Giving to God is a spiritual principle that far exceeds the limited understanding of tithes or financial giving. It must start and end in worship. This is where we give to God everything He is due, holding nothing back. Giving Him worship removes fleshly motives and honours Him alone. But giving is also the principle of sowing and reaping outworked in our lives. The measure by which we give is the measure by which we receive.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
There is constant debate about whether or not new covenant believers should tithe on Old Testament principles. I don’t believe that Jesus ever cancelled this instruction. His purpose was never to replace the law but to fulfil it, i.e. to be the means whereby provision was made for us to meet every requirement of God through Him. Nor do any of the Apostles’ writings contradict or indicate in any way that it is no longer relevant and binding to the people of God. He does not change. The spiritual principles on which He commands His kingdom remain the same as those taught to His people from the very beginning. The only difference is that Christ has come to make a way. He has accomplished for us what we could never accomplish ourselves. While the tithe debate continues, we often overlook the powerful principle of giving to God behind it.
The spiritual principle of giving to God
The fundamental principle expressed in this verse still holds true. Interestingly enough, it’s the one thing in the entire Bible on which God challenges us to test Him. This fact alone makes it abundantly clear that it’s something close to His heart. He taught this principle to His Old Testament people as tithing, and it referred to specifically the first tenth of their wealth. What this means is that the very best of everything was given to Him. This served two purposes. First, it reminded the people that He is the source of every good thing. What they have comes from Him alone. Secondly, and very practically, it provided for the keep of the priests and Levites who were devoted to His service. As they held no land or other occupation but lived to serve both God and the people, provision had to be made to support them.
Both of these still apply in our New Testament context. God is still the only source of wealth and provision in our lives. Those who give their lives in willing service in His kingdom still need to be provided for. There are, of course, those who abuse this. But His principles aren’t cancelled by the greedy or the ‘hirelings’ who serve Mammon rather than God. There are plenty of examples of self-seeking priests in the Old Testament, but tithing remained obligatory. What we need to take hold of here is that giving to God isn’t giving what we rightfully have. It’s giving back what He has first given because everything we have still belongs to Him. We are simply stewards of His wealth and abundance. If our lives are surrendered to God, everything we have is also surrendered. If He owns us, He also owns everything we have.
Giving to God and sowing and reaping.
What emerges very clearly is that new covenant believers actually have a far greater obligation when it comes to giving to God. Biblically, our first tenth is prescribed as the very minimum we should give. Practically, we are required to yield everything we have for His purposes – from our lives through to our dreams, aspirations, abilities, and yes, our wealth which He has graciously provided. God desires that we give all as He gave all. But there is another principle at work here, which is also eternal. The principle of sowing and reaping applies to both Old Testament and New Testament people of God. Jesus echoes today’s verse in Luke 6:38. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
What God is challenging us with here is the awesome reality that we can never outgive God. With only the first tenth, He is willing to open the gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing we have insufficient space to receive it. This is breath-taking when we consider that it’s all His to start with. But consider this promise in the light of giving to God all that He has given us, it’s mind-blowing. By the measure we give, He determines the measure He gives in response. In effect, what we sow into His kingdom will provide a harvest beyond imagining. But this promise is conditional. He measures by what we give. If we don’t sow or sow grudgingly or sparingly, we cannot expect the promise to manifest in full abundance. Our harvest will always be directly proportional to what we give to God with joyful hearts.
The blessings of giving to God.
When we look at today’s verse, our inclination is always to limit it to a purely financial context. If we look at it in the light of the cross and salvation, however, we must expand our understanding. There is no principle of God that does not have relevance in every area of our lives. The principle of giving to God is no exception. Blessings are not simply material wealth. Biblical food, in Christ, includes the Word and work of the Spirit, and all the other things we need to mature in faith. The fruits of the Spirit are part of our harvest, the rich and abundant blessings of heaven. The expression ‘grace upon grace’ comes to mind, God pouring out all provision for every need, whether of the body, the soul, or the spirit. Accepting that His blessings are diverse and abundant means we must rethink our giving.
Sowing and reaping is a richly powerful principle which operates in every area of our lives. This means that giving to God isn’t limited to money and includes the area of our need. If one lacks friends, begin to lovingly sow into the lives of the lonely. These seeds will bring a bountiful harvest of friendship and love, often from the most unexpected places. It simply doesn’t make practical or spiritual sense for believers to limit our giving to finances. Wherever we give, provided it is willingly and with rejoicing, a harvest will spring up as His provision for us, with enough to sow once again. The wheat seed must die before it produces a crop. Jesus promises that when we lay down our lives, we will receive His – abundant resurrection life without limit.
Giving to God starts and ends with worship.
Limiting ourselves to only the matter of tithing and how much obscures the most powerful truth of all. God alone deserves all the glory, honour, power, praise and worship. Revelation has some beautiful verses defining all God deserves and is worthy of. Giving to God must always start and end with worship. Remember, Old Testament giving centred around the temple or tabernacle and formed part of the very fabric of worship. We, thankfully, only have to bring one sacrifice to God – ourselves as living sacrifices. When we live to worship Him and give Him all that He is due, our attention shifts from self to Him. Praise, thanksgiving, and worship release a mighty harvest, one we cannot even begin to imagine. This magnifies Him constantly in our lives and removes fleshly motives in our giving. We never give so we can receive but because He is God and worthy.
We acknowledge, Lord, that You and You alone deserve everything we are and have because You are Lord and all things come from and belong to You. Stir our hearts to praise, thanksgiving, and worship. Teach us the joy of giving freely without holding back. Release in us the joy of giving, so that it becomes about You, not our needs. We trust You, Lord, to hold fast to Your Word and fulfil it in its proper time. Until then, teach us to love You with abandoned giving as part of our worship as living sacrifices.