Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:9-11)
I have always loved to give–as an expression of my faith, as a spiritual practice. Growing up, I was taught as soon as I earned money that God asked me to tithe, and that I would be blessed if I did so. I feel close to God when I give, when I can be generous.
However, a recent message at church, called Stronger in Priorities, changed my perspective on giving, and challenged me to go deeper in how I live out my faith when it comes to my resources.
God never asks us to “give” the tithe, preacher Robert Morris explained when he spoke recently at Willow Creek. Rather, the text says, “Bring” the tithe. Bring, not give. (see verses above)
God gives, and we bring. Bring is something I do with God’s stuff—the resources he’s given me to steward. We bring back a tenth of what God has given to us, then use the other 90 percent to meet our needs. Turns out, they’re not my resources at all. Now, giving is something we can do if we want to be generous beyond the tithe. We are called to bring the tithe, then give our offerings.
God gives us all we have—while we have to go out and earn it, or gather it, we’re given the skills, the abilities, the smarts, and so on, to be able to earn a living. Every breath we take is a gift from him, and with that breathing comes the energy to earn and manage our resources.
Morris also argues that we need to bring God the first tenth (or firstfruits), not the second or the ninth or the last tenth. He even said that unless we bring the first tenth to God, the rest of our resources are under the curse. When we bring the first tenth, the rest of what we have is blessed.
He also says that while God invites us to test him, to see if he does not “open the floodgates of heaven” in response to our obediently bringing the tithe, he also said that each time we get paid, it is a test for us. We can test God, but he also tests us. The only question on the test is, what are your priorities?
Do you think that’s true? Does it matter whether you bring the first tenth or the fifth tenth? Or maybe, if you bring, say, 3 percent instead of 10?
What we do with our time, talents and treasures is how we live our faith. Nothing forms you spiritually more than letting go of your grip on money and possessions. If you want to know what someone’s true priorities are, take a look at their calendar and their checkbook. Because your priorities are what you do, not what you talk about.
I believe the abundance God wants to give us will be held back when we hold back.
I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel—not at all. I don’t think the Bible teaches that God want us to be wealthy—in fact, it could be argued that the Bible teaches that we should be willing to give it all away. I don’t believe for a second that God’s love or approval can somehow be measured by our material wealth—not at all. And I’m not saying if you don’t tithe, you’ll never have blessings. That’s obviously not true–God loves and blesses indiscriminately. But still–I believe there is more (and I don’t necessarily mean more financially) for those who are willing to obey.
I think God wants to bless us so that we’ll bless others. I think he is a God of abundance who longs to see his children experience the joy of generosity. I think he wants to cultivate contentment that comes not from having a bunch of stuff or money, but from trusting that the one to whom it all belongs will meet our needs.
So—will you bring it?