by David Royall, Resonate Finance Director

Running and weightlifting sound terrible.

You’ve obviously heard about how important exercise is for your wellbeing, but you hate gyms. Maybe somebody guilts you into joining them in a New Years resolution, so you put on some unseasonably cold clothes and head to the gym. You run as hard as you can on a treadmill and lift some heavy things until you run out of ideas and go home. The next day, your legs feel heavy and your arms feel weak, and somehow the next day you hurt even more!

Then comes the existential crisis: Who invented exercise anyway? Why does it have to hurt? How can something that feels so bad possibly be good for me? How am I supposed to go back to the gym when I’m still sore from the last time?

But your friend keeps asking you and you keep joining until something mysterious happens: you stop feeling so sore, you have more energy throughout the day, and you even look forward to your next visit to the gym! Even more, you experience more discipline in other areas like your sleep schedule, time management, and food choices.

Tithing and financial generosity sound terrible too.

You’ve probably heard people plead for you to tithe to your local church and give to church planting and mission trips, and you run through excuses like someone who’s never been to the gym. You don’t have any extra to give, you’re already giving so much time serving your church. You decide to give once or twice and it really hurts your finances.

Then comes the existential crisis: Who invented tithing anyway? Why does it have to hurt? How can something that feels so bad possibly be good for me? If God has all the resources in the world, why would he want me to give him a fraction of my measly income to my church?

But giving is a spiritual discipline just like exercise is a physical discipline. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Discipline hurts because it needs to! Giving must strip away the idols of self-security, self-provision, and selfishness that have been building up in your heart for years. Giving is a matter of discipleship and nobody is exempt from repenting of selfishness and obeying God’s commands.

Once you establish the discipline of regular giving (especially tithing), something mysterious happens: you stop feeling so poor, you have more purpose for your finances, and you even look forward to your next tithe and the next support letter you receive! Even more, you experience more discipline in other areas like budgeting & wise spending, stewardship of the things God’s already given you, and prayer toward the ministries you’re supporting, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

I challenge you to begin the discipline of tithing (giving 10% of your income to the local church) and giving beyond that to special requests like church planting, mission trips, and staff support. Even if it doesn’t make sense today and it hurts tomorrow, I assure you it will grow you into a more godly disciple.

To start practicing obedient generosity today with Resonate Church, you can go to give.resonate.net.

There are a lot of common questions regarding why and how to tithe. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions:

1. Is tithing really Biblical if it’s not explicitly commanded in the New Testament?

Yes. The tithe was introduced in the Old Testament with the priest Melchizedek (Gen 14), established by Jacob (Gen 28), and required in the Levitical law as the primary (but not only) mandatory sacrifice for all Israelites (Deu 14, Lev 27). Through Israel’s history it had been ignored and distorted, so Jesus redirected the teachers & Pharisees who meticulously tithed cumin from their herb gardens but ignored what the tithe was supposed to be producing: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He affirmed they should be practicing the tithe but not ignore its greater purpose (Mat 23:23). The rest of the New Testament affirms that Christians should be giving generously far beyond 10%.

2. How important is the “10%”?

Strictly speaking, tithe means “tenth” or 10%. It was the term and amount established in the Old Testament (see above) by God’s wisdom, who made it a sacrifice proportionate to anyone’s income level. Through the prophet Malachi to the Israelites, God states that giving less than the full 10% is robbing him, and then challenges them to give the full tithe and see how he blesses them in return (Mal 3). Any percentage of your income you give is better than none, but intentionally withholding part of your tithe may indicate a distrusting heart toward God. Take on God’s challenge by giving the whole 10% and see how he blesses you in return.

The New Testament church seemed to treat the 10% as a floor for giving, rather than a ceiling. If you are already giving 10% and are comfortable there, you can continue to be stretched in generosity and discipleship by setting a giving goal of giving 15%, 20%, and more! It could be that the next raise you get is God wanting to increase your standard of giving rather than your standard of living.

3. How can I give if I live off student loans or my parent’s money?

This is a tough and common question. The majority of students living off student loans or parent’s money receive some spending money above their necessary expenses to use for gas, food, coffee, and activities. The simplest solution is to look at how much spending money you receive after tuition and fees are taken care of, and tithe off of that. In reality this isn’t a full 10% since expenses aren’t excluded from a working person’s income. Another solution would be to set a giving goal every term or month when you receive money that would stretch your finances and follow that.

With loans, worldly prudence would tell you not to give away money that isn’t yours and you have to pay back. But if you’re substituting tithe for spending that money on coffee or personal expenses, then there’s no difference in repaying your loans, while there is a difference in your obedience.

If your parents disapprove of tithing off money they give you, it may be hard to balance honoring your parents with obedient generosity. I’d encourage you to talk with them about your conviction, just like you’d talk with them about other challenging parts of your discipleship. Hopefully they will trust you to make your own decisions and to view the money they give you as yours, and not theirs.

4. What’s more important: tithing or supporting people?

Tithing comes first. It represents giving control back to God of what he’s given you, being obediently generous without controlling the specific designation of your gift. Supporting people, giving campaigns, or specific ministries you believe in is a great way to be generous beyond your tithe. But since you still control the designation of your gift, you aren’t truly giving control back to God, and so you may not grow spiritually as much as with a tithe first.

When the tithe was established in the Old Testament, it was accompanied by other mandatory sacrifices and freewill offerings. If we apply the same model today, both tithes and other gifts are mandatory and important, but tithes come first.

5. What do I tithe off of? When should I tithe?

The Old Testament model has people tithing off all their “firstfruits.” This model would include paychecks, bonuses, and even sales of personal items. I believe you could err on two sides of the question “Should I tithe off of this?” You could get really nitpicky about tithing off of everything that comes into your possession, like the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. Or you could be trying to get out of tithing on a technicality. Either may lead you to forget the purpose of obedient generosity and may indicate a sinful heart toward tithing.

I suggest tithing immediately when you receive your income. This is both a symbolic gesture of giving away your “firstfruits” and is a practical way to not forget or reduce how much you give after your budget starts running low. You can always give more at the end of the month if you have extra, but at least you’ve been obedient.

6. Do I “owe” God if I’ve never tithed before or if I miss a gift?

God wants you to tithe to draw your heart back to him, so start giving obediently today and never look back. Christ has already covered up your shortcomings and sins with mercy on the cross, a debt that we could never pay back. If you feel conviction about skipping a past gift or two, maybe it would be good for your heart to make that up, but don’t let the weight of guilt stop you from being obedient today. Accept his free gift of mercy and be obedient moving forward.

Additional resources:

  • How to give to Resonate Church:

    • Go to give.resonate.net

    • Drop your gift in a Joy Box at Sunday Gatherings

    • Text “resonatetithe” to 77977 to receive a mobile giving link

    • Download the Resonate app (text “resonateapp” to 77977 for a download link)

  • Want to learn more about giving and financial stewardship? Email giving@resonate.net to request a copy of Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn to learn more about the theology of giving and Biblical answers to a lot of big financial questions.

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