Pastoral Perspectives

Stewardship – Tithes and Offerings

            Tithing and Offerings can be a very touchy subject to talk about in church. Some of the most heated points of debate surrounding tithing are: Is it a biblical principle to give 10% of our gross income to the church? Should it be required for church membership or be a free-will offering? Giving is an important aspect of the Christian life. The Church has been faced with the question of how God wants His work to be financed. The problem is some say we do not have to give the tithe because we are not under the law.  It is not the law that motivates the believers to give, but rather it is love! People always ask: “How much should I give.” This question refers to the proportion of giving. Proportionate giving is about our obligation to give. A believer has an obligation to give back to God a portion of what God has blessed him with. Tithes are regular, proportional giving based on our regular income. So the church should receive a stable amount of giving each month from our tithing. What about offering? For those who do not draw an income, it is their giving to the Lord. And for those who are already tithing, it is something they give on top of their regular tithe. So the church would receive a varying amount of giving each month from our offerings. Together they form our total giving to God for the work of the kingdom through the church. .

            When we speak of the need for tithing in the today’s context? We tend to look at the needs of church ministries to be supported monetarily. In fact the funding of the church was one of the first issues that brought division in church history. Consider the book of Acts chapter five: Here the members of this fledgling endeavor began selling everything they owned and having “all things common”. This appears to be their first answer to the funding question. Yet when we read on in Acts we can see that this system had its sets of problems. It caused division, faultfinding, arguments and eventually deception, and the death of two people in the church, specifically: Ananias and Saphira. In truth the practice of the early church having all things “common” was only for a temporal period as the church was still at infancy. Tithing would be a better system when the church had become more established. Regardless of a person’s personal wealth they all paid an equal share 1/10th. No other system could offer as much equality while still maintaining a personal ability on the part of the people to take care of their own households. Tithe, or 1/10th of their individual income, could hardly be over demanding to the minds of a people who had so readily been willing to give it all.

            There was no real teaching found in the first century church writings but by the 3rd century there was. In fact, the church held a council that established as official doctrine the obligation of its people to “Tithe” in accordance with biblically established requirements during the 6th Century Synod of Marçon in 585. In view of the obligation to give, we must understand that the issue is not “is there a need” but “how do we meet the need” of the funding of the church. Biblically, we give not to a minister or to a church but to God through the church. We cannot write a cheque to “God”— He tells us to give through the church, and then He tells the church what to do with his money. We don’t adopt a budget to decide what we want to do with our money, but how we think God wants us to use His money. We give to Him, out of all that is His. Unfortunately, many believers do not quite understand this fact. We do think that we’re giving to pay for what the church does, and so we can contribute as we wish. When the finances are good, we don’t have to give as much, and we can give to what we like or use. Stewardship is not horizontal fund-raising but vertical commitment of our lives to God, through the local church. Believers are commanded to give freely, sacrificially, generously, regularly, joyfully and with the motivation of love for God and man.

             So in True Way, we practise the giving of tithes and offerings though the money would still go to the same account and  be used by the church for the work of the kingdom. However, for the purpose of accountability and budget planning, the church would like to distinguish between the collection of tithes and offerings.  We provide tithing envelopes for tithing unless it is indicated as giving for a specific cause like missions or humanitarian aid. All cash put directly into the offering bags are counted as offerings while all cheques are considered as tithes whether they have been placed in the envelopes or not. So let us continue to give out of a cheerful and grateful heart. We give because God has first given!

Pastor Cheng Huat

June 5, 2011