The spiritual significance of tithing
Within the churches in Nigeria and even outside the church, there continues to be considerable debate about giving tithes. In its most basic and literal form, a tithe is the tenth part. Within the church, initially, a tithe was paid like a levy or tax to support the activities of the Church and the Clergy.
In Old Testament Bible times, the clergy of today were called the Levites (Numbers 18:21-28). They belonged to the office of the priesthood and did not have a portion of the inheritance apportioned to the other eleven children of Israel (Jacob), but received a tenth part of each of the yearly yield from their land produce and flocks. It is noteworthy that the Bible also states in Deuteronomy 26:12 that tithes were also to be given in support of the needy and less privileged. This is known as alms giving.
Some of the major questions, which have arisen regarding tithing in churches today include, whether it is voluntary or obligatory; whether it is paid to God or the human church, whether it involves one tenth of earnings, gross or net income, or profit, and whether alms giving can be counted as part of tithing? Regardless of the answers given, based on interpretation or other motives, practically everyone can agree that tithing, and indeed every form of giving, is an expression and overflow of gratitude.
Jesus gives the spiritual significance of tithing in Matthew 23:23. He places greater weight on being merciful, just, full of faith and the love of God. Church founder and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, after defining tithe as tenth part, also echoes this spiritual significance of tithing essentially as gratitude, homage and contributions given sacrificially.
God, the Creator, to whom belong all things, does not require our currency or money. God deserves infinitely more than 10 percent of our income. Indeed, the Bible clearly shows that what we can give God is our consecration, devotion, worship and praise, as well as striving to be Christ-like, especially in our motives and thoughts. And, anything that might be offered in the church stays in the church for judicious use, to carry out the legitimate activities of the church.
As we generously and sacrificially but cheerfully give of our time, talents, service, financial offerings and contributions to church, we are honouring God with our substance; and God, Who sees the heart, knows whether the widow’s mite was sacrificial, the 10 percent hypocritical, or the alms a balm to assuage a guilty conscience. The grace of Christ prompts and enables us to give. A grateful heart overflows, and such giving cannot be quantified, but we can know that God certainly blesses the spiritual quality of thanksgiving.
George, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West