Tithes vs Offerings
What is the difference between tithes and offerings or generous giving?
This is a subject that I will only touch the surface of today but I hope to unpack it more in future articles. What is tithing? Tithing is giving God the first tenth of all your increase. In the Old Testament most tithes were given from produce or herd but in modern times we tithe with money since most of our increase is financial. In the Old Testament there were different types of tithes and different types of offerings. Tithes were required giving in the Mosaic Law while offerings were voluntary. While tithing is found in the law, it did not originate in the law. Many refer to Abraham as the first one to give a tithe in Genesis 14:17-20 but required gifts came long before that. We see an encounter between God and Cain in Genesis 4:2-7 in which God rebukes Cain out for not giving rightly. His brother Abel had given his best gift but Cain didn’t. This eventually led to Cain killing his brother out of jealousy and envy. At the core of tithing are many issues, but today I will only talk about three of them- trust, redemption and the storehouse (church).
First, God trusted us with what is His in the first place. He trusts us with an increase and lets us have 90% of it but places a 10% “sacred portion” (Deut. 26:13, Num. 18:28) which we are to tithe back to Him. This sacred portion is entrusted to us and we are to return it to Him. The second thing that tithing teaches us is redemption. The tithe is the first tenth or the first fruit of our increase. Christ was God’s first fruit. When God gave His Son to die on the cross for our sin He redeemed us from the curse of the law. When we give our tithe we are worshiping God and recognizing His redemption. We are recognizing that through Christ we are redeemed and in turn God redeems and blesses the 90% that is our portion. Many people believe that we should not follow the practice of tithing any longer because it was an Old Testament law but I say they law was given to help us see our need for redemption and every time we tithe we honor and recognize our need for God and the amazing way that He has blessed us and provided for us. I think that many use the gospel of grace to free themselves from obedience instead of discovering that the grace of God enables us to follow Him more passionately. The last thing I would mention about tithing is that the tithe was brought to the priest or the storehouse. Today this would mean bringing the tithe to the local church. Bringing the tithe to the local church reminds us that it is something that we are personally relinquishing control of as we give it to God, and yet we immediately receive the benefits of it as part of God’s people. It reminds us that we should not neglect God’s house for the sake of our own needs and that we are called to live as a part of the kingdom of God, connected to a local church together serving the purposes of God. Just as they brought the tithe to the storehouse in the Old Testament, we bring the tithe to our local church in the New Testament. God in turn uses this tithe to further His kingdom including meeting the needs of Church leaders, providing for ministry space and sending missionaries to the ends of the earth! All this was part of God’s plan from the beginning. Because of the principles and not the laws, I believe God still desires to be worshiped and honored through the tithe today. Giving doesn’t end there; it only starts there.
What is an offering, or generous giving? Offerings are something that you search your heart and decide to give beyond the tithe, but not in place of the tithe. I know that Rachel and I budget for giving offerings because we want to be sure we have something specially set aside to give. Tithes go to the local church but offerings are free for you to decide what to do with. Many people give offerings to their local church because they are excited about what God is doing there and they know that there is a need. Others use their offerings to support mission organizations, a favorite radio preacher or even a local Christian para-church ministry. All of these are great options as an offering or generous giving. As Christians mature in their faith and grow in fiscal responsibility they should be giving more and more generously to the kingdom of God through offerings that are over and above the tithe. Let’s look at a great verse where the Apostle Paul talks about offerings…
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Cor. 9:6–8 NLT
I pray that all who read this would discover the joy of generous giving and find the blessing of giving above and beyond what is required. I would recommend reading 2 Corinthians chapter 8 and 9, and thinking about your own personal offerings. The more you invest the greater the harvest for both you personally and for the kingdom of God!
In conclusion, both tithes and offerings (generous giving) should be a part of the believer’s life. Give joyfully, give thankfully and excel in the grace of giving, but never feel pressured to give. It’s never about the amount you give. Tithing is about the percentage you give, and generous giving is about the joy in your heart to give! I pray that you would discover the joy of giving and trust God in this area of your life. If you do I guarantee it will help your faith grow and you will be glad you did!