Tithing in the Bible
God's Word describes the tithe as a testimony to God's ownership. It was through the tithe that Abraham acknowledged God's ownership. Thus, God was able to direct and prosper him (Genesis 14:20).
God's freedom cannot be experienced in the area of finances unless:
- God's ownership is acknowledged over everything and our role of stewards who have been placed over His possessions is accepted.
- The first part is surrendered back to God.
- There is an understanding that God supplies a surplus above basic needs in order to help those in need.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew people brought approximately 23 percent of their increase to the Lord's storehouse — a physical storehouse. The keepers of the storehouse, the Levites, in turn used what was given to care for the widows, needy foreigners in the area, orphans, and themselves. In the New Testament, the people no longer brought their tithes and offerings to a physical storehouse; instead, they gave of their increase in tithes, offerings, and alms to the church body. The church then used the tithe for spreading the Gospel. The offerings were used for the general and administrative support of the church, and alms were used to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and needy.
Conflict over tithing
Because tithing involves money, it is a prime candidate for controversy between a husband and wife. However, if both spouses are Christians, they should have a desire to please the Lord.
It's important for both spouses to be trained in God's principles of finance. That way, they'll understand that tithing is God-ordained, not just a personal desire that one spouse is trying to impose on the other. Giving should come from the heart. As such, tithing is not a law but, rather, an indicator of obedience to all of God's laws. Because the tithe's purpose is to be an individual or family testimony of God's ownership, it was never intended that everyone should give the same amount or in the same way but that each should give bountifully and cheerfully (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
If one spouse is an unbeliever
The problem becomes more complicated when one spouse is an unbeliever. Since it is the responsibility of the husband to be the leader in his home, if the wife is an unbeliever, husbands must obey the Lord's direction. Husbands need to realize, however, that the Lord is more concerned about the wife's soul than about money. If tithing becomes an obstacle to the wife, husbands should consider not tithing temporarily in order to win their wives to the Lord. Husbands need to counsel their wives, pray with them, and seek their opinion and direction but according to God's Word the decision is ultimately the husband's. Because most wives in America today are looking for the strong leadership that seems to be lacking in many marriages, husbands need to take the lead regarding tithing.
If the unbelieving spouse is the husband, the believing wife should submit to his wishes and trust that her submissive attitude will win him to the Lord (see 1 Peter 3:1-6). Remember it is not the money but the attitude of the heart about which the Lord is most concerned. If wives have made commitments to give and their husbands object to giving, God sees the desire of the wives' hearts to tithe and He will honor that commitment, even though wives honor their husbands' wishes. God will bless because of the wife's attitude, not because of giving.
However, a wife might still ask her husband to let her give an amount smaller than the tithe for at least a year. If, at the end of the year, the family is worse off financially as a result of giving, she will agree to stop giving. If the family is better off, the husband may agree to give more. In Malachi 3:10, the Lord says to test Him in this thing (tithing). Often this is just the opportunity for God to prove Himself real to a doubting spouse.
Giving the tithe is the outward expression of inner commitment — or lack of it. It is material and financial surrender prompted by spiritual surrender. However, if couples do not tithe because one spouse objects to tithing, the subject should be placed "on the back burner," until they are able to discuss and study the principles of tithing together.