Dear reader, welcome to another beautiful weekend in August. For the past two weeks we examined the issue of whether God’s blessings are for sale. We concluded that under no circumstance can this be so and that God dishes out His blessings whichever way He desires without our having to blackmail Him. This week, we will take a look at tithing and what faith-promise-giving is all about.
Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. In some churches giving is over-emphasised. At the same time, many Christians refuse to submit to the biblical exhortations about making offerings to the Lord. Tithing or giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case in the church today.
Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the Law in which the Israelites were to give 10 per cent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes—one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land—which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 per cent. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.
After the death of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, the New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says gifts should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some in the Christian church have taken the 10 per cent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving.
The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 per cent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the body of Christ. Personally. I believe in this new covenant, He demands a 100 per cent. You present all to Him in prayer and ask how the income should be expended. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Should you tithe on net or gross salary?
The Bible does not specifically say whether we should give 10% off our gross or net income. The Old Testament teaches the principle of first fruits (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 2:12- 14; 2Chronicles 31:5). Old Testament believers gave from the best of their crops, not the leftovers. The same principle should apply to our giving today. Again, a believer should give what he believes God would have him give. It all goes back to the attitude of the heart. Are we giving out of reverence for God or out of selfishness for our own wealth? If I were to advise, I would say pay your tithe on the gross. That is what you truly earn every month. The net salary is what you receive after statutory (Income Tax, SSNIT) obligations and other deductions have been made from your gross salary.
The tithing law of the Old Covenant was God’s provision for meeting the material needs of the priests from the tribe of Levi. They needed support in order to minister in the temple and meet the needs of the poor (Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 26:12–15). Therefore, when the Israelites failed to give the temple tithe, God warned, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).
The tithe was a tenth of a man’s income: “Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham” (Hebrews 7:5). The Levitical priesthood continued to serve in the temple throughout the earthly lifetime of Jesus, and the tithe was required. But after the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, things changed: “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law” (Hebrews 7:12). Christ is now our High Priest. Christians are now God’s temple and His royal priesthood (Hebrews 4:14–15; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Peter 2:9–10).
Our High Priest ministers the New Covenant to us (God’s law written on our hearts) by giving us the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:24; 10:16). This law operates powerfully, causing us to love others with Spirit-produced love (Galatians 5:22–23). That is why John writes, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17–18). God’s love compels a true Christian to give, but none of the New Testament epistles command or even recommend that Christians pay a tithe or any other percentage. Christian giving is the result of Christian love.
Paul recommends giving to the church on Sunday: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Corinthians 16:2a). Christians shouldn’t hoard but give as much as God directs. It is God’s money (that is why I pointed out earlier that He demands a 100%). His rewards outweigh the cost. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8).
“What is faith promise giving, and is it biblical?”
Faith promise giving encourages believers to give beyond what they think they can give in order to increase world missions. Many churches and parachurch ministries use the model to promote sacrificial giving. Faith promise gifts differ from regular offerings in that a faith promise requires the giver to commit to giving what he or she does not currently have—a promise requiring faith that God will provide.
The faith promise approach to giving is often credited to A.B. Simpson, a 19th-century Canadian preacher and the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Simpson based the model on
2 Corinthians 10:15–16: “Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.” Some churches base their faith promise giving on 2 Corinthians 8–9 and the way churches in the New Testament gave money to help other churches.
Not all faith promise models are the same, but here are several components that are often used:
• Church members are to prayerfully consider the amount to promise.
• The giving is to be in addition to a person’s normal offering (or tithe).
• The promise is a faith commitment, often a one-year promise. For example, a church member will commit to give a certain amount weekly to the church’s missions program. Oftentimes, the church will support missionaries based on the commitments they received from the church members.
• Faith is to be placed in God, not the giver’s own power. The church members are encouraged to commit to give as much money as possible while trusting God to meet their needs. The whole process is to be carried out in faith, trusting God to supply.
The faith promise giving model is often used effectively to support missionaries and various parachurch organisations around the world and to increase the mind-set of missions in the church.
The faith promise method can become a problem if misused. A faith promise should never be presented as a guilt-driven, pressure-filled vow made to God. The Bible calls believers to give cheerfully, not grudgingly. A manmade method of doing anything should never be raised to the level of a divine command.
Many churches that use the faith promise method are not associated with the false Word of Faith movement. However, the vernacular used to promote faith promises can be close to what’s used to promote seed faith offerings. The two concepts are not to be confused. A seed faith offering is money given in faith that God will multiply the money and return it to the giver. The more money you give—and the more faith you have—the more money you get in return. In contrast to the deceptive seed faith teaching, the faith-promise method does not promise to enrich the giver; it simply calls for the giver to trust God and for God to bless a certain ministry through the giver.
If your church uses the faith promise giving model and God calls you to give to the fund, give faithfully, cheerfully, and sacrificially. If you are uncomfortable with giving a faith promise, you can still give faithfully to support missions. When we give generously and with a willing heart, God assures us He will watch over us and provide for us (Isaiah 58:9; Psalm 41:1–3; Proverbs 22:9; 2 Corinthians 9:8, 11).
Beloved, I hope you have seen clearly now the difference between ‘faith promise giving’ and ‘seed faith offerings’ which is known popularly as seed sowing. Whenever you give your motive should be towards advancing God’s kingdom and not enriching yourself.
Until next week,
The Saving Grace
…with Akpene Sabah