By Chris Butler
2 Chronicles 31:3:12
Under King Hezekiah’s leadership, Israel has returned from idolatry. A number of reforms are carried out: re-opening the Temple, reinstating the priests, and the revival of worship. But the crowning expression of Hezekiah’s reforms was reinstating the tithing system of giving to God and funding the Temple, which had been abandoned under the reign of Ahaz. And so generous were the people that their gifts ended up being piled into great heaps because there wasn’t enough space to store it all.
The command to tithe was given to the Israelites as part of the Mosaic law along with sacrificing animals, ritual washing, not eating pork, etc. The word tithe literally means a tenth. They were to give 10% of everything they earned or produced for the Lord’s work at the Temple. A question often asked today is Are Christians required to tithe? Well the New Testament says we are not under the Mosaic Law, we are under Grace (Rom 6:14). So unless any of those Old Testament commands are reiterated in the NT, then they are not binding on Christians today. And there is no command to tithe in the NT. So just as Christians are not required to sacrifice animals, there is no demand to give exactly 10% of our earnings.
However, although the tithe is no longer commanded, the principle of giving is certainly carried over in the New Testament e.g. Mat 6:3, Acts 4:32:36, 2 Cor 8:7, 2 Cor 9:7. Giving then is clearly encouraged and expected for Christians. But as Paul says in 2 Cor 8:7, it is not out of compulsion, but rather we should give out of love. It’s like when we give presents to our loved ones. We don’t give because we are told to do so. We don’t give grudgingly, because it’s our duty. We don’t give in order to get something in return. We buy them presents simply because we love them, and we want them to know it. Similarly we give to God, not as a legalistic requirement, but to show Him that we love Him. And just as our loved ones are super pleased when we give them gifts, so God is pleased with us when we give to him. He delights in the sincere generosity of His people. As it says, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Another reason to give is out of gratitude. If someone has done us a big favour we might buy them a gift, a box of chocolates maybe, to say thank you…as a token of our appreciation. So if the Lord has given us a great blessing for which we are very grateful, a good way to say thank you is to give to Him…as a token of our appreciation. Are we grateful that we, or our loved ones, have been saved? Have we had an answer to prayer? Are we in good health? Do we have good jobs or pensions? Do we have food to eat and clothes to wear? Well, these are all blessings from God. And we can show our appreciation by giving back to the Lord’s work.
As we recognize all the things God has done for us, the natural response then is to offer him our praise and our thanks. And our giving becomes a natural extension of our worship. Just as it was in Hezekiah’s time.
In fact our times of worship are an ideal time to give. Paul instructed the Corinthians to give during their Sunday meetings (1 Cor 16:2 ). So we should do likewise. If we have pledged to give a set amount per week, we should make sure we keep our promises. Our churches and diocese have ongoing needs and financial obligations that require our regular support.
Not only should we give regularly for the on-going needs of the church, but sometimes extra collections may be needed when special needs arise. The apostle Paul arranged special collections from among the gentile churches to help the destitute believers in Jerusalem who were suffering persecution. And this also happened with Hezekiah. The finances of the Temple had been decimated by the period of closure under King Ahaz, but the restoration of the Temple and the renewal of worship led to an outpouring of generosity from the people, and the finances were not only restored but multiplied. Similarly the finances of the Rivers Team have been hit by the pandemic closures. And our vision as we come out of lockdown is to restore and even expand the ministry of the Rivers Team. And that needs to be financed.
However much God lays upon our hearts to give, whether less than 10% or more, remember it is always a privilege to give to the Lord’s work. It is a huge honour for us to be personally used by God as part of His plan to further the kingdom. And a successfully financed church, one that is actively helping people, will bring glory to God. The work of the church is done in the Lord’s name, and its success reflects upon God himself. It showcases his goodness and love, and leaves people with a positive lasting impression of Christianity. So let’s not let him down.