When I was nine years old I wanted to give my mom a present. It wasn’t out of a sense of compulsion. It wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t Mother’s Day. I simply wanted to give her a present because I loved her. I was thankful for who she was, and how she loved me. Both her and my father had always accepted me, and they had always demonstrated profound affection for me. I had always been, and continued to be, extremely dependent on my parents. I did nothing to merit their willingness (and even their delight) to supply all my needs, and I was simply overcome with a distinct desire to offer a token of my gratitude! However, I quickly realized that I had nothing in my possession that wasn’t in some way given to me by my parents. It seemed that my “present to mom” would not only be an offering of thanks, but also a further declaration of my desperate dependence upon my parents. So I resolved to fetch her 9×11 inch baking pan (a resource far better utilized in her hands than mine), and I wrapped it up and proudly presented the offering to my mother shortly after lunchtime! She was thrilled with “the present”!
Tithing is a worshipful declaration – and a tangible regular reminder – of our dependence upon God and our stewardship of all that belongs to Him wherein members of the bride and body of Christ give back to God 10% (or more) of their gross income within the context of a Christ-centered worship service.
Where is the concept of tithing found in Scripture? The motif of tithing run all through the Bible, but here’s a short list of locations embedded in the supernatural and scandalous stories of Scripture to get you started: Gen. 14:20; 28:22; Lev. 27:32; Matt. 6:19-21; 23:23; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7.
We shall never understand or enjoy tithing unless we see and savor God as The Master of all creation and ourselves as the stewards.
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:9-18)
“If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily “ours” but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.” – Elisabeth Elliot [Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control].
Tithing is especially pleasing to God in that He takes great delight in our joyfully desperate dependence upon Him.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. (1 Chron. 29:11-12).
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You. For we are strangers before You and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a house for Your holy name comes from Your hand and is all Your own. I know, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen Your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to You. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of Your people, and direct their hearts toward You. (1 Chronicles 29:14-18)
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (Genesis 4:3-5)
Abel believed in his heart that he was so desperate and needy before an infinitely Holy God that he was convicted and compelled to bring the best blood sacrifice he possibly could, and even in this act – acknowledging that he was offering to God that which already belonged to God. Conversely, Cain’s sense of desperation and dependence is superficial. Cain believes that he is capable and independent – as we see so graphically in the verses that follow. Cain expects something from God in exchange for bringing his offering of fruit, but he does not expect to fall more deeply in debt to the mercy of his Maker, nor does he desire to cultivate awe and adoration toward the God upon whom he is entirely dependent.