Of the many topics that the Bible addresses, one subject that stands out is wealth and finances. Jesus incorporates money into a lot of His parables. The Pauline epistles utilize the motifs of debt and value. While prosperity gospel preachers assert that these passages obligate God to make His followers wealthy, there is a more humble and biblical reason. Finances are an integral part of our lives, and Christ uses this most common element of money to convey the gospel message.
More than the traditional nonprofit pitch to donate to a worthy cause or need, the appeal for the remittance of financial offerings to the Lord has a spiritual dimension. The character component includes the removal of greed and the development of generosity. Rather than God “needing” these funds, they point to the joining of divine and human effort to spread the message of the gospel. The church is to be an agency to preach, teach, heal, and be an extension of Christ’s ministry. Not a financial sacrifice to earn salvation, the funds are to point to a grace-filled relationship because of salvation. Financial offerings are the conveying of gratitude to God.
Of the types of financial giving, the first and foremost is tithe. According to Leviticus 27:30–32, God defines tithe as 10 percent of gain. Though He is due all 100 percent, God only requires a tenth. Second, He defines it as holy. As a form of worship and not salvific merit, this becomes the most private and personal form of devotion. The decision on the amount is between the individual and God—no one outside of Him knows of its accuracy. For this reason, in this exclusive relationship, God labels knowingly giving less than a tenth as robbery (c.f. Mal. 3:8, 9).
The Bible greats were known to have returned tithe. After Abraham rescued Lot from Chedorlaomer in Genesis 14, Abraham returned the tithe of all of his increase to Melchizedek, the priest king of Salem (Gen. 14:20). Jacob covenanted with God to give tithe during his experience at Bethel (Gen. 28:22). All the Israelites were taught of the holiness of this tithe and God’s sole ownership of it (Lev. 27:30). It was important that this tithe be returned to God. This “returning” was an act of acknowledging God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider of the universe as well as worshiping this Being for His supremacy.