should deal with it. The elder explained what he should do with the ?tithe fish? and congratulated the boy on his good catch of ten fish. The young man replied, ?Oh no! This is the first one. The others are still in the ocean. I’m going after them now.?
Truly, tithing provides us a tool to help us worship God, placing Him first in our lives in every way. For tithing is a tangible recognition of our incredible relationship with Him.