Management. It is not always a positive word. We may have had a difficult person supervising us. In our grill. Micromanaging us. If we were the manager, the weight of responsibility might have been heavy. We were overworked, underutilized, disrespected, and inheriting undeserved blame.
As creatures, we are all managed by our Creator and provided responsibility for creation. We own nothing and everything can be taken away in a moment. Our breath, blood, ethnicity, parents, generation, abilities, intellect, and cravings are not ours by choice. They were predetermined. How we respond to the cards dealt to us is our choice. We are a steward of these things including the air we consume and the lungs that take it in.
Our resources come from heaven above. We must ask why we have what we have. If it didn’t come from us and cannot be taken with us in the end, then maybe one purpose in life is to get creative about how to share what we can. How can we give it to others? Of course, there are necessities everyone must harness, but hoarding possessions that are not requirements is poor administration when so many in this world are literally dying for the essentials.
Within the church, it is often asked what percentage does God require us to give and does it have to be given to the local church. It is an honest question. Many times, however, when having a broken heart over true observable poverty, a glad and generous offering is provided without slowing down to calculate ratios. The reason for giving to the local church is that it is always better to allow an organization or group to filter the funds rather than blindly giving to someone we do not know or have access to their history (potentially as a scammer). This does not mean do not give in the moment or to an individual previously unknown. This does not imply that it is only wise to give to an association. Like individuals, organizations can be corrupt. But the track record of the group is easier to observe over time. This is also what we see in the first-century church. The people gave to the leaders and trusted they would provide appropriately.
In the Old Testament period (specifically during the Old Mosaic Covenant), the nation of Israel was required by law to pay the equivalent of national taxes to one of the twelve tribes known as the Levites. This tribe descending from the son of Jacob, Levi, did not inherit any land in Canaan. They were not to own land and therefore could not utilize it for agriculture. All the other tribes were to provide for them at least ten percent of their produce and flock. When reading the instructions in the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament), it reveals that the people were obligated to offer way beyond ten percent because it included giving to the poor and using resources set aside for festivals. The word tithe means ten percent, but the tithe was not limited to its literal meaning. Israel was actually to offer nearly twenty percent or more.
Some would point out two instances (from Abram and Jacob) in which ten percent was provided before the Law was recorded. These are good examples of how ten percent is a good bullseye to shoot for when setting back resources to provide for those in need. They are NOT good examples for teaching that Christ followers are mandated to give a tithe to their local church. Abram was not giving a tenth to God, Jacob was pledging to give to God, and neither were commanded to give in these situations. Both were free will offerings.
Even if Israel was specifically commanded that they only needed to give exactly ten percent, it was based entirely on the Levitical system. That means at the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, the Temple (previously the Tabernacle), and the sacrifices by the priests, there is no more tithe requirement. The whole point of the tithe was to support the priesthood and Levites, none of which have existed since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. There has not been any sacrifice since then.
Christ has fulfilled that entire system. He is the Temple, the High Priest, and even the sacrifice! This is why, with the exception of a few quotes in the New Testament about Old Testament situations, there is no teaching whatsoever that Christ followers are commanded to give ten percent. Several passages are teaching us to give to pastors that work hard [1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6-10, 1 Timothy 5:17-18] but in the longest discourse about giving in the New Testament [2 Corinthians 8 & 9], tithing is absent. Sacrificial, generous, free will giving is what is commanded.
Should we give ten percent of what we own and accumulate? Maybe. First, if we are going to live the letter of the nullified Old Covenant Law, then we need to make sure we give ten percent of everything. That means when we get that nice sweater as a gift, we better find out its value and give ten percent back to God. That also means that if we don’t give exactly what is required under the Law, we are under a curse. Second, although there is now no Levitical system, we owe everything to God. He deserves it all. Providing ten percent is a small amount for most. Third, for the single mom with three kids and two jobs, giving one percent may be a leap of faith. We should encourage the leap without pressuring more. Fourth, anyone living above middle class in America should probably ask why they are reducing their giving to ten percent.
At COR, we believe in offering generously, cheerfully, sacrificially, and out of the abundance, God has provided beyond the necessities. We desire to use those resources to make God famous. The church is to be the hands and feet of Christ to serve the poor and powerless. Consider how to steward what you have within your grasp in a way that brings attention to Christ. You will reap what you sow!