Is tithing ever considered irresponsible stewardship?
Let me explain. In Luke 21 we read the story of the widow who gave her last two coins as a tithe to the temple.
" As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'Truly I tell you,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" Luke 21: 1-4
This verse, in my experience, is generally given as a message of how we should "give until it hurts" or how even the smallest gift, if given in the right spirit, it glorifying to God. I've always like this story because I feel it gives a nice picture of sacrificial love...we love God so much (and appreciate Him so much) that we are willing to give all we have. However, now that I feel like I'm closer to being in the widow's position...well, I don't know how to feel. Do I tithe more and depend on God to provide for things like bills, food, etc? Or is God already providing for these things through the money we receive from the job He brought to my husband?
My inclination is to say that we should tithe and then God will provide for us, but is that being unwise? Is that ever possible? Malachi 3 gives us a story where God says that if the people will return to tithing he will bless them beyond measure. Does that mean the same is true of me? Was this specific to this group of people only who had made a covenant with God to tithe and then left their end unfulfilled?
And then there is the question of how much we should tithe. Is it 10%? More? Do we give all we can or only a certain amount? Are we falling through on our commitment to give less than 10%?
I know that much of this is personal. And as Americans and Christians we don't like to discuss money...especially what we are giving to the church. But the story of the widow comes to mind again. Everyone saw what she was giving (or at least that's the impression I always have)....are we supposed to be giving in a more public way? Should we be encouraging others to give without knowing their specific circumstance? Should we expect "blessings" from giving and, if so, by what yard stick to we measure blessing?
I've never bought into the "prosperity gospel" hype. The thought that if I tithe the way I'm "supposed" to then God will bless me with things like BMW's, wealth, a nice house, college funds for my kids, etc. Where is that in the Bible? Like I said, I've never bought into this line of thinking. In Malachi God's blessings are considered extra food. And when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided manna to eat. Does that mean I should live off rice and beans and give more money to my church? Do I measure blessings based on how our society does (which seems eerily similar to many prosperity gospel types like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and Joyce Meyer)...or based on the Bible? Jesus didn't guarantee housing, money, food, or possessions to his disciples. Should I expect more just because I live now and here (21st century America) or should we still evaluate our standing based on what these men were promised?
I certainly don't expect answers on here, but hope that this will encourage us all to consider how we view tithing. I know that God is still working in me and my husband regarding this issue. It's something that I think we all need to re-examine from time to time to make sure we are still in line with what God is calling us to. I also think we need to all be more intentional about thinking about these issues and talking about them...especially with our church family. If we can't be open and honest with our church family...then who can we be honest with?