Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. (Malachi 3:10a NLT)
As Christians how should our tithe be given? It is commonly thought, based on the above scriptural reference that “all” the tithe needs to be given to the local church where you attend. Any amount given other than to support a local body of believers is a violation of the instruction from this scriptural reference and can cause the loss of the blessing mentioned later on in this chapter.
First, let me say that the church is the God ordained structure on Earth. If a person is a part of a local body of believers and gets his or her instruction, nurture, spiritual care from their church, then they should give to support that work. It makes not sense to go to a church and give all your support to another ministry. It is like shopping at Kroger and paying Safeway. But does the scripture say that the entire tithe by principle needs to go to the church.
Yes, it does say “all” the tithe but it also adds “the Temple.” The Temple was in Jerusalem and there was only one Temple. In the New Testament we don’t have one place of worship. The closest concept we might have in the New Covenant is the Body of Christ. There really is only one church (body) with many parts or expressions. God has raised up ministries like The Billy Graham Association or Samaritan’s Purse. Or ministries that are off-shouts of churches, like David Jeremiah’s Turning Point, which are separate from the church. These ministries have been called by God to work along side the local church to reach people that the church may not be able to engage. Also, let’s not forget that it says earlier in this chapter “You have cheated me of the tithes”. We are giving first to God and not a church. If God has ordained and blessed groups that work along side the church, should we not be able to consider the funds we give to them as gifts to the storehouse of God’s church or body?
Now permit me to get a little down and dirty in relation to this issue. The stance we take on this issue is in many cases not determined by meaning of the scripture but by the end of a pen at the bottom of a financial ledger. Churches have staff to pay and mortgages that come due that require financial support. Trans-local church organizations also have financial obligations. The worker is worthy of his hire. Neither of these two should allow monetary stress to effect their exegesis of this scriptural reference.
My conclusion; the local church is a believer’s first and primary responsibility in relation to the tithe, but, as directed by the Lord, Christians can apportion some of the their tithe to other ministries in the Body of Christ. Yes, I realize this may be untraditional, or even a bit controversial, but I submit it for feedback, comment, or correction. Good people disagree about this issue. As we dialogue over this question, remember the words of Augustine, “In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing Email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: https://sites.google.com/site/kenbarnesbooksite/