A sermon from guest speaker Oscar Lowry.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”—Malachi 3:8–10
My theme for this morning is, “Tithing,” or “Should Christians Pay the Tithe?” I suppose most of you understand what we mean when we speak of tithing. It is the paying of one-tenth of our net increase or income to the Lord’s work. I doubt not that I could have found a much more popular theme, but I could not have found one more practical. There isn’t anything very attractive for a great many in this subject.
Yes, there are some people who can shout “Amen” just as long as you don’t touch on the money question.
God Claims The Tithe
First of all I want to call your attention to some reasons why Christians should tithe their income.
First, because it is the will of God. Leviticus 27:30–32, “All the tithes of the land, whether the seed of the land or the fruit of the tree is the Lord’s, it is holy unto the Lord and all the tithe of the herd of the flock whatsoever passed under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” We see that God claims without question of condition one tenth of our income. “Oh,” I can imagine some of you saying right away, “that belonged to the ceremonial law of Moses and has nothing to do with us.” Now, let us see if it does.
In the 14th chapter of Genesis we have an account of Abram, or Abraham, as he was afterward called, paying tithes to one Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God. Now that was 700 years before Moses received the law at Mt. Sinai, yet you see Abraham paying a tenth. And why a tenth? Why not a sixth or eighth or some other proportion?
Nearly two hundred years after Abraham, or 500 years before the law of Moses was given we see Jacob fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau. He stopped in the mountains overnight and while sleeping with his head pillowed on a stone he had a wonderful dream of a ladder extending from Earth to heaven and angels ascending and descending thereon. “This is none other than the house of God,” and there Jacob made a covenant with God, Genesis 28:20–22, “If God will be with me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God, and this stone which I have set up for a pillar shall be the God’s house; and all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Now, again I ask the question, why did he say he would give God the tenth? Why not a fifteenth or ninth or some other proportion?
Then again tithing was a law of the nations. The paying of the tithes to their heathen god was universal among the nations of antiquity. “Instances are mentioned in history of some nation which did not offer sacrifices, but in the annals of all time none are found who did not pay tithes.” Once more I ask the question, why did Abraham, Jacob and the nations universally pay tithes? There seems to be but one reasonable answer and that is that way back in the beginning somewhere God had given this law to man, just as He had the Sabbath. The Sabbath did not originate with the giving of the law. The fourth command reads, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The Sabbath day has been observed from the creation of man. So there seems to be these two great unchangeable principles—one seventh of our time and one tenth of our money belongs to God. Ceremonial laws may change but principles never.
Jesus Approved Tithing
But some might say just here “Was not the law of the tithe done away with by Jesus and the apostles in the teaching of the New Testament?” I do not find it so. In the next passage I call your attention to the fact that Jesus says more in support of tithing than you find Him saying anywhere in support of Sabbath keeping. It is Matthew 23:23 “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith; these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.” Here he says, “These ought ye to have done.” Is it not a significant fact that the only thing that Jesus Christ ever commended in the lives of those scribes and Pharisees was the fact that they were tithers?
The Early Church Tithed
While Paul was preaching in Corinth we are told that Crispus, the president of the Jewish synagogue, with his family and many other Jews were converted. It is safe to presume that all these were paying the tithe, for when Jesus came to Earth the Jews were scattered among the nations of the world, and it mattered not where they were, or what their condition, they adhered to tithing. Now, when Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians he said in the 16th chapter and the second verse, “Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him.” This called for both system and proportion. Now if they were not to pay a tenth how could they have understood what Paul was driving at? How would they have known what he meant when he said: “As the Lord had prospered him.” If a man had been prospered during the week to the amount of ten dollars he knew that he owed one dollar of it to God, or if he gained twenty he knew that two dollars belonged to God.
You Are Robbing God
A second reason why a Christian should tithe is, because in not doing so we are robbing God. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, where have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings,” God declares that when we withhold the tithe we are robbing Him. Many of you remind me of the man who remembered at breakfast that it was his wife’s birthday, so he kissed her and went down town and bought himself a new suit of clothes. God rains wealth upon you, and you go out and buy another farm or enlarge your business and God is forgotten. When you are paying the tithe you are simply returning that which He claims without question or condition as belonging to Him. Talk about giving a free will offering. I venture to say that there is not one in twenty-five or fifty in this audience that ever gave a free will offering in their life. You can’t make a free will offering until you have paid your debt, which is one tenth of your net increase. If you are an honest man you would not think of robbing your fellow men. Certainly not. Well, I want you to understand that it is a greater sin to rob God than it is to rob man.
What is the chief end of man? You say it is to glorify God. Therefore there must be some provision made to keep alive in his heart a desire to worship Him. There must be places of worship and servants provided to direct it. All this requires money. In the Old Testament we find the tithe was used to support the Levites—that is they were the ministers of God in those days. Numbers 18:21, “Behold I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance. In return for their service which they serve, even to the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” The tithe belongs to God and He has the right to dispose of it. The Levites had no inheritance of the land and were to give their entire time to the service of God, and the Lord commanded the people to whom He had given the command, and to pay the tithe for their support, that the worship of God might be preserved in the earth. Now, we find the same principle is carried into the New Testament. First Corinthians 9:13–14, “Know ye not that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple and they that wait at the altar are partakers of the altar? So hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel live of the Gospel.” Here we have the Apostle Paul bringing up the principle of tithing into the New Testament.
We Need A System
Then because we need a system. The Church can no more be supported by volunteer gifts than can the state. What a ridiculous spectacle would be presented if all the laws for the collection of taxes were abolished, and tax collectors were sent out to harangue the people on patriotism and state pride and then pass the hat for a free will offering. What a laughing stock the state would become. Well, I can’t believe that God ever intended to leave us without a system in this matter of giving. We have a system for everything else in our churches. We have a regular time for the preaching of the Word, Sunday morning and evening. A regular time for prayer meeting—Wednesday or Thursday night. A regular time to study the Bible—Sunday morning in the Sunday school. Suppose there are five men with an equal salary and about the same home expenses. Let them come to church and make their offering. No two of them will give the same amount. And why? Simply because they are giving by impulse and not by principle. Do you think God Almighty can be satisfied with this haphazard, go-easy, hit or miss, give when you feel like it, lawless, loveless method of supporting the cause which is dearest to the heart of God? It is an insult to his intelligence to think so. I further believe that a minister is criminal in his preaching who permits professing Christians to think that they are safe for heaven. The Lord foresaw that the worldliness and wickedness of the human heart would not yield a seventh of his time without a specific commandment to that effect, and did He not foresee that the same would be true in reference to the tenth of his substance when he said, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse.” Too many have become imbued with that Satanic teaching that we owe everything to God in general and nothing in particular. However, I do not tithe with the thought that that will help to save me. No, not any more than I practice any other Christian grace with the hope of being saved. I do all these things because I am saved. Because I delight to do those things that please the Lord. We who live in this dispensation of grace with its greater blessing certainly should not think of coming to God with a smaller offering than the Jew living under the law. Because we are Christians are we therefore made less responsible than the Jews? Let us imagine a case. Suppose a faithful Jew is converted. Now as a Jew he paid his tithe. Could we suppose that he would attempt to justify himself in paying less than a tenth? It certainly seems as if his natural impulse would be to pay more, because of the greater privileges he enjoys in Christ Jesus. A great many are willing to accept the promises accorded to the Jews in the Old Testament but they are slow to apply any of the commands to themselves. It seems to be the logical thing, that if we accept the promises as belonging to us through faith in Christ, why not the commands as well?
A fourth reason for paying the tithe—because God has promised temporal blessings to those who tithe.
If entered into this matter wholly for temporal blessing as our only motive we might expect to be disappointed; but on the other hand we should expect to be prospered, for are not all the promises pertaining to this matter of giving to the Lord, followed with a promise of temporal blessing? Let me here refer you to a number of them, and please to note that each command is followed with a promise of blessing.
Proverbs 3:9–10, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase, so shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with the new wine.”
Proverbs 11:24–25, “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth, there is that withholdeth more than is met, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat and he that watereth shall be watereth also himself.”
Psalm 41:1, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor, the Lord will delivereth him in time of trouble.”
Malachi 3:10–11, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer of your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine cast her fruit before her time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure [pressed down, and shaken together,] and running over shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure you mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Acts 20:35, “I have showed you all things. How that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
2 Corinthians 9:6–7, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
God does not promise to make every man rich that pays Him the tithe, but it is very noticeable that those who practice tithing are greatly prospered.
A gentleman in Chicago who signs all his tracts “The Layman” and has sent out millions of them bearing on this important subject, says: “Since 1876, tracts and pamphlets on this subject have been circulated among many thousands of ministers and millions of laymen. In all were printed the following statement and question: “My belief is that God blesses in temporal as well as in spiritual things those who honor Him by setting apart a stated portion of their income to His service. I have never known an exception. Have you?” He claims that in all these years he has never received an answer to the contrary worthy of notice.
Some of you say, “That is bribing God to get prosperity.” Honest men do not bribe; it is the rogue who bribes. The tithe is not a bribe, but the paying of an honest debt.
Because of the great need for money in evangelizing the world for Christ.
It is estimated that not more than one-half of our church membership give anything toward evangelizing the one thousand million unevangelized heathens. The average amount is 54 cents apiece annually.
Dr. Strong says that the church owns one-fifth of the wealth of the United States, and that the church only gives one-sixteenth of one percent of it for evangelizing the heathen. There is more spent in this country for tobacco every year than the United States and Canada have given in a century to evangelize the rest of the world. Ten cents which you spend for a cigar would preach the Gospel in China through native lips for a whole day.
Some Questions Answered
Just here I want to answer some questions. First, you say, “I don’t know what my tithe amounts to.” If you don’t you must be a very poor business man. You must know at least approximately. Suppose we would reverse the command, i.e., suppose the church was commanded to pay you one-tenth instead of you paying the church. You would come up at the end of the year with it figured down to a penny, wouldn’t you? I find that the fellow who says he does not know how much his tithe is, is simply looking for an excuse to get out of doing his duty.
You say, “I don’t think tithing is fair for the rich and poor alike.” You might apply the same argument to Sabbath keeping and say that the poor man could not afford to keep the Sabbath because of the great need of his family. But God makes no exception. The rich and poor alike are expected to tithe. I find that it is the rich man that usually makes this excuse because he knows that if he should tithe it would mean that he would be bringing hundreds and hundreds of thousands to God where he had been bringing fives and tens. After the poor man has paid his tithe he would probably have but little with which to make free offerings, but the man of wealth is expected to honor God with his free will offering. 2 Corinthians 9:7.
You say, “I don’t believe in giving until a person feels like it.” Well, many would feel a greater pang when they gave ten cents than others when they gave ten dollars. Yes, some of you fellows never give a dime to the Lord that you don’t feel like singing, “God be with you till we meet again.” Too many people give not according to their means but according to their meanness. If it is left to impulse, if I am of a generous disposition, I will give a great deal more before I feel it. And if I am of the opposite make-up, I will feel a pang every time I put a copper in the collection plate. Think of an able-bodied man claiming to love his wife with all his heart and giving her a ten cent pin cushion every Christmas to prove it. Yet that would be hilarious generosity compared to some things that happen in some churches.
I Am In Debt
You say, “I am in debt.” Yes, but you were in debt to God long before you were in debt to your fellow man. And, remember, you can never put yourself right with God by robbing Him to pay your fellow man. If you would pay your debt to God you would find it much easier to pay your fellow man.
Says another, “I am a minister or Christian worker.” Well, you are not excused on that ground. Hear Numbers 18:26, “Thus speak unto the Levites and say unto them, when we take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you for your inheritance then ye shall offer up an heavenly offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe.” None escape, this principle is universal.
Another says, “What is the tithe anyhow? It means ten percent of your net increase. Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of thine increase.” The tithe is ten percent of your next increase. If you are getting a salary it is very simple. It is ten percent of your salary. If you are a business man it is ten percent of your net increase after you have paid the expenses of your business. Not after taking out the expenses of running your home, that is personal. In other words, it is ten percent of your net income, whatever it may be.
Some Results Of Tithing
First, to the church. As yet we have but few illustrations to draw from as but few churches have adopted the tithing system. I give you one extraordinary example. The First Methodist Church of Shelbyville, Indiana, has made a marvelous record of a tithing church. During 1911, only five churches, three of these in New York City, gave as much for foreign missions. Many say “I give as much as the tithe or more.” If they would keep account they would be much surprised, as would be the church, at the increase of their offerings. Unless people keep account of the amount, I don’t believe there is one in a thousand that would give as much as the tithe.
Then the individual tither would have a clear conscience in the matter of giving. That is something that many of you don’t have. You can never expect to have as long as your giving is a matter of impulse rather than principle.
Second, there would be an increase of spiritual and temporal prosperity. If any Christian who has never made the experiment, will conscientiously follow it through to the end, in prosperity and adversity he will be met with two surprises: first of all he will be surprised at the increased amount he is able by this method to give the Lord; and secondly, he will be astonished at the increased spiritual and temporal prosperity which the Lord will give him. Here is where the Lord actually makes a challenge to His people and says, “Prove me,” i.e. “Try me.” God does not promise to make all tithers rich, but it is significant how many who tithe are greatly prospered. Money in every life is either a weight or a wing—a weight to drag men down and separate them from God, or a wing to lift them up into sweet fellowship with Christ.
Show Of Sincerity
It would give you power with men. Two men of large means, one a Christian, and the other not, were in conversation in an after meeting. The professing Christian struggled very hard to convince his neighbor of his need of Christ. By and by his neighbor said, “I think we might as well quit this conversation, because you do not mean what you say. I happen to know that you spend more for that fancy cow than you have given for home and foreign missions for the last ten years. If I believe in Jesus Christ I would make Him the rule of my giving and my farm the exception.” The professing Christian could say no more. He lost the opportunity to win his neighbor to Christ because his life was mean and puny alongside of his words. It is really surprising how small most people are when God is anxious to use them and enlarge their lives and opportunities.
Treasures In Heaven
Finally there is the eternal reward which will await us in the next world. As Paul said to the Christians at Philippi, after they had contributed to his support, “Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” I just as much expect to meet the results of my giving in heaven as I expect to meet the results of my preaching. The Princess Eugenie of Sweden, for many years devoted herself to the good of her people. Desiring to build a hospital for the sick poor she found her income already taxed by many charities, inadequate to meet the extra expense. But seeing the great need of such a hospital she was unwavering in her purpose. After much thought she sold her diamonds and the home for incurables was built near her summer residence.
A few summers before her death one of its inmates, who seemed peculiarly ignorant and inaccessible, was deeply laid upon the heart of the princess. “I prayed for her,” were her own words when narrating what followed. When about to leave for her winter residence in the city, the matron said, pointing to the woman, “I think you will find her changed.” The princess approached her bed and the words that greeted her were, “I thank God that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” The tears running down her cheeks. “In those tears,” said the princess, I saw my diamonds again.” So when I shall meet in heaven souls that have been won to Christ through my money, I shall see the full results of my giving.
The Moody Church’s stance on tithing: https://www.moodymedia.org/articles/tithing/