Readers of the Communiqué probably know that the “Effective Stewardship” program does not emphasize tithing. In fact, tithing is not mentioned until Month #20 in the program and once more in Month #30. If a church or pastor only wants to hear, “Thou shalt tithe! Thou shalt tithe! Thou shalt tithe!” they should not use the “Effective Stewardship” program.
The entire program is built upon the biblical truth that God owns everything. All of us own exactly the same amount: Zero. We are just managers and stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We are responsible to manage different amounts for God!
As I told the class I teach at church,
If God should give you an extra $101, don’t parcel out exactly $10.10 to help “poor God” pay the bills. God doesn’t need your help. It is an awesome privilege to give back to God what belonged to God in the first place. If you get hung up on the percentage or the amount, you’ve missed the point. What’s the point? God owns it all. It all belongs to God.
In his book, Money: Master the Game, financial expert Tony Robbins said,
I want to use this book as a vehicle to help you develop enough wealth — both physical and emotional — so that you can be a force for good through your economic contributions as well as your time. I will tell you, though, if you won’t give a dime out of a dollar, you won’t give $1 million out of $10 million. The time to give is now.
Make no mistake about it. I believe in tithing. As a child helping my dad in his second job as a church janitor, I learned that 10¢ of every dollar belonged to God. I put that knowledge to practice and tithed faithfully as boy, as a teenager, and as a college student. However, as I learned later as an adult, tithing is a good place to start, but tithing is not the be-all, end-all of Christian giving. Sometimes, God desires us to give much more than a tithe, much more than 10¢ out of every dollar.
Which raises an interesting question: If tithing is so important, why didn’t Jesus talk about tithing? After all, he had more to say about money, material possessions and giving than any other single subject. Why not tithing?
Under the Old Testament economy, which was still in effect when Jesus ministered on earth, people were required to give not just 10%, but as much as 25% and even 33%. Tithes, required offerings and special levies went well beyond 10%. In light of that, it would have seemed very strange for Jesus to proclaim, “Thou shalt tithe 10%.”
In fact, the two universal principles concerning giving are found in Exodus 25:2 — We are to give willingly from the heart, and 1 Corinthians 16:2 — We are to give as God has prospered us.
Several years ago, a man named Bob came up after my class was over to ask me to pray for him. He said, “When I was making $5 a week, I had no problem giving 50¢ to God. When I was making $50 a week, I had no problem giving $5 a week to God. When I was making $500 a week, I had no problem giving $50 a week to God. Now, I am making $5,000 a week, and it is really hard for me to write out a check for $500 to put in the offering each week.”
I put my hand in his shoulder and said, “Let’s pray.” Then I prayed, “Lord, help Bob’s giving to be in proportion to his income, lest you allow his income to be in proportion to his giving.”
As I told my class,
If you can honestly say that God has prospered you just a little or that God has been stingy or chintzy with you, then only give a little or nothing at all. But before you come to that conclusion, look around at people in third world countries. Compared to them, all of us — even the poorest — are very wealthy.
Tony Robbins also dealt with this:
Even those of us who are in the most difficult situations have plenty in our lives. If you’re struggling financially, might it be worthwhile to remember that if you make an income of just $34,000 a year, you are actually in the top 1% of all wage earners in the world?
Yes, the average annual income on the planet is only $1,480 a month. In fact, almost half the world, or more than 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day, which is a little more than $900 per year. The average drink at Starbucks is $3.25. If you can afford that, you’re spending more with one purchase of a cup of coffee than what half the planet has to live on for one day.
I was having lunch with a friend recently. He told me that this past year was very good in terms of overall income. He said, “God enabled me to make $500,000.” Then he went on say, “I tithed $50,000 of that to my church.”
$50,000 is a tremendous sum for a person to give to the Lord’s work. But does it take $450,000 for this man and his wife to live? Not really. Could it be that God desires him to give much more than 10%? Could it be that God desires him to give 50% or 90%?
R.G. LeTourneau, founder of LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas, developed the electric motor that enables giant earth-moving machines to do their thing. The diesel engine powers the electric motors in the wheels so that these behemoths can pick up and then discharge many tons of materials.
LeTourneau routinely gave 90% of his income to the Lord, and yet he was still a wealthy man. His explanation was simple. He said, “I shovel it out, and God shovels it back in. God’s just got a bigger shovel than I do.”
So, bottom line, should Christians tithe? Absolutely. Based on the Scriptures and based on personal experience, I believe that every Christian should tithe. But don’t be satisfied with the tithe. Don’t be content to just allocate 10¢ out of every dollar to God. Instead, use the tithe as a starting point and see what God will do for you!