There’s a picture that made the rounds on the internet some time ago about a Pastor who left what appears to be a snide message on a restaurant receipt. The message on the receipt reads, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18,” with the tip amount crossed out, and the signature of the Pastor at the bottom. It’s said that one of the servers at the restaurant posted the picture on a popular social media site, and it made it rounds on the internet.
The picture is often accompanied by several versions of the story. Some explain that the reason the Pastor wrote that note is because the restaurant involved automatically charges an 18% tip, which the Pastor supposedly refused to pay. Other stories say that restaurant had an automatic tip for large parties, and that the Pastor’s group had tried to get around this charge by asking for separate bills. There have even been follow-up stories saying that the Pastor had called back the restaurant and demanded all the servers be fired, for allowing that picture to circulate on the internet to begin with.
Like with many such stories on the internet, the truth is both out there to be found, and also hopelessly muddled, that one really needs to read through quite a bit to get to the truth. But I’m not here today to share the truth, or to discuss the behavior of the parties involved. I’m not here to tell you whether or not this really happened, or whether it was really a Pastor who did it, or even what happened to the servers after the event.
What this picture, and the many stories involved, brought to my mind, are some thoughts about giving, and why its really important to give to God what is His due.
Now, the issue of finances and what we should do with them can sometimes be a touchy subject. I think that anytime someone tells anybody that they have to do this or that with their money, people become at least wary and defensive. This is understandable; times are tough, and money doesn’t grow on trees.
I also know that some Christians have an issue about the “tithe,” or the 10% that many preach is the mandatory offering we should give as practicing Christians. Some are very strict about this, likening missing the offering to a sin. Others feel that they should give from what they can afford, whether as much or as little as they can give. Some snidely say that God doesn’t need 10% – He owns everything!
The Origins Of Tithing
Let’s start by taking a look at where the tithe came from to begin with. Take a look at Leviticus 27:30-33, and Numbers 18:21-28. Though for a better understanding of those verses, you may also want to read the whole chapters as well.
Basically, back when Israel was starting as a nation, God made the tribe of Levi separate from the rest of the people of Israel. They could never own land, and would become the priests and musicians and guards of the Temple of God. God had a plan to take care of the tribe of Levi, however. First, he asked the people to set aside 10% of all vegetables, fruit and livestock that the land gave them, and told them that this was His portion. He then commanded them to give His portion to the tribe of Levi. Additional tithes were also set aside so that the nation could not only take care of not only the Levites, but also foreigners, orphans and widows.
So the tithe, as established in the Old Testament, was basically established to take care of those that could not take care of themselves. It was generosity put into law, in order to make sure that everybody in the nation was taken care of. It wasn’t money, though definitely at the time the nation of Israel used currency. Instead it was the basic foodstuffs that allowed people to live.
Another important aspect about the tithe at this time was that God said that it should be set aside for Him. They belong to the Lord, and they are Holy. This is important because not giving the tithe didn’t just mean that the Levites weren’t getting what they deserved and needed, people who didn’t tithe were keeping what was God’s for themselves.
New Testament Tithing
Now in Deuteronomy 15: 7-8, the Bible set a rule for generosity among the people of God. He said: “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted towards your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.” God was establishing that generosity was a trait that He wanted in His Kingdom.
Jesus Himself repeats this in Matthew 5:42, where He says, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” You may think, “Wait, does that mean I’m supposed to just lend out everything I have just because people ask it from me?” Think about the man in Matthew 19, to whom Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then, come follow me.”
If this is making your head spin, try 2 Corinthians 9, start from verse 6. God loves a cheerful giver. Or try Matthew 6: 1-4, where Jesus tells people to give in private. There are also many chapters where Jesus teaches that giving to God does not mean just the 10%, but from what you can, from the abundance in your heart. He even teaches that it’s more than just money, more than just possessions. God wants all of you: your talents, gifts, abilities and your time, not just from your material wealth.
In Romans 12: 6-8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
What Does That All Mean?
One of the things that I personally take away from these readings is this: Everything belongs to God. But unlike the snide way some people say this, this fact makes me realize that my giving isn’t for God’s benefit. It’s already all His. My giving doesn’t make God any richer. Instead, my giving affects myself personally, and those that I give to.
Why should we give? Because we want to recognize what He has given us. Because there are people who need it more. Because Jesus wants us to practice generosity. Because He wants us to develop a heart that is cheerful in giving. Because He wants us to realize that we belong to Him. Because it’s more than just about giving money, or time, or our abilities. It’s about showing our gratitude, our love, and our joy in giving.
As for the tithe itself, about the ten percent that some people say is required, I want to say that there can be many arguments for and against this. First off, you won’t find a place where Jesus says to give any amount of money to the Church. In fact, Jesus rarely quantified anything. Forgive your neighbor. Give generously to those in need. Love one another. But He did say to give generously with a gracious heart.
So what I personally believe is that every Christian give what they can give with a grateful and generous heart. Has God blessed you? Then share your blessings with those who need it to, whatever form or shape it may take. In thanks for the God who blessed you, out of love for Him and for those He loves, give from what your heart calls you to give.
The Widow’s Mite
To close, I want to share with you one of the most striking verses in Luke 21: “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”
Give with a grateful heart, whether out of your abundance or your poverty. God will recognize your heart far more than he needs your gifts.