The generous will themselves be blessed. (Proverbs 22:9 NIV2011)
Are those who tithe better off financially?
How much people choose to give to charity is a very personal question. Certainly no one should have to compare their giving to that of another. And we also resist the idea that our giving could be guided by some universal standard. But in biblical times there is little doubt that such a standard did exist. It was the tithe, ten percent of the yield of field and flock (Lev. 27:30-32). The concept shows up early in the Bible narrative when Abraham sets the example by giving a tithe of the plunder to the priest of Salem, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). Later, it was standardized in the Levitical code. Research says that few people today practice this Biblical idea. Most probably feel that if they were to use such a rule in modern times it would impoverish them. But according to the interesting study of tithers summarized in the graphic below, that is apparently not the case. The chart is impressive.
Somehow, we should not be surprised
In the last book of the Old Testament God had promised, “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 there will not be room enough to store it.” (Mal 3:10 NIV2011). It is the only area of life where God ever invites us to test him. In the New Testament we find a parallel truth. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Lk 6:38 NIV2011). So the principle of God’s economy is this. God honors generosity. And his standard for giving raises the bar for us as to what generosity might look like.
Is it an investment scheme?
We’ve all heard of crass preachers who misused this principle by promising earthly financial rewards, sometimes even with percentage gains attached, for gifts to their ministry. What charlatanry that is! While God has promised to bless those who are faithful to Him, God’s blessings are often of different character than money. And even when God’s rewards are financial, they sometimes do not coincide in timing or mode with the financial sacrifice made by the offerer. For example, there was a time in our ministry as pastor and wife when we felt led to make a significant gift (for us) to a special project of the church. It was a sacrificial gift that did draw down our finances. Now God didn’t refill our coffers per se, but it just so happened that we “co-incidentally” during that time frame received several unexpected non-monetary gifts of things we needed to help us along the way. One such blessing was a huge scholarship that our daughter received to go to graduate school. But giving, like deeds of service, is definitely a future investment. The Bible does say, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:20-21 NIV84).