Tithing is a common practice in the church and one that has been done for centuries. However, it is still sometimes tricky to fully understand—even for regular churchgoers. How much should you tithe? What counts as a tithe? And where did tithing come from?
Tithing goes all the way back to the Old Testament and the term technically means “a tenth,” as it was a common practice to give one-tenth of a person’s earnings to God.
In the New Testament, it seems as if Jesus is more intent with the position of our hearts, which of course makes it a little more difficult sometimes to measure. But this means that the way we approach tithing is so important.
Jesus teaches about this in Luke 21:1-4:
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty and put in all she had to live on.’”
When the widow only gave a small amount to the temple, Jesus acknowledged her sacrifice above those who gave more funds out of abundance. This teaches us that when considering tithing, it is important not only to look at our hearts, but also the places from where it is difficult to give.
This can be a tricky topic for churches to preach on as it can come across as awkward when asking people to give money. I remember going to churches as a young person and feeling torn and confused over these sermons. However, I now understand that tithing should make us uncomfortable—not because it is wrong, but because it should come from a place of sacrifice.
There is certainly a right and wrong way for churches to preach on tithing—and some do so with more of a “prosperity gospel” mindset, telling churchgoers that if they give money they will be blessed. This misses the point. We are meant to give out of our heart first as a willing sacrifice rather than as a means to an end.
In order to do this, it can be helpful to look at our individual finances and see where we have a hard time cutting back. It might not be in obvious ways like eating out or shopping, but rather in categories such as our savings where we really need to trust God to provide. If we give to the local church and to God out of the places that are most difficult for us, we emulate that of the widow who gave more than she could spare.