Life in the Father’s House (#4): “Tithe: Giving to God What Belongs to Him”


Sermon Text: Malachi 3:1-15
Watch Sermon Video: Click the link below

Main Points:
I. Tithe – ‘A tenth of an income to give to God …?’
II. To tithe? Or not to tithe?
III. What is tithe anyway?
IV. Tithe – “Giving to God what belongs to Him alone!”

Let me give you some names who had one thing in common and you guess what that might be. William Colgate, founder of Colgate-Palmolive company: Harley Proctor, inventor of Ivory soap: Albert Hyde of Mentholatum, well-known pharmaceutical company: and John Rockefeller who is often regarded as the richest American in modern history. Guess what common denominator these people shared, other than that they all were rich when they were alive. One thing that connects all those men is that they tithed faithfully. They began giving tithes to God almost as soon as they started earning wages and profits from what they did.

Please don’t get me wrong as I didn’t mean to connect their wealth to their faithful tithing. I named them only because they were well-known to the world and they tithed. Another reason for naming them is to appeal today’s point, that is, ‘tithe,’ to your attention.

Talking about today’s topic, I’d like to help you to see that the idea of ‘tithe’ is much more than simply bringing a tenth of one’s income to church on a Sunday. This is why we consider ‘tithe’ as an important part of our faith and the fourth topic of the present sermon series, ‘life in the Father’s house,’ alongside the topics like, the meaning of local church, worship, unity and prayer. The biblical meaning of ‘tithe’ will surely deepen your thanks to your Heavenly Father and draw from your heart due praise to Him the Lord.

Prayerfully, therefore, let us consider what the Holy Spirit teaches us about ‘tithe.’

Firstly, we begin with this question, ‘What is tithe?’ The immediate answer you might hear would be this: ‘a tenth of an income to give to God.’ The most prominent part of the Scriptures that describes tithe is Dt. 14, vs. 22 and following to the end of that chapter, and that section says that ‘tithe’ is a tenth of ‘all the yield or produce of your field, such as grain, wine, oil, heard, flock, etc.’ And this is what most people (most Christians) think as the simplest and most direct definition of tithe.

Then, many Christians of our generation have heard someone asking or they themselves have asked this question – ‘Should I (should we) tithe? Or should we not?’ Especially pointing out that we’re not of the ‘OT church’ but belong to the ‘NT church,’ many have asked whether the same obligation of the OT tithing applies to us of the 21st century.

This inquiry has caused many debates, if not clashes, among Christians and churches and denominations. One group says, ‘we should,’ while another opposes, saying, ‘we don’t need to.’ While this is still one of the hottest issues among Christians and churches, while it seems that this disagreement has divided Christians and churches, the side that says, ‘we don’t need to tithe,’ is getting more followers than the other. For this reason, one survey result carried out not too long ago told us that only 3 percent of the evangelical Christians were tithing.

I think you need to know briefly what each side argues. Those who say we should tithe follow the traditional view on tithing, and their main point is that both testaments teach that all we have belong to God and we should acknowledge Him who is the generous Giver by bringing Him what belongs to Him, that is, tithe, a tenth of one’s income. They also say that Abraham, Moses and Jesus all agree and teach us that giving tithe to God is the minimum requirement for all true believers.

Meanwhile, those who oppose this traditional view argue that tithing is only applied to the OT Jews because we of the NT do no longer under the laws of Moses. They say that tithes of the OT were for supporting the Levites and priests, and there’s no more Levites or priests among us. Then, the supporters of this view of ‘not to tithe’ usually point out that the NT requires rather a ‘generous’ giving than a rated giving as tithe.

Because only a small portion of Christians of our generation tithe, not many preachers choose this topic and deliver messages from pulpits. Christians hear less messages on tithe and some have never heard of what tithe truly means since their conversion. I decided some years ago to preach on this subject, ‘tithe and giving,’ at least once a year, but as I checked the list of my sermons delivered since my induction to this Charge in Nov 2015, I found out that I had preached on this subject only once in 2016 and, in 2017 and 2018, preached several sermons on ‘thanksgiving.’ I remember that when I preached on tithe on a Sunday in 2016, a visitor who happened to attend that morning worship service came to me afterward and thanked me for the message, telling me that he had not heard any message on tithe for many years. And this is becoming a norm and not many Christians seem to miss hearing messages on this subject. Some time ago, people’s question was, ‘to tithe or not to tithe, that is the question!’, but nowadays, not many Christians and churches seem to even regard it as a question.

Having said, let me tell you that both views on ‘tithe’ I briefly explained to you are not comprehensive but extremely narrow views. I mean, those who say that we all should tithe as well as others who oppose and say that we don’t need to tithe in the NT era altogether tend to focus on one extremely narrow aspect of the biblical concept of tithe. They all talk about the ‘tenth’ of materials. One says, ‘If one earns a certain income, that Christian should give to God a tenth of that income’; another says, ‘we’re under the NT guideline of generous giving and not under the OT tithe rules.’ Questioning tithe in a material sense only is a grave mistake because the Scriptures do not teach us tithe that way.

Tithe is, simply put, ‘giving to God what belongs to Him,’ but that something that belongs to God is not just material, but a much bigger and wider concept than material. Tithe is something that leads our eyes to behold God and guides our heart to ascribe to Him due glory and honour and strength. Let me repeat this: ‘tithe is something that leads our eyes to behold God and guides our heart to ascribe to Him due glory and honour and strength.’

This is exactly what God says in Dt. 14 – the section I pointed out to you earlier as the clearest part of the Bible that explains what tithe was. I want you to read vs. 22-23 together with me and focus especially on what v. 23 says. “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that He will choose, to make His name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the first born of your herd and flock, THAT YOU MAY LEARN TO FEAR THE LORD YOUR GOD ALWAYS.” I earnestly pray that you may see the true purpose of tithe in this verse! That is, for you and I may learn to ‘fear the Lord our God always’! This is the sole, only, unique purpose of tithe, my fellow worshippers of God!

Giving tithes to the Lord, God’s children learn what ‘fear of God’ is as well as how to fear Him. Tithe is, in another word, a ‘learning tool’ of God fearing. ‘Fear of God’ means giving full reverence to God, knowing who He is; ‘fear of God’ therefore brings joy, happiness and full satisfaction to God-fearer’s mind and soul. Through tithe, one may learn to fear the Lord, and for this reason, fearing God is the beginning of ‘wisdom,’ as Ps. 111:10 says. So, tithe is like the entrance or admission to the biblical ‘wisdom’ and biblical joy and happiness. No wonder why Jesus says in Mt. 6:19 that “where your treasure (or wealth or material possession) is, there your heart will also be” and urges all His followers to store their treasures in heaven.

To help you better understand this, I want you to remember the story of our first parents in the garden of Eden. To Adam and Eve, the parents of all of mankind, God gave something to help them to remember and obey and worship God, their Creator – in a word, to ‘fear’ Him. What was given to our parents for this purpose? It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! While everything was allowed for them in the garden, only one thing was forbidden, that is, the fruit of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Guess that you were Adam or Eve in the garden. Whenever you turn your eyes to that tree, what would come up to your mind? God’s command. Then, when you remember the Lord’s words, what would be your heart’s reaction? You’d probably think, ‘I should and must keep His command because He is the Creator, Giver of life, and my Father whom I must always praise and worship!’ Adam and Eve were sinless in the garden, before the fall, and all creatures and all things in God’s creation reflected God’s glory and constantly reminded them of their need and pleasant duty to honour God. But that specific tree in the garden had a unique and special role, that is, to teach Adam and Eve to fear the Lord God Almighty 24/7!

In this way, that specific tree in the garden was the ‘tithe’ of our first parents. A small portion of what God has given to them functions and takes the role of teaching them to fear their Heavenly Father!

When they sinned against God, however, they failed in fearing Him. Yet, the gracious God covered their sin, their nakedness. Then, they worshipped the Lord and taught their children – Abel and Cain, first of all – to fear God by giving Him tithes. Abel learned to fear God through tithing, but not Cain – he failed. God spoke to Cain who had failed to learn to fear His Lord, saying in Gen. 4:7, “If you do well [in other words, ‘If you learn well and fear Me’], will you not be accepted?” Tithe was and is the tool through which God’s children may learn to fear our Heavenly Father!

Another typical example of this in the Bible is Abraham. He gave tithe to Melchizedek, king of Salem, that is, ‘king of righteousness,’ from what he had plundered from his enemies. And that is regarded in Heb. 7:4 as an act of giving on behalf of all his descendants who are the church, including you and me. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac to God is another example of ‘tithe’ as the tool of learning to fear God. Jacob did a similar thing with the same effect on his way to Laban, his uncle, pouring oil on top of a stone pillar he set up. Later on, he returned to that place he had named earlier as Bethel, ‘the house of God.’

A tenth of one’s material income is, therefore, just a tiny part of things God may use for us, His dear children, to learn to fear Him. When we earn the wage of our labour in the world, we know that it is not what we earn, but God’s gracious provision. Giving Him a tenth of it teaches us that very fact.

Tithe is, therefore, ‘giving to God what belongs to Him alone!’ The things that belong to God are more than your wealth; it includes your time, your health, your talents, your works, your various possessions, even your life, your hands and feet, your voice and heart and will – all things are from God, and giving to God small portion of all these you’ve freely and abundantly received from Him is tithe.

‘Keeping Sabbath holy’ is, therefore, a part of our tithe because we give to God a day of a week we’ve freely received from Him; our act of ‘saying grace’ at daily meals is a part of our tithe; our water baptism/baptising our children is a part of our tithe to God who saves through His grace; our loving one another is a part of our tithe to the Father who has united us as members of one family in Jesus! You and I are, in fact, tithes to the eyes of God, like the way God claimed the Levites of the OT Israel as His possession on behalf of all 12 tribes. So, like the Levites served before God on behalf of all of Israel, you and I are brought to God as His possession on behalf of our families and friends and neighbours for the purpose of teaching them to ‘fear’ God through knowing and worshipping Him through Jesus the Saviour and Lord.

In fact, all things we do in the Father’s house is a part of our tithe because, through them, we learn to fear our gracious and loving Heavenly Father and, at the same time, we help the unbelievers to do the same! This is what it means to give to God what belongs to Him alone! This is tithe!

This is why I said that talking about tithe in a material sense only is naïve and frivolous. Questioning whether ‘to tithe or not to tithe?’ sounds ignorant, confused; arguing that we ‘no longer are under the old covenant, thus, no need to tithe’ seems misled, witless. We ought to give to God a tenth of each one’s income because doing so surely teaches us to fear God. We should keep the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day and use it for worshipping God and sharing fellowship with other Christians because doing so surely deepens our fear of God and enriches our joy in the Lord Jesus!

Someone has learned this blessing of tithe and put five surprises of tithing. Although he put it in terms of giving the tenth in material sense, it surely applies to all areas of tithes. So, let me share with you these five tithing surprises. The Christian who tithes will be surprised: (1) At the amount of money he has for the Lord’s work; (2) At the deepening of his spiritual life in giving the tithe; (3) At the ease in meeting his own needs with the nine-tenths; (4) At the ease in going from one-tenth to a larger percentage (this is, what the NT term of ‘generous giving’ means); and lastly, (5) At himself for not starting tithing to God earlier in his life!

May our gracious God bless all His children and help us know not only the meaning of tithe, but also give ‘generously’ to Him, thus, enrich each one’s joy with the accompanying promise in and through Jesus! ***

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