“Do I have to tithe? Does God really need my one-tenth?” Jessie Chew reflects on rediscovering the joy of giving through Trinity's recent sermon series.
This is how I greet the start of every month.
The routine is the same. I make my way to the AXS machine (or my internet banking platform) to settle all of my expenses – credit cards, utilities, and insurance to name a few.
“Rats!” I think as I key in the details, “I just got my paycheck. And now it’s all gone.”
Just as I’m about to leave (or log off), I hesitate. There’s still one more expense that needs to be settled. Maybe.
Despite being a seasoned Christian (25 years and counting), a TCA College student, and a Connect Group Leader, tithing remains one of the hardest spiritual disciplines for me to regularly exercise.
Yes, I should know better. Yes, I should practice what I preach. Yet, I can’t help the battle that takes place in my mind every single month.
“Do I need to tithe? Does it have to be one-tenth? Is this gross or net? Honestly, does God even need my one-tenth? He owns the cattle on a thousand hills!”
Admittedly, tithing often feels like an obligation. I tithe because God tells me to. While God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), it’s hard to be cheerful when it feels like God just wants to take my money – to stop me from enjoying my hard-earned wealth.
So when the 1/10 sermon series was announced, I was apprehensive.
“Not again! Not another guilt trip!”
Back to basics with tithing
I thought of ways to skip service for those two weekends. The house did look a bit messier than usual, and I really should tidy things up. But with online service being our new norm, there was no way to escape the watchful eyes of my husband. He makes it a point to stream Saturday service at 4.45pm.
And, so, I (reluctantly) attended with him.
Pastor Wendy Chang started by going to the Old Testament. While I knew that the first instances of tithing (maasar – “one tenth”) came from Genesis (14:18-24 and 28:10-22), I didn’t realize that it was first introduced as a voluntary act of worship.
Abram and Jacob didn’t give because God told them to – they gave out of a posture of thankfulness for what God had done for them.
“Okay God, I admit that you’ve given me a lot. Remember how You miraculously provided through my husband. But that doesn’t make giving any easier. Anyways, tithing is an Old Testament concept. I’m a New Testament believer. This shouldn’t apply to me.”
This common rebuttal didn’t escape Pastor Wendy. Drawing from the teachings of Jesus and Paul, she clarified that the New Testament didn’t get rid of this practice. “Jesus didn’t abolish tithing,” she shared, “if He did, He would have said so. Instead, He affirmed it!”
"Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill [obey, complete, to make whole] them.” – Matthew 5:17
Pastor Wendy's summary on the purpose of tithing
“Beyond the numbers, capture God’s intent for tithing,” Pastor Wendy shared. And this heart was something several Connect Group members shared when we met up on Zoom the following Friday.
“It’s easy to reason that ‘I’ll give more when I make more,” one shared, “but no matter how much we make, tithing will always hurt because it’s proportional to our wealth.”
Someone else saw tithing as a tax – a collection of funds for the betterment of others. In this way,” he said, “God uses our tithe to care for those in full-time ministry, as well as those who are in need.”
While some don’t tithe as a way of storing wealth away, one member shared how that wasn’t so. “If I don’t give my 10 percent to God, somehow that 10 percent goes away. In the end, I don’t actually save anything!”
I was glad for their honest sharing, and inspired to continue this journey of finding the joy in giving to the Lord. I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet.
A matter of the heart
Building on what was shared the previous weekend, Pastor Dennis Lum’s message reminded us of why tithing was such a powerful spiritual discipline. For one, it enables us to walk humbly before God and man.
“There is a temptation and tendency to grow proud and arrogant when we become successful," he shared, "Tithing reminds us that everything we have comes from God (Psalm 24:1). It’s a reminder every single month, every time we get our paycheck, that everything belongs to Him – He owns everything and we are but stewards of all that He has entrusted to us.”
Given his position as the President of TCA College, he could have spent the rest of his message throwing verse after verse at us. Instead, he invited three Trinitarians to share how they live out godly financial principles in their lives.
(Counter-clockwise from top left) Adeline, Eugene and Alex share their journey of giving
“In the current [COVID-19] situation, I am – fortunately or unfortunately – a senior executive in aviation services. The industry has fallen off the cliff and the temptation of giving less does come. But I’m reminded of Matthew 6:21. My treasure is in heaven and everything I have ultimately comes from God. I also trust that God will take care of me and my family. In light of that, I made a resolution that I will not cut back on my giving or my faith promises.” – Eugene (senior executive, aviation services company)
“Since I started my company in 2015, I continue to hold on to Deuteronomy 8:18. Whatever we earn is through God’s enablement and I see tithing as a way of showing gratitude. Now with COVID-19, when there are no projects or profits coming in, the Lord reminded me that I have equipment that I can use to bless others. I have told churches that they can use what we have at little or no cost. And whatever that comes in, I make sure to pay my crew so that their needs can be met.” – Alex (entrepreneur, filmmaker)
"During the 2008 financial crisis, I was retrenched from a banking job that I had held for 25 years. My husband’s business also failed. We faced financial difficulties because we had loans to pay. But I claimed Proverbs 3:5-6 into my situation. I surrendered and trusted God for everything, receiving prayers from my spiritual family. God is faithful, He provided a job and I was able to service our loans. – Adeline (administrative assistant)
The heart of the matter
Faith and faithfulness. That is what is at the heart of tithing. The reality is that God doesn’t need our money. Yet, He instituted tithing because it is for our own good.
Tithing is the way He helps us cultivate a lifestyle of generosity (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
Tithing is the way He helps us live with a sense of gratefulness and thanksgiving (Deuteronomy 12:1-7).
Tithing is also the way He provides for the needy and for those in full-time ministry (Numbers 10:20-28).
But more importantly, tithing is the way that God sets us free.
I have often held back from tithing because of a fear of lack and a spirit of poverty. Growing up, frugality was a necessity that made me into a saver. If we didn’t need to spend money, then we didn’t.
But hearing these messages, my Connect Group’s convictions, and the testimonies of these three Trinitarians reminded me that giving our 1/10 – our firstfruits – is the way we can demonstrate our faith in God and allow God to demonstrate His faithfulness to provide.
During service this weekend when Pastor Wendy Ong announced the offering, I took out my phone, scanned the right QR code, and gave my 1/10. And for the first time in a long time, I felt free. I gave with gladness, celebrating who God is in my life and all that He has done for me.
As I continue down this journey of tithing, I’m believing that God will help me go from painful giving to passionate worship, from obligation to delight, and from joyless giving to being a joyful giver. May I continue to give with the unshaking assurance that He will always provide for my every need (and even some of my wants!).
Reflect & Respond
What is your attitude on tithing? Is it an exercise of joy or one done out of obligation?
Do you struggle with tithing because of a fear of lack or a spirit of poverty? What can you do to cultivate a lifestyle of generosity?
Reflect on an instance of God’s provision in your life. Thank Him for His faithfulness and commit to reciprocating by living a life of worship.