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How to Teach People to Tithe (and Why Some Will Resent It)

2) Tithing is a faith enterprise from start to finish.

Now, only people of faith—strong confidence in Jesus Christ—are interested in doing anything without immediate payoffs. Only people of faith can pray for years and years without seeing the results of their requests, can give a large hunk of their income into the offerings of the church over a long lifetime with very little feedback on what it is accomplishing, or can minister to the down and out—the truly needy—without seeing evidence that they are doing anything more than “pouring water down a rathole.”

Only people of faith can (ahem) live by faith. The rest will complain about the preacher always harping on money because they just don’t get it.

Tithing one’s income (to the Lord through His church) is all about faith. And here is what that means …

3) Plenty of church members would give, if they “could only afford it.”

The young couple is genuinely sincere when they say (mostly to themselves) that “just as soon as we get on top of our school debts and pay off the car and some bills, we’re going to begin tithing.” Almost invariably, they will add, “Just as soon as we can get a few bucks ahead.”

What they are actually saying is, “As soon as we do not have to do this by faith, we’re going to start tithing.”

That’s why we say it’s not going to happen.

Why not?

4) The devil will see to it you always have plenty of debt. Furthermore, the Lord does not want us tithing “when we can afford it.”

Stay with me here.

The Lord is not interested in His people waiting for excess money to begin tithing. Those who insist they will begin tithing as soon as they get a little ahead will never tithe.

They. Will. Never. Tithe.

Satan (and our own flesh!) will make sure we always have debts aplentyAnyone thinking they will someday get extra money with which to tithe is fooling only themselves.

God wants us to live by faith. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “The just shall live by faith” (found three times in the Word, in Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11).

5.  The Lord has actually planned for tithing to be a painful decision at first.

It’s good to struggle with faith decisions. We have to come to terms with whether we believe Jesus Christ and to what extent we do.

Make up your mind: Tithing is a struggle at first.

I’ve known thousands of tithers over a long ministry. But I never knew anyone who started tithing when they could afford it. They all had to bite the bullet and come to terms with their own faith. How much does the Lord Jesus Christ mean to them? Are they willing to entrust themselves to Him even when they cannot see how this is going to work? After all, that’s how they got saved in the first place. No one knows when they first open their hearts to Him what He will do with them. Yet, they step forward and receive Him by faith.

That, incidentally, is why many people will never get saved and die without Christ. They were unable to make that tough faith decision. “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Typically, the husband and wife will sit down at a table with their financial records spread out before them and have a long painful discussion on this. Nothing about this is fun, they need to know going in. It’s hard.

They see before them evidence of unrestrained and undisciplined desires, foolish decisions and longterm commitments. Some of their financial obligations are necessary (food, clothing, shelter, insurance, schooling, etc.) and many do not meet that standard. But the bills come due, and must be paid.

Eventually, almost every one sitting at that table will come to this impasse: “We cannot afford to set aside one-tenth of our income and give to the church. We need the money for other things. So, what are we willing to push back if we do start to tithe?”

Painful, to be sure. And tough. But—and we must not miss this—this is where the faith comes to play. Doing this is what faith looks like.

6. To give by faith means we put obedience to God above all other considerations and trust Him to work it out.

Does Scripture teach tithing? The Old Testament sure does (Leviticus 27:30 and Malachi 3:10 are two starting places). What about the New Testament? We have Matthew 23:23 (easy to remember!) and also I Corinthians 16:2. We have 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. Those are not talking about tithing as such, but something far stronger: sacrificial giving. The Macedonians were amazing, Paul said. “During a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.”

Paul continues, “On their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints. And (they did this) not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God’s will” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).

Clearly, the early Christians tithed or their critics would have pointed it out. But having said all the above, the real point is sacrificial giving to the Lord’s work, whatever that means in your situation.

I have no idea what anyone else gives and do not want to know. When I was pastoring, I never knew who was tithing or exceeding it or failing to give regularly at all.

So, we are not talking about a legalism to satisfy some church board somewhere.

Those quibbling over the tithe—I’m amazed to find serious disciples of Jesus who get angry about this, as though we are encouraging legalism—will want to adopt the Macedonian standard above, no doubt.