W.A. Criswell tells of an ambitious young man who told his pastor he’d promised God a tithe of his income. They prayed for God to bless his career. At that time he was making $40.00 per week and tithing $4.00. God did just that and in a few years his income increased, and he was tithing $500.00 per week.
He called the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now. The pastor replied, “I don’t see how you can be released from your promise, but we can ask God to reduce your income to $40.00 a week, then you’d have no problem tithing $4.00.”
A few years back, a Galveston church had a Tithing Demonstration Sunday for its members. On a designated Sunday everyone was asked to give a tithe of one week’s salary. They urged everyone … whether or not they usually tithed … to give a tithe that one time.
As you could imagine, the offering that Sunday was the largest ever given. In fact, it was 6 times the usual offering. The aftermath was even more exciting. Many who had never tithed before changed their attitude and decided if they could do it once, they could do again.
By the end of that year giving was up almost 3 times what it had been before the demonstration. The enthusiasm was up more than that. Over and over, people gave testimonies of the many changes in their lives as God fulfilled his promise in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Illustrations courtesy sermoncentral.com)
In Deuteronomy 6:16 it is commanded of the people of Israel, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him in Massah.” It’s repeated in Luke 4:12 as Jesus is being tempted by the devil. Yet here God is making an exception. Why is that? Isn’t testing God something only the weak in faith do?
Here it is not. Here it is a sign of faith. If I test Him to show me a sign, I show I lack faith (something His people often did in Scripture). But when we test Him to be true to His Word, it takes faith to proceed. When you trust in God, you are effectively putting Him to the test. That is all he is asking you to do, to trust in Him even with your most prized possessions.
Now, of course, as we humans are quick to do, we try to use this for gain. We think that God is saying that the way to riches is to give the most. “If I show God how much I trust Him by tithing, then He’ll shower me with blessings.”
This kind of self-centered attitude is not what God is looking for. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 God through Paul reminds us that, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” God is not looking for your obedience because of what it will do for you, He is looking for those who have a heart for all of humanity. He is not asking you to treasure the things on earth but the things in heaven.
The difference between tithing and giving is this. Giving is from your surplus, tithing is from your first fruits. Tithing means putting the needs of God and His church first, even before the needs you may have in your temporal life. Both tithing and giving are a sign to God of your faith, but tithing trusts in God more to provide.
If you have not sone so already, I urge you to begin a tithing plan of your first fruits. Put God to the test to see if He will not open the windows of heaven for you. What makes tithing most effective is the attitude in which it is given. Give with a generous heart of trust in your God. Don’t anticipate anything back except the knowledge that you have acted righteously. Give back a portion of that which God has already given you as you have decided in your heart. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;” (Proverbs 3:9). Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, forgive us for those times we have only thought of ourselves. May Your Holy Spirit motivate us to greater things and may one of those things be the trust necessary to make a kingdom difference. Amen.