Why I Stopped Tithing to the Church
One of my first steps into adulthood was learning how to tithe. I can remember being taught that a believer is to be generous and that the attitude and character of the believer should be the same as Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2). Therefore, every believer should practice the discipline of giving because Jesus is a sacrificial giver. I can also remember being taught that tithing is a great principle for every young believer to learn as we are learning about how to handle money. However, there is a point where the believer needs to learn more important lessons about money than the giving of a tenth.
This last Sunday, Brandon mentioned the need to bring the “full tithe” into the church. I totally agree that every believer needs to learn the principle of giving a tenth. The giving of a tenth, or tithe, is a spiritual discipline that reminds the believer that everything we have is from God and belongs to Him and should be rooted in faith. This is connected to the principle of the Sabbath. The Sabbath exists to remind the believer that our time and our work belong to God – in faith we give Him 1/7th of our time. Practicing the Sabbath does not, however, replace the principle of the tithe. I cannot say, “God, you get Sunday and I get to keep the money.” Nor can I say, “God, I gave you Sunday, so you don’t get to tell me what to do with the rest of my life!” Neither can we say this about our giving.
Tithing is not intended to be an obligation that exists for God’s benefit, or even for the benefit of the church. Just as Sabbath exists for our benefit, so does the principle of the tenth. God promises that if we bring the whole tenth into the storehouse, then our personal barns will be so full that we will not be able to contain the abundance. The way the discipline of giving benefits us is that it helps us move outside of our poverty mindset and into a mindset of abundance. Wes Stafford, a former president of Compassion International said this, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; it is enough!” Tithing in faith is a way of reminding ourselves that we have enough. Tithing says to our hearts, “I HAVE!”
I made the decision to tithe when I opened my first bank account. I then made the decision to stop tithing as a forty-five-year-old man. I came to the realization that God was not interested in a tenth – He wanted it all! So, I began to live more generously. I was committed to give whatever the Master asked of me. My house is His, my cars are His, my dog is His, my children are His, and even my granddaughter is HIS!!! What caused this change – tithing! By practicing the tithe for about 30 years, my heart began to follow my money. To paraphrase Jesus, “Your heart will follow your money, not the other way around. So, where you want your heart to be, that is where you should invest your money,” (Matthew 6:19-21). If you want your heart to be moved by the things of the Kingdom, then invest your money in the things of the Kingdom. This does not mean that you cannot have money, it means that what you have exists for His purposes – not your own.
How did this play out in our lives? In 2015, Terasue decided that fifteen years of teaching in school was all that God had called her to and she resigned as a teacher, but she continued to work as a substitute over the next year. The subbing paid for our youngest daughter to finish her education at her school and then Terasue was done and finished! I initially changed our regular giving to our church to reflect our drop in income; only to quickly become convicted about my poverty mindset. You see, my giving was based on what we didn’t have instead of what we did have. I was giving from an attitude of poverty rather than abundance. I changed our giving back to its original level, and God took care of our needs beyond what we could imagine. I stopped tithing and instead gave generously because I believe He owns it all. I also chose to live in a confidence and boldness that I hear from Him and that I need to be obedient to what He says.
When you live in the legalism of the tithe and the Sabbath, you are in bondage to poverty. When you realize that those things are there to help shape your character and attitude about life and money, then you can live in faith, freedom, abundance, and generosity. It is when we are filled with the very Spirit of God Himself that we are given a Spirit of abundance and we find ourselves looking for ways to give even more. This is why the early church stopped emphasizing the principle of the tithe and called people to give it all to Him! “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet,” (Acts 4:36-37, ESV).
How are your giving practices shaping your perspective on abundance? How have you given into an impoverished mindset? What steps is God calling you to walk? How is your faith driving your checking account?