by Tad Lindley
A young couple, whom I know, approached the administration of a large church in a Western city. They were inquiring about joining that particular assembly. It seems that to be eligible to be a member, they would have to pay 3% of their income to the church as a sort of membership dues. This seemed like such an exorbitant amount to the young couple, that they sought a second opinion. My advice: get away from that church as fast as you can, they’re ripping their people off. If the church doesn’t preach and teach 10% of your income, you ought to be running out the door as fast as you can, because they are probably going to shortchange you in other areas as well.
What is a tithe anyway?
It is common to hear people say, “I give a 2% tithe every month.” What they are really saying is, “I usually tithe about 2% of my pay after taxes and babysitting expenses and a 35¢ per mile driving allowance.” Unfortunately, this is a gross misuse of the word tithe. Tithe literally means tenth, or 10%. Therefore people who give less than 10% are not tithing at all.
Stealing from God
In fact, they are stealing from God. Don’t believe me? Let me get Old Testament on you. “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.”
But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings”. (Malachi 3:8 NIV)
The 90% dilemma
A quick overview of the income and expenses reveals to us that pulling out 10% only leaves us with 90%, which means we might have to work a second job, or move into a cheaper apartment. What we don’t realize is that God is the provider of all things, and that when a human being makes up his mind to give to God, he will be entering a new realm of mathematics.
Can I tell you about the mathematics of Jesus?
“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 you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10 NIV). The baffling part about the Lord is that a tither with less than 90% of his gross pay will feel much more financially secure than a non-tither with 100% of his gross pay.
Some of you guys are old enough to remember the glory days of the Cape Avinof herring fishery. One season during herring fishing, I had made $800 up to that point. As the offering plate was coming around in Sunday morning service in Kipnuk, I fingered the eight brand new $100 bills in my pocket. I only wanted to give $80, but I didn’t have that option. I put $100 into the plate. During the next and final opening, we had one moment of excitement when the net began to sink, but it turned out to be a soggy cardboard box half buried in the bottom. Forty-five minutes from the end of the period we had very few fish on board. We made one last set in a place that had no competition. As soon as we set, however, a boat showed up on our left, and then on our right, corking us off. In frustration I gazed out over the net and thought about that $100 bill I had brought into the storehouse. Corks began to disappear under water. I looked at the nets on either side of ours, and they appeared to be floating quite well. “Must be more cardboard,” I thought, but when it came time to pull in our gear, there was an abundance of silver fish flopping over the aluminum bow. The boats on either side caught very little.
No number line
At that point in my life I had not even been baptized and I hadn’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but I had enough faith that if I would be obedient to God that he would bless me. There was enough of an understanding in my heart that Jesus doesn’t do his mathematics on a number line, and I acted upon it. If you are a skeptic, ask someone who tithes and their testimony will be, “I am blessed by it.” There are even those who can testify to great financial blessings because they were tithing and didn’t even attend church: loans repaid early, cars that ran forever, freezers that always stayed full, unexpected checks in the mail. If you aren’t making enough at your job and your employer won’t give you a raise, give yourself a raise, tithe. It won’t make sense, but it will happen. It’s the mathematics of Jesus.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.