“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NASB). “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12)..
By John David Hicks
The Bible pictures God as a fabulously wealthy landowner (Luke 16:1) who calls you to be a steward of what He has entrusted to you. The words “God’s economy” come from two New Testament Greek words—oikonomia (house) and nomos (law). Thus, “God’s economy” denotes the law, supervision, or management of the possessions of a household.
Your body is that house, God’s dwelling place (John 14:23). “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body,” your house (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God has made you a steward of all He has entrusted to you (1 Corinthians 4:2). A steward must be found faithful.
On this Earth, we must live in two economies: the world’s economy and God’s economy. God’s plan, His arrangement, His economy is for you to carry out His purposes on Earth. We have the privilege of telling everyone “about the endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Ephesians 3:8 NLT).
Unfortunately, most Christians don’t know the difference between God’s economy and the world’s economy. One will bless you, the other will curse you. One will give, the other will take. One lives for God, the other lives for self. God’s economy is about life: sowing and reaping—giving and receiving. The world’s economy is surrounded by death: greed and control, selfishness and pride. Poverty has many causes. It can be the result of poor choices or laziness, but often the wicked take advantage of the poor (Psalm 10:2).
God is concerned about the way you use your money. Your attitude toward money will determine whether you can enjoy life, initiate relationships with people, and establish a right relationship with God. Your attitude toward money reveals your character and your reward in heaven. Your use of money is a strong indication of your priorities. A quick overview of your checkbook will reveal where your treasure is your heart truly is. Your use of money is an expression of where your security lies—in your own ability to provide or in your dependence on God. That is why Billy Graham said, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.”
Money is a medium of exchange for goods and services, a measure of value, or a means of payment. You need money to survive every day in our world. God is concerned about your survival. So, how can Jesus Christ be your Lord, and not be Lord over your money? This subject is so important that one out of every ten verses in the New Testament deals with your attitude toward your money.
In every great movement of God, the Holy Spirit deals with a person’s attitude toward money (Acts 5:1-10). Your money affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And nothing is more spiritual than how you handle your money. How you get it, spend it, save it, and share it is important to God. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The warning is clear: If you are obsessed with money, you will have problems. Since all kinds of evil is directly or indirectly related to the love of money and greed, there is nothing more spiritual than your attitude toward money.
I believe that fear of poverty (not just greed) keeps many Christians from giving their tithe. During a financial crisis, many Christian hearts are filled with an unhealthy and unbiblical fear. Only the liberating power of tithing can set them free. Tithing is spiritual warfare (Malachi 3:7-12).
Much of Satan’s power is based on fear, which is the opposite of faith. When you joyously refuse to be afraid of financial need and defy Satan by giving even beyond the tithe, you break the power of fear to bind and allow God’s love and generosity to enlarge your heart.
I see three attitudes about money among Christians:
1) Control that leads to disobedience. “I worked for it and earned it, it is mine. I deserve it. So I can control it. If I feel like giving a dollar, I will. It’s mine and I’ll do what I want with it.”
2) Compromise that is partial obedience. “Yes, the tithe belongs to God, but the rest, the 90 percent, is mine. I will obey out of duty with the 10 percent, but with the rest I will do what I want.”
3) Commitment that is total obedience. “All I have belongs to God—the tithe and the rest of it. I am a steward of His grace.” Totally obedient disciples recognize that all finances and material things belong to God. “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14).
The first attitude claims to be the owner and takes control. The second attitude still claims to be the owner but shares out of duty. The third attitude knows that God owns it all and He gives out of relationship. The act of tithing is a recognition that everything belongs to God. The first 10 percent is holy to the Lord. But I also exercise stewardship over the other 90 percent.
“But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Hebrews 10:38). To live by faith is to be totally dependent on Him. Thus, Paul could say, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).
“For where your treasure is,” said Jesus, “there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Jesus is saying, “When your faith touches your money, it will have no problem reaching your heart.” Tithing is simply a practical way to demonstrate your trust that God has provided everything you have. You are demonstrating it to yourself as much as you are to God.
In the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:11), Jesus said, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Jesus drives this point home with the rich young ruler, who wanted eternal life and to be a disciple of Jesus. He had obeyed the law, which meant tithing as well. Jesus told him to sell all he has, give the money to the poor, come and follow Him, and he will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19).
This young man was confronted with two issues of faith: the lordship of Christ and belief that God would bless his obedience. But his possessions owned him. So he went away sorrowful.
Jesus warns us: “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The deceitfulness of riches causes you to depend on your wealth rather than on God. When things own you, they are a hard master. But when the power of possessions is broken in your life, God can trust you with “true riches” in the here and now. Obviously, God is interested in your attitude toward money!
Jesus made it plain in Luke 16:13-15, “‘No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’ The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’”
You cannot adopt the world’s economy of money and still serve God. Jesus says, “You must choose between God and money.” When your master is God, you can still have possessions, but they are surrendered to God’s kingdom. When you see yourself as a manager, not the owner, God is free to entrust you with more to accomplish His purposes.
Why did the Pharisees sneer at Jesus? Because they loved money; money was their god. The world’s economy is selfish and sneers at God’s Word today. You can’t serve both; you must choose between God and money. Jesus tells you why. You will be in danger of hating God or despising Him when the tithe is given grudgingly. When money is your master, you think God is your enemy. But when God is your master, you are a steward in relationship with Him and see God’s priorities as your priorities.
Your heart motives are important to God. Like the Pharisees, you can try to justify yourself in the eyes of men. “God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” That’s why God wants you to give willingly out of love.
You can’t love without giving. God is love; God is a giver. That is why “every good gift comes from above.” Giving liberates your soul, gives health to your body and joy to your spirit. True happiness is not found in getting, but in giving. Giving always opens the door to receiving.
1. GOD SAYS YOU ARE TO GIVE A CLEAR-CUT AMOUNT—THE TITHE.
“Tithe” means a tenth—10 percent. An offering is only after the tithe is given. You don’t give to God, you return to God what He already owns. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). That is the starting point in money management in God’s economy. You can’t live victoriously until you acknowledge that God owns it all. In Scripture, to believe is to commit. When you tithe you are acknowledging that He owns it all.
Throughout the Bible tithing has been the means God has used to finance His kingdom. Throughout history God’s people have returned to God the first 10 percent, the tithe. Solomon confirmed it with his wisdom: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). The tithe illustrates your commitment and faith.
Long before the Old Testament law was ever given, Abraham, the example of faith, paid tithes (Genesis 14:17-20). It was to Melchizedek, a picture of Christ (Hebrews 7:1-3), that Abram gave a tenth of the spoil—an expression of his gratitude. Unlike the rich young ruler, Abraham by faith was willing to sacrifice what he treasured most—Isaac, because he believed God would fulfill His promise of a son and resurrect Isaac. Tithing gives part of your “own” earthly treasure to God and proves that your real treasure is in your heart.
Jacob continued the tithing principle. He promised God “all that you give me I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22).
Tithing was not created under the law, but prior to it (Hebrews 7:1-21). Then “the law came through Moses.” “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord…. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30, 32). Here God claims His ownership; the tithe is an act of faith affirming what God already owns.
Then Jesus Christ taught us a new way through grace and truth: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter (tithing), without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23). Jesus calls them hypocrites for neglecting justice, mercy, and faith, but commends them for following God’s plan in tithing. Tithing is not meant to be done as a force of habit, but rather as an expression of the heart.
The early church continued tithing (2 Corinthians 8-9). “On the first day of every week,” the apostle Paul instructed, “each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). This is the “firstfruits” of your faith.
The New Testament emphasized that the tithe was not to be given based on law, but rather from the heart. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).
The church understood that God would multiply their blessings as they committed their tithe cheerfully. Someone has defined true prosperity as having access to an unlimited supply.
This principle of giving and then in turn receiving is illustrated in the Bible by the Macedonia church. Paul writes that when they gave generously out of their deep poverty, God released to them grace. He released blessings both on the giver and the receiver. That is why Paul told them to give “not reluctantly or under compulsion,” but cheerfully and freely from the treasure in your heart. Not out of duty, but out of delight—in love, faith, and obedience.
Like the church in the New Testament, churches today need to emphasize that tithes and offerings are a genuine act of worship—a declaration of faith and a celebration of God’s faithfulness. God wants you to have the privilege and blessing of tithing.
2. GOD SAYS YOU ARE TO TAKE THE TITHE TO A SPECIAL PLACE—TO THE STOREHOUSE.
In Hebrew, the “storehouse” is a treasury or armory, a place of stored provision for future time of need. When the “storehouse” does not have the provisions to minister, the enemy can defeat us. Honoring the Lord with the firstfruits is a powerful public witness of faith that truly matters to you. God has promised to bless your obedience.
Malachi 3:7-12 explains the tithe from God’s viewpoint. In verse 7, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’”
God wants them to return to Him in faith and obedience; the tithe is the first step in His covenant.
In verse 8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” Robbery is the act of taking something that does not belong to you. God accuses them of being a thief. Only a fool would try to rob God.
In verse 9, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” You can’t rob God without robbing yourself. If you keep the tithe, you must add 20 percent interest: “If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it” (Leviticus 27:31).
The curse comes if you don’t pay it. Satan devours, God blesses; God does not curse. But when the blessing is lifted, the curse comes out of the natural consequences of accidents, money problems, and sickness—Satan has free reign. When the protective covering of the blessing is removed, you are exposed to the curse. If you want financial freedom, pay your tithe.
It’s hard to convince those in the church who consistently struggle with money that they must give to God first. You must sow before you can reap. Sometimes you have to write the check and be faithful to God’s promises. But over and over again, I have seen those who tithe are more financially sound than those who don’t. If you don’t believe in the curse, that Satan devours, God says, “Test me.” But when you are in covenant promises, God says He will rebuke the devourer for your sake.
In verse 10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
The storehouse refers to the Tabernacle. Under the New Covenant it is the local church, the place of spiritual nourishment. “Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). Tithing is a commandment with a promise. In the New Testament Jesus confirms that the promised blessings are both temporal and spiritual.
As a rule, you don’t put God to a test. But here God wants to be tested. You can test the blessing or the curse of Satan, because God will keep His word.
In my second pastorate a young man named Jim married a girl in the church. Jim was not a Christian but would come with his wife to church on occasion. He heard me preach on tithing and started tithing. Then there was a big layoff at the steel mill, but Jim kept his job. At lunch one day some men who had lost their jobs were talking. “I went to church last Sunday,” one said, “and the preacher preached on tithing. All those preachers want is your money.”
Jim spoke up, “I have been paying my tithe and I believe that God has been blessing me.”
“I don’t believe that,” the man said.
“Well,” Jim said, “I tithe and you don’t. How come the mill kept me on the job when you have more years of seniority than I do and you are a hard worker. I believe that God is blessing me because I am paying my tithe.”
The man told Jim, “You are right, I need to start tithing.”
It wasn’t long until Jim became a Christian, because God honors His word. “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
In verses 11 and 12, “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” God not only opens the windows of heaven for blessing and supernatural supply, but also protects your crops and your finances. Your life will prosper.
God continues in Malachi 4:2 that you will have divine favor. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” You will be a cheerful giver and the blessings will come back to you tenfold as you receive from God.
The only way you will get financial freedom is to obey God by faith. God says you are to give a clear-cut amount—the tithe. He says you are to take the tithe to a special place—the storehouse.
3. GOD SAYS THE TITHE HAS A DIVINE PURPOSE.
It’s to teach you faith. Will you trust Him? In God’s economy you are a steward entrusted with gifts and possessions that He has given you. If you are faithful, He will entrust you with more. God knows and you know that if you can’t trust God with your money, you will never trust Him with your life. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). This is the stewardship test.
God was smart enough to put His Church in a material world and have a spiritual plan to finance it—tithes and offerings. This is how God’s kingdom goes forward on earth.
There are seven biblical reasons why you should tithe:
1. You recognize God’s sovereignty when God claims the tithe (Leviticus 27:30-32).
2. You express your faith and worship (Romans 12:1-2; Revelation 4:10-11).
3. Tithing sanctifies your selfish motives (Romans 11:16; Proverbs 3:9-10).
4. Tithing is a part of God’s economy for His Church (1 Corinthians 4:2; 9:13-14).
5. Tithing is an act of sowing seed (2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Luke 6:38; Galatians 6:7).
6. Tithing affects generations (Genesis 14:17-20; Hebrews 7:4-10).
7. God’s ways are above your ways (James 3:13; Romans 11:33-36).
God is concerned about your priorities. Life is short. You are just a sojourner on this earth, on your way to your eternal home. You can’t take things with you. Only what you have in Christ will last. You need an eternal perspective. “Set your minds on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2). The Great Commission is important to God (Matthew 28:19-20). So is helping the poor: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). God will bless your generosity with His generosity.
You will give account of your stewardship. God’s economy is eternal (Matthew 6:21). That is why Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When your priority is His righteousness, to be in right standing with God, you will find true contentment and joy. When you put God first, God makes a covenant with you: He promises to take care of you.
In Africa, they have a proven method for capturing monkeys. They fill a large glass bottle with nuts and fruit through an opening just big enough for a monkey’s hand. The monkey can barely slide his hand in, but once he grabs the food, making a fist, he can’t pull his hand back out. The monkey will stubbornly hold on to the food in the bottle for hours. He would rather commit monkey suicide than to drop the food.
Many Christians are like that monkey—they are committing financial suicide because they won’t let go of the tithe! You are a steward of all that God has given you. In God’s economy the choice is yours. Will you return to God what belongs to Him? Will you trust Him? Tithing is where you start, but you don’t stay there. The tithe moves into offerings. In the book of Acts, Barnabas and Cornelius are examples of how giving changed their lives. God rewarded their giving and faith.
Just as there is a spirit of the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), there is a spirit of poverty that brings fear. Some people need to be delivered from the fear of poverty. In times of economic panic the fear of poverty easily finds access into people’s hearts. Tithing is an act of faith. I believe that the tithe is spiritual warfare that God uses to set us free from the fear of financial ruin and poverty.
Giving the tithe and trusting in God’s care for us is a way of declaring our freedom from fear. Even people with plenty sometimes are kept awake at night worrying about their finances. Memories of times of need or childhood poverty can bind the hearts of Christians with fear. But tithing is liberating—especially in these times of financial and economic turmoil.
As Christians we trust in God, not in Wall Street. If the economy falls apart, God is still our provider. The greatness of God we declare in our worship songs, we magnify with our tithes. When giving our tithe, we are putting our money where our mouth (praise) is. God can be trusted and we can rest free of fear.
In God’s economy, God has “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5). “[He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:10 AB). All things are accomplished in Christ—He is the fulfillment of everything!
Jesus tells us that the key to God’s economy is to “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38). “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:24-25 NLT). God is a giver. He blesses a generous person with even more to give away.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see the blessing of giving and the wonderful things that You want to accomplish in the world and in my life when I obey You in faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.