“A checkbook is a theological document, it will tell you who and what you worship.” — Billy Graham
People regularly ask pastors some challenging questions. Some of those questions will be about financial giving: more specifically about the tithe, the Old Testament principle of giving the first 10 percent of our income back to God. The other question that is often asked is about where the tithe should be given. In other words, should I be giving to my local church, or is it okay to redirect my “tithe” to other ministries or individuals in need?
The local church is God’s “Plan A.” It’s the vehicle through which we care for the poor, feed the hungry, equip people to minister in the community, and send people out to the nations. The local church is the way God intends to accomplish his mission in the world.
The local church should matter to us because it matters to God. The church is Jesus’ body on earth and it is made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life.:” God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) The church is built for Jesus, by Jesus, and on Jesus.
The local church is where the believer grows. Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.)” The local church provides opportunities for growth that are available nowhere else. We all need a local church if we are to become like Christ.
As Christians, we are called to support the work of Jesus. We know from 1 Corinthians 16 that local churches in the first century took up weekly offerings. “Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). There is no command to tithe in the New Testament, simply a call to faithfully and sacrificially support the work of Jesus, the building of the church. When you give financially to a gospel-centered church you are making an investment in the kingdom of God. When we are judicious in where we put God’s money, the tithe, it ensures that the local church is able to feed people the Word of God.
There is certainly a place for personal giving to other ministries and projects that you have a burden for as well as individuals who are needy but, in so doing, do not neglect the local church. It is God’s plan A.
- Why do we need to give to the local church?
- What types of blessings have you seen come from tithing? Why do you think God says to test Him in this? Have you tested Him in this? What have been the results?