555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

492. What Are Tithes?




The question of tithing has been frequently discussed and is ever a fruitful one. A tithe is a tenth of the increase over and above all administrative expenses and not a tenth of the principal. In early days, when agriculture was the almost universal calling, it was generally a tenth part of the produce of the land or me flocks. Later it became a tenth of the profits of personal industry of any character. (See Deu. 1422, 28, 16:12; II Chron. 31:5, etc.) There is evidence, however, that at certain times it may have meant a tenth of one's entire possessions. The modern interpretation would limit it to a tenth of the increase. There are many good people who still hold that a tenth of one's income should be set aside for the Lord's work. Under the ancient Jewish economy, tithing was regulated by a code of laws which were amplified and made still more complex by the rabbins; but under Christianity, the supreme law of love has been substituted and is applicable to the tithing problem quite as well as to others. We are to give according as God has "prospered us," and from a generous and loving heart One who wishes to tithe his estate should reckon on the increase in value, or number, or whatever form his available assets may assume, excluding of Course the necessary expenses of conducting his business. As to household expenses, these are elastic, and one's domestic and personal expenditures are liable to increase with every augmentation of income, such increase frequency being one of extravagance rather than of necessity. It is quite conceivable that the whole income might be thus swallowed up. But if we act conscientiously, we will not "rob God" by multiplying our expenditures until nothing is left for his work. "The liberal soul shall be made fat," and this especially applies to the character of our gifts to God's work. While we are not to devote to that work money which we may rightfully owe to our creditors, we can exercise self-denial in many things, so that our titha-ble "increase" (or, if no increase, then our surplus over and above all proper expenses) may be such as to assure a liberal gift to the cause of religion. God is a creditor, too. A very large per cent, of the people of the United States are in debt. Surely, it would not be right for them to stop all payments to the church and to charity till they are out of debt. While they and their families are getting the benefits of the church they ought to pay their church dues just as they pay their taxes and their rent. Your creditors would not expect you to neglect to pay for the food which your body needs; they should not expect you to neglect to pay for your soul food. Remember, however, that a tithe is required not on the gross earnings or income, but on the "increase." Certain fixed charges may be deducted before the earnings are tithed. What items are to be included in this deduction, as well as all tithing, must be left to the enlightened conscience. When Jesus stood by the treasury, he called attention to the fact that while the rich had cast in gifts of their superfluity, the poor widow had done better than they, for she had cast in "all her living" as a love offering, and it was an acceptable one. If we are to lavish all our prosperity on ourselves and our families, leaving nothing for the Lord's work, may we not be "robbing God"? Practically all of the difficulties involved in the problem would be solved if we followed the method of many Christians, who have been rich both in prosperity and good works. They gave freely from the increase of their wealth which remained after absolutely necessary business expenses were covered, making the Lord a partner in all that remained. They did not ask themselves how much they need give to meet the requirements, but rather how fully and generously and gratefully they could show their love in making their gift for Jesus' sake. An offering we do not feel, and which is simply of our surplus, is a gift of comparatively little worth, no matter how large the sum, while one that involves self-denial and even sacrifice, given with a cheerful heart, is rewarded with blessing. Still, the spirit in which we give is what counts. We should not plan so that our gifts to God return to ourselves or inure to our material benefit. Whatever is given to the Lord's work, whether administered personally with our own hands or through the church or its subsidiary organizations, or through any other channel, should be put wholly away from us so that we cannot derive any material benefit from the outlay. It is not giving to the Lord at all, if we attach a string to the gift Kindness and humanity, the voluntary outpourings of a generous heart, are always pleasing in God's sight Zaccheus was commended by Jesus no less for his liberality in giving half his goods to the poor than for his justice and integrity. His abounding charity cov ered many shortcomings, and his obedience to law and his firm hold on Abraham's faith as evidenced by works were both appreciated; but it was his faith in Christ as Lord that led to his salvation (see Luke 19:9, 10). Even with the utmost liberality, we cannot buy heaven; yet no kind act, no generous gift, is unrewarded. We should give as freely as our hearts prompt and our circumstances permit. All wealth is a trust to be used for the highest purposes, and our use of our means and influence here will unquestionably have its effect in determining our reward hereafter.