Concerning Biblical Economics/Kingdom Economics, and Christian Giving
NB: Please note, I have since posting the article below, updated my views quite a bit. I don’t believe anymore that the New Testament teaches or required tithing as such, but rather free-will giving. The early Church also did not teach tithing. But I still believe that tithing is a really good principle to live by, also practiced by other ancient cultures who prospered. I actually give much móre than my tithe, as explained below in the Offerings and Alms sections. I will update this article sometime, but leave it for now as is, as many of the principles in it are still true and apply to us today.
Christians and many people in general don’t always realize it, but the Bible teaches a lot about finances, giving and wealth – in a simple and clear way. Jesus had a lot to say about money, riches, wealth and giving, and many of His parables demonstrate this (out of 38 parables in the gospels, 16 of them dealt with money). However, I must warn, that this article is for máture Christians.
When it comes to finances and giving, there is Gód’s way versus the world’s way, Gód’s system versus the world’s system, Gód’s wisdom versus the world’s wisdom. There ís actually such a thing as biblical economics, or kingdom economics, and biblical prosperity. Not all that the world teaches about finances is wrong of course – not at all; there are something as common sense financial secular principles, which help us to understand finances and money management. But the biblical and kingdom principles in God’s Word regarding finances are superior to worldly wisdom and should be regarded as such.
There are divine principles in the Word of God, the Bible, like giving and receiving, sowing and reaping, and seedtime and harvest. We give generously to Kingdom causes because God is a generous giver Himself. He gave His áll for us, He gave His Son Jesus. You first give yourself and your heart to God, and then your resources and money – 2 Cor 8:5. You cannot outgive God – many have tried, but nóne have succeeded so far! God is debtor to no man. Jesus said: “Give, and it shall be given to you, good measure pressed down and shaken together and running over, they shall give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you measure, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38.
We don’t give just out of duty or compulsion. What is to be our attitude when giving? We give: 1) Out of thankfulness for what we have received, 2) out of obedience to God’s Word, 3) From the heart, with joy – because we really wánt to (2 Cor 9:8), and 4) like a any farmer who expects an harvest in return. We give out of principle, we decide how much we want to give and then simply give it. We should always be principle-centered people practicing principle-centered living. We don’t live only to get, but we live especially to give!
New Testament giving is also really different from Old Testament giving. In the OT you first receive and then give, in the NT you give many times béfore receiving! We now give as seed we sow, not so much as a debt we owe. Sometimes we should even give beyond reason, give extravagantly, and also give sacrificially. How do we get out of our financial trouble and debt? Apart from careful financial planning and discipline, we GIVE ourselves out of poverty, lack and debt! And I am talking now about giving to Kingdom purposes and concerns. We give éspecially in times of famine, when we dón’t tightening the purse string of our giving. This may be contrary to the world’s wisdom, but it is nevertheless true.
Christians and other people are usually conscious of the teaching on tithes in the Bible, but not so much on other the teachings in the Bible regarding finances and giving. Scripture actually teaches: 1) First fruits, 2) Tithes, 3) Offerings, and 4) Alms. It is important that we understand áll four, if we truly want to prosper financially as Christians.
I am not going to say too much about tithes (ten percent of our income), because a lot has been already said on it which you can find on the Internet and in good Christian books. Tithes was given in the Old Testament mainly for support of the Levites and the priests in the temple, in other word, for the continuing of Gód’s work. Tithing is not only part of the law, as some people think, because Abraham and Jacob both tithed béfore the law was given to Moses (Gen 14:20; 28:22). Jesus and the apostle Paul also speak of tithing (Matt 23:23; Heb 7:1-9). Malachi has some important things to say about tithes and offerings: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and test me now Me now with this says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open up the windows of heaven to you, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts.” Mal 3:8-11. God says in this passage of Scripture that if we don’t give the tithe to Him, we rób Him, and that there is a curse upon our lives (a financial curse), it is as simple and straightforward as that! Do you want to live under a financial curse or blessing? It is no rocket science!
Tithing protects you financially, and also releases general blessings in your life . Its also positions you for God’s future blessings. The tithe is the minimum we give. It is the beginning of our giving. Technically the tithe is not an offering, because it belongs to the Lord. We bring or return the tithe – it is Gód’s; we pay it, we don’t really give or sow it (it is not ours to give, it belongs to Gód). It is mandatory, so it is payment. It is for our own protection and géneral blessing. It opens up the windows of heavenly blessings so that we can live under an open heaven – it “unties” the hands of God to bless us! When we bring or return our tithe to God, He blesses, anoints, and stretches the rest of our money that’s left so that we always have enough at the end of the month. It doesn’t really make mathematical sense, but it álways works that way! You say that you cannot afford to tithe, I say that you cannot afford nót to tithe! When we don’t tithe, we give the devil legal right to our lives: our car breaks, home appliances break, things get lost or stolen, etc, and you néver make ends meet. The destroyer is doing his work! The tithe belongs to the Lórd, therefore it is hóly – dón’t touch it! Don’t spend or use it – Lev 27:30. Your tithe belongs to your local store house – your church where you worship and are spiritually fed and nourished. Tithes and offerings are given to a church for the support of the church’s mission, ministry, budget, maintenance, and for the relief of the poor. When we bring our tithe to the Lord we really have not “given” Him anything yet. We are simply even or at sea level! It belonged to Him anyway. Tithing is really baby steps – it is the béginning of giving and becoming a very generous person. Tithing is nót the ultimate goal, it is the default for the believer! We give our tithe first thing when we get our monthly income. If we try to give it later it becomes very difficult. Whether you give your tithe from your gross income or your nett income is up to you. I give it from the nett, because that is really the money that I have in hand to work with. Also remember, your tithe goes to your local church, that is, for the extension of Christ’s kingdom – you are nót free to give it to the poor and needy, that is what alms are for, otherwise your tithe will be reckoned by God as alms. Many Christians believe that when they have given the tithe, they have done all that is required, but it is not the case.
Offerings are what you give over and above your tithe (Mark 12:41-44; Acts 24:17). Tithing protects you financially, and releases general blessings in your life; but offerings multiplies you financially. The blessing on offerings are usually even greater than on the tithe, because it is freely given. Be lead by the Hóly Spirit to give beyond your tithe. Why not try to give 5% of your income in offerings additionally to your tithe? Remember, you cannot outgive God! Your tithe belongs to the local storehouse – your church, but your offerings may be given usually Sundays on the offering plate, or to other ministries as well, like for evangelism, as the Holy Spirit directs you. When we return our tithe to the Lord (because it belongs to Him), we have really just given the minimum requirement. But when we give offerings, it is multiplied to our credit, because it is a freewill offering. God multiplies it back to us as a harvest, sometimes even a miracle harvest! Our giving should always increase over time, instead of giving just the minimum 10%. As your financial prosperity increases, try to give 15%, and then 20%, and then 30%, until you eventually give 90% away and live on the remaining 10% – because you don’t really need more than that! Don’t hoard money. Warren Buffett has said that during his lifetime he plans to give away at least 99% of all his wealth, and he is not even a confessing Christian! Be wise to sow your freewill offerings into good soil, that is ministries that bear good fruit.
Almsgiving or charity has always been very important in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Almsgiving is an important part of the spiritual life. Just think of all the people in the world that live in poverty an misery, not even having one proper meal a day to eat. Every night one billion people go to bed hungry – just think about it. About 80% of the world’s population lives in poverty. The bottom 50% of the world’s population owns only 1% of the world’s resources. God will one day hold each of us accountable for what we have done with our money – especially in the face of all the tremendous world wide poverty and need. Give at least 1% of your income for alms – for the poor, the needy and the hungry, and try to increase it as you continue to prosper financially. Proverbs 19:17 says: “He that is gracious to the poor lends to the Lord, and his good deed will He repay unto him.” And Proverbs 28:27 says: “He who gives to the poor shall not lack, but he who hides his eyes shall have many a curse. “ We should always support the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the orphans (“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27)
We will discuss first fruits offering lastly, because it is unfortunately not a well known concept to many Christians. I will therefore spend some time explaining it. But actually the Bible requires it béfore anything else. First fruits actually come before tithes in the Bible – Terumah (Hebrew for first fruits) comes before first tithes (Deut 26 & Neh 10:37). We should not confuse first fruits with the tithe, ten percent of our income. First fruits is different from tithes. First fruits is given at the béginning as a pledge for the rest, not at the end as with tithes (not as a debt that we owe, but as a seed that we sow). It is given at the beginning of the year (consecrating the first hallows and blesses the rest. If you sanctify the root, the whóle tree is holy – Rom 11:16), and with all other further increases during the year: Prov 3:9. It was always given to the priest himself personally in biblical times (See: Terumah). It is given today to the minister, pastor, man or woman of God representing Christ in your life – and thus also sharing in his or her grace, blessings, favor, anointing, and ministry. If you don’t have a minister or pastor in your life that is worthy of your first fruit, add it to your tithe, or give it to the poor (Didache). See Scriptural examples of first fruits in: Ex 23:16,19; 34:26; Lev 23:10; Num 18:12-28; Deut 8:1-5; 26; Neh 10:35-39; 12:44; 2 Kings 4:42; Ez 44:30, 48:9-12, and Rom 11:16. In Malachi 3:8 where the Bible says: “Wherein have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings”, the word for offerings in the Hebrew here is heave-offerings, or terumah; that is first fruits. Israel has been robbing God in tithes and first fruits. It is true that some ministers and pastors may exploit this teaching for their own gain, but that doesn’t negate the biblical validity of it.
Based in part on the measures described by the prophet Ezekiel, Jewish Law set the minimum amounts of the “great offering” at 1/60 (1.67%) for a poor person, 1/50 (2%) for the average person, and 1/40 (2.5%) for the generous person. Hillel, Jewish doctor of the law and sage during the time of Christ taught the same amounts. We should try to give 2.5% if we can. Don’t ónly invest into general ministry and evangelism, but also invest dírectly into the personal lives of men and women of God in your life who are a blessing to you. In the Bible God made ample provision for the priests and Levites, so that they could do their work whóleheartedly, without coveting after other peoples wealth and possessions. Gód was their portion and inheritance, and not land and other things. First fruits offerings bring significant financial and other increase in our lives! Many Christians can testify to a glorious breakthrough in their finances when they added first fruits to their other regular types of giving.
So, what are your first fruits to God really? It could be your first pay check in that new job; it could be a portion of the sale of your house or property. It is really néw money or new goods of any kind that God supplies to us in many ways. First fruits can be calculated from the first week salary, or better even, giving the whole of the first week salary. But this is up to you. It should preferably be calculated percentage wise from your first month’s salary, or your first profits in business. You further give first fruits every time when you get an increase: Prov 3: 9: “Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase… “ It can also be the first money from a new job. It can be added to the first money you give to a new church. These are just examples. There are no strict and exact biblical requirements; let the Holy Spirit guide you specifically what Hé wants yóú to do.
All these things I have written above are not to bring you into bondage through legalism, but to simply give you biblical principles and guidelines to guide your finances and giving. Without them Christians tend to give very little, many times not even one percent of their income to Christ and His kingdom! Maybe at the moment you’re not even giving your tithe and this is all new to you. Well, do you want to really prosper financially or not? Remember also, God doesn’t always give us money in return, but many times open doors and new opportunities, wonderful creative ideas and innovative ways to make money. Implement these principles for at least three consecutive months and see what God will do for you personally.
There are also other things that are also crucial to overall financial success, like integrity-honesty, diligence, savings, careful money management, financial self-control and discipline, and wise stewardship.
Revolutionize your finances! Start practicing and living by God’s Kingdom principles and see the turnaround, breakthroughs and miracles in your life within a short time. Many Christians can testify to this. Get out of debt, throw off the world’s shackles, and become financially free and prosperous! It ís within your grasp.