What does the Bible say about giving your tithe to charity instead of the church? Many of my clients support a lot of great causes out there doing so much good, but they neglect supporting their local church.
The local church is God’s primary vehicle to show his love to cities, communities, and nations and where people experience Gospel transformation and life-on-life discipleship. The Bible has a lot to say about where your giving funds should be allocated.
If you’re giving your tithe to charity instead of your local church, here are three challenges for you to consider to get you on the right track.
Challenge #1: Look at What God Says
It is biblically unsound to say, “I forego my tithe to the church because I give to my favorite charity.” Scripture says we must bring our tithe to the church first.
Malachi 3:10 says:
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse . . . 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.”
The storehouse is the place of worship. God sees what goes into the storehouse—what funds are given to the church. In fact, he feels so strongly about it that this is one of the few places in the Bible where he tells us to test him.
Challenge #2: Look at Your Priorities
If you’re giving your tithe to charity, your priorities might be misplaced. There are plenty of good things to do—but are good things getting in the way of God things?
Jesus talked about this in Luke 9.59-62:
“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead.’ . . . Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Jesus handpicks these two guys as his disciples, yet they are consumed with other priorities—good things, but not God things. They valued their own agenda above God’s call. Don’t value the good work charities are doing over the essential work of Christ’s local church.
Am I saying don’t give to charity? Not at all, because the Bible doesn’t say that. Living out the Gospel means you should be aware of those who are in need like Christ was, including those charities that do so much to alleviate suffering. You can give to them as long as you tithe 10% to the church first.
Challenge #3: Check Your Motives
Giving your tithe to charity can lead to recognition like plaques or pavers with your name on it—even buildings named after you. The risk that comes with charitable giving is becoming addicted to the praise you receive from others. You might even pridefully think, “How great am I for giving to those who are less fortunate to me,” yet you are refusing to submit to God and his will for your finances by not tithing to your church.
This is illustrated in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus and his disciples were at the temple watching rich men put their large gifts into the offering box for the praise of others. Then the passage says:
“And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12.41-44)
In our human nature, we can easily be the rich men in the story. It’s easy to love the attention and glamor of being charitable because it puts us higher than the poor we give to. But then we miss the whole point of giving which is worship—to give with pure motives out of love for God, not for the praise of others.
Before you give your tithe to charity, stop and look at what the Scriptures actually say, and check your priorities and motives to ensure they align with Christ’s.
I challenge you to tithe to your local church sacrificially, to give it obediently, and to give with humbleness and meekness. Have your head and heart overcome with gratitude that you can give to your Lord out of what he has given you!
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