The true purpose of the tithe


I once was told of a pastor who kept tabs on the members of his congregation and whether they were giving their tithe or not. The church centre had a small board where a member's name would go and tick boxes that indicated whether you gave your tithe on a certain month or not. At that moment I realised why the church only had a small board with a short list of members.

The topic of the tithe has always been one followed by disagreement amongst believers. Some think that the tithe is a mandate given by God that we should follow today to experience His protection and blessing. Others will say that tithing is an old covenant practice that was fit only for Jewish tradition and is no longer applicable today.

The tithe is most famous for being mentioned in Malachi 3:10: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need" (ESV).

To understand the tithe, we need to understand its true purpose. Some think the ultimate purpose of the tithe is to feed our pastors. While the tithe can be a channel of that provision, I believe that God can feed pastors even when people don't tithe. That's not the true purpose of the tithe. The true purpose of the tithe is mentioned in Malachi 3:10 itself—it's to test. To test what? Not just test God, but first and foremost test our hearts.

Tithing is the ultimate litmus test for who or what really rules our hearts. When we value money too much, we can easily claim that tithing is dead and we can make excuses not to give. But on the opposite side of the scale, we can also value our self-image so much that we start viewing God as Santa Claus who only gives gifts to the nice kids.

What matters most is not whether you give the tenth of your earnings, but whether you give it with the right attitude and the right heart. I will go as far as to say this, though: a heart that is truly right with God will have no problems giving ten percent or even more.

God doesn't need our money, but we definitely need God to bless our money. That's why God calls us into generosity; He wants to know whether we value Him enough to part with our finances, whether it makes sense or not and whether tithing is a dead practice or not. Tithing could be a dead ritual or one that still applies and it still won't matter. The question is, do we know what the content of our hearts is?