Where Do You Give Your Tithe?

Where should you give your tithe? You can’t trade in American dollars for heavenly currency. You can’t write God a check or Venmo him your tithe directly. He doesn’t accept PayPal or Cash App. So what do you do? Can you just give it to charity or a nonprofit? Can you give it to family or friends in need? Can you give it to a school or college and count it as tithing?

The crux of the matter is that tithing is simple: Tithing is giving to a local church.

Why the Local Church?

The local church is the catalyst God has chosen to facilitate discipleship among believers, minister to the local community, and reach the unreached people groups of the world. The tithe is one function to help support our local church and pastors.

If you have any hesitation about giving to a local church because you don’t trust their management—before you write them off, get involved! Serve and volunteer. Learn what they’re about and what their mission is. Go to the finance meetings and spend time with the pastors on staff to see their ministries in action.

I’ve found that those who throw stones at the local church are rarely educated in the prudent management, oversight, and governance that’s already in place at their church. If none of these are in place, then find a new church. Don’t use the excuse of “there is no perfect church” as a reason not to give or get involved. It’s important to be plugged into a church because when you give your tithe there, you’re not giving to that church. You’re not giving to the pastor. No, you’re giving to the Lord.

History of Tithing to the Local Church

Giving the tithe locally to support the community of faith goes back thousands of years.

If we go back to the origins of tithing, the tithe was part of the Mosaic law that every Israelite was to follow and obey. The book of Leviticus was written about 3,500 years ago. It says, “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). This means it was taken to the temple as an offering. The tithe is the Lord’s portion. It was holy and set apart for him, used in the temple for worshipping him and ministering to others. To give it to the temple was to give it to the Lord.

Paul used the Levitical priests as an example when he argued that vocational pastors deserve to be compensated: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9.13-14). Just as the temple offerings also provided a livelihood for the priests, the early Christians’ tithes and offerings paid the pastoral staff.

This means when you give to the church, it sustains the faith community and day-to-day operations of the ministry. Let’s look at an example.

The Early Church: Example of Generosity

Acts records, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4.32-35).

This passage is so revolutionary—but rarely preached on. What’s so remarkable about it is that the present participle in the Greek[1] for “sold them” and “brought the proceeds” indicate the process as continuing. Both Greek words imply continuous and repeated action. The original language indicates that the giving was not a one-time event, but a habit, a lifestyle. It wasn’t a short-lived program at the church or the group’s designated focus for a month and then they moved onto something else. Generosity was part of their identity, the fabric of their community. It’s hard for us to conceptualize this because it’s so foreign to the American church. It’s so much easier to hoard than give.

What’s also interesting is that the early Christians laid their offerings at the apostles’ feet. That may not mean a lot to us in our culture. But in that day and age, that meant that the apostles, as church leaders, were seen “as trustees and dispensers of the church’s funds as well as of the church’s doctrines.”[2] The money laid at their feet facilitated church operations, which largely involved distributing the funds to the poor and needy. It’s the same with the church today. Your local church down the street can’t operate without its congregants faithfully giving tithe money.

Ask yourself: If each member tithed the way you do, would the doors still be open?

[1] The present participle in the Greek (would sell [ their property ], πωλοῦντες… [the] sales, πιπρασκομένων) indicates the process as continuing (Meyer). https://biblehub.com/acts/4-34.htm

[2] https://biblehub.com/acts/4-35.htm

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