Nothing intimidates, hardens, and separates more than financial issues...money. The scriptural guidance is clear, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10) Having a scriptural understanding money, including tithing and offerings, is essential for the continued growth of a child of God. Taking it just one step further, having an unbiblical understanding of money allows for oneself to grow wicked and weary and ultimately error from the faith.
While the biblical lesson is on tithes and offerings, one cannot understand the biblical responsibility of tithing and giving in offerings without understanding what the Bible teaches about money. So what does the Bible teach about money?
- A child of God cannot please the Lord if their desire is on riches and possessions. As mentioned above, desiring riches and possessions is simply another name for putting something else above God. The Bible is clear that we are to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), and that nothing shall come before God. The love of money displaces our priorities, placing money and possessions above God.
- We are stewards of our finances. (Luke 16:1-4) A steward is not an owner. A steward is to manage and look after. Considering that all money and all possessions belong to God, He places us into positions of stewards to manage and look after what is already his. Therefore, our money is not our money...our money is God's money that he has entrusted to us.
- Don't burden yourself with debt. (Romans 13:8) Debt is simply an obstacle placed in the way of serving God. Much can be said about this topic, but for this particular lesson, we should give great care as to how our finances are handled.
Considering that our money isn't actually our money and we are simply stewards of God's money, we need to handle our finances exactly the way the 'owner' requests. God's way of handling our finances is simple...give in tithes (10%) and offerings, and handle the other 90% appropriately.
What is tithing? Tithing is the giving of one tenth of one's increase to Christ, our High Priest. The tithes are paid into the 'storehouse,' otherwise known as the church. Let's take a look at some basic questions concerning tithing:
- Where does the Bible speak about tithing? Tithing began as a voluntary act with Abraham, was required under the Mosaic law, and carried forward by Christ as a discipline for the New Testament church (Matthew 23:23). Clear guidance for tithing is mentioned in Malachi (mainly chapters 3 & 4). Please note that any Old Testament (Old Covenant) principles of the covenant remained intact unless Christ "updated" the principles in the New Testament (New Covenant).
- How much is tithing? Tithing is the giving of the first 10% of increase as first fruits.
- What happens if I don't have enough money to tithe? In practical terms, this is impossible. Tithing should occur first. According to scripture, tithing is the first 10%. Therefore, before one bill gets paid, before one meal gets purchased, etc, one should tithe to the Lord.
- What if I can't afford to tithe? Again, practically speaking, this is impossible. Generally, the only way we can't afford to tithe is when we extend our finances too far. We purchase too many "things" and then don't have enough money to tithe. If we are going to be in line with scriptures, our first 10% goes to the Lord, and the remaining 90% should be handled wisely.
- Where do I send my tithes? Tithes are to be brought to the storehouse. In old testament times, the actual first fruits were exactly that...first fruits. The first part of the harvest. And they were brought into the storehouse where the church would disperse them appropriately. In today's day, we are generally speaking about money...not actual first fruits. They are still brought into the storehouse for the church to disperse appropriately.
- Can I send my tithes somewhere else? No. The tithes should remain with the local church (unless otherwise approved by church leadership in rare situations). The local church is where you get spiritually fed, mature in Christ, and fellowship with the saints. Sending tithes elsewhere is robbing the local church of finances.
- Do I pay 10% on my gross income or my net income? Getting too deep into exact specifics isn't necessarily beneficial for the church or the tithe payer. The key to this question is giving God 10% of your increase. A good general rule of thumb is to give 10% of your income...in whatever form that income arises, including paychecks, social security, tax refunds, stimulus money, monetary gifts, etc.
- What if God tells me I don't have to tithe? If this happens, you aren't listening to God. How do I know? God doesn't contradict himself, and since He has already told all of his children via the scriptures to tithe, He's not going to tell you not to tithe. Tithing is required of all of God's children.
- Can I make it to heaven if I don't tithe? The answer to this is simple...that's between you and God. Nobody has the authority to say who is and who is not going to heaven. However, the scripture is clear about the mandate of tithing...and disobeying God is not a good way of making heaven your home.
- Where does the tithes go in the church (in Zion Assembly)? First, at the end of each month, the church pays 10% tithes of all the tithes received into the local church to General Headquarters. Secondly, the church then pays the pastor the remaining tithes up to a set amount, established within the General Assembly. Of the tithes received by the Pastor, the Pastor tithes 10% to General Headquarters. Of any tithes above and beyond the maximum allotment to the Pastor, the local church will disperse during quarterly conferences. It's important to note that no Pastor gets rich within the Zion Assembly framework...and rightfully so. The most our Pastor's make in Zion Assembly is less than $50,000 a year in tithes. (Throughout the year, churches may choose to receive offerings for the Pastor, which may increase the Pastor's income. This is handled church by church.)
Above and beyond tithing, we also have the ability to give. While tithing is clear, 10% of your increase (income), offerings is much more personal. There is no clear "mandate" on offerings. For instance, the Bible doesn't say how much more we have to give above and beyond tithing. If I give $100, is that enough? What about $500? The answer...only you and God know. The key to understanding "Offerings" is listening for the voice of God. God speaks to each one of us, especially if we are asking for guidance. He will tell us exactly what he'd like us to give and to whom he'd like to give it.
The different forms of "Offerings" include:
- Giving in Church Offerings. The local church receives several offerings throughout the month. These offerings are essential to operating the church, from literally keeping the lights on to maintaining the ministries within the church. All of God's people should be liberal in giving within the local church offerings.
- Personal Giving of an Offering. This is simply giving to someone in need. All of God's people should be liberal in giving to those in need.
- Giving Offerings to Support Community Initiatives. This includes giving to fundraisers throughout the community as long as those raising funds are not operating contrary to the word of God. Examples of this kind of giving include local ball teams and organizations that promote Godly principles, Christian organizations, local communities and schools, and local food pantries and soup kitchens. This kind of giving is important to build a good character within the community and may ultimately open avenues of fundraising for the church. Great care should be given to organizations that don't promote Christian values...as giving to these types of organizations actually go against the mission of a child of God.
So how much should I give in offerings? Talk with God. God will make it very clear who to give to and how much to give.
Finances effect every single person, which is why this topic is such a "hot topic." However, with a biblical understanding of how to properly be a steward of God's money, a desire to handle them properly, and then ultimately being obedient to God, we can please the Lord and have our feet set on solid ground.