Tithe and guilt.

Book pages.

Please tell me about tithing. Would one not go to Heaven for failure to do this? I know God wants us to. But why does it seem that when this is promoted in our church, people are sent on a guilt trip?

Attitudes to tithing really depend on how we look at God. If we seem Him as Someone who sets arbitrary rules or tests, then tithing is a burden and not a blessing. The same will be true of a lot of other Christian practices, including behaviour, dress codes and the way and how often we worship, read our Bible or pray.

However, if we look at God as our Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, and who wants a living relationship with us, then things take on a different perspective. We go to church, not out of duty, but because it is an opportunity to spend time in His presence. We read our Bible and pray at home for the same reason. We behave in a Christian manner because we are proud of the God we have come to know. We want to represent Him and, since He created us, we respect that He knows what is best for us.

All of those principles also come into play in the way we give our tithe – and, indeed, all our giving. That relationship principle is very clear in Micah 6:6-8 (NIV):

'With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.'

That principle also comes through very clearly in Malachi, where the principle and reasons for tithing are most clearly explained. In Malachi's time there had been a breakdown in the relationship between the people and God. Worship had become ritualistic, and, because the relationship was no longer there, people had lost sight of the importance of giving tithe to God. That is why Malachi used some fairly strong language to challenge the people to come to their senses, talking about robbing God (Malachi 3:8) – but more importantly notice God promise in the previous verse: 'Return to me, and I will return to you.' That is the basis and context of the subject of tithe. There is no need for guilt here. There is a need for commitment – but a commitment that comes from relationship. When that comes together, and we realise the privilege we have in helping the mission of the God who 'owns the cattle on a thousand hills' (Psalm 50:10), then we will realise what a privilege it is to return the Lord's tithe. In return, God will keep that relationship developing, and it is in that context that He promises the 'windows of heaven will be opened" and you will be blessed. (Malachi 3:10)

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