Situation: Does my tithe count as giving?
“Does giving begin after tithing ten percent to my local church? Or is that generosity as well?” – Ameke, Ethiopia
We received this question last month and asked our friend, Dr. Sung Wook Chung, to share his thoughts. Along with his wife, Dr. In-Kyung Chung, Sung Wook energetically spreads the seeds of generosity around the world, primarily in South Korea and among the Korean diaspora globally.
As we pray about this question, Dr. Chung recommends that we think about the following passages:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. – Matthew 23:23
Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. – Romans 10:4
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. – 1 Timothy 6:18
1. Recognize that Jesus Has Fulfilled the Law.
Tithing as the Old Testament law requires has been fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Give Out of Joy.
However, the New Testament church widely practiced tithing not as an attempt to fulfill the law and to be accepted as righteous by God but as a gesture to follow the generous life-style of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe that tithing ten percent to your local church is generosity as well.
3. Move Toward Giving All.
If you think that the duty of a Christian in relation to financial contribution is confined to tithing—and tithing to your local church is enough—I want to challenge your thought.
God wants us to be generous, which means that we should strive to give all that God has given us for generosity. In other words, God wants us to grow to the level that we can give 100 percent for the Kingdom and our neighbors.
One good example is the story of a widow who gave two very small copper coins (Mark 12:42). About this widow, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-45). Jesus said, she gave everything that she had! This is the ideal that Jesus commended.
Another example is the early church in Jerusalem. According to Acts 4: 33-35, “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” This means that early Christians were practicing almost 100 percent giving. This was an ideal that early Church Christians were striving to pursue.
4. Start with an Increase of Some Kind.
So I would like to encourage you to endeavor to give all that God has given you. But this should start with giving more than 10 percent, maybe one percent more per year! Give 10 percent this year and 11 percent next year and the like. The journey of generosity is a journey of faith. We can experience the living God and his generosity while we walk in the road of radical generosity.
Dr. Sung Wook Chung joined the faculty of Denver Seminary in 2005 and serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Director of the Asian Initiative. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, Evangelical Theological Society, Calvin Studies Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and the Karl Barth Society of North America. He also serves Kurios International, a global missional organization, as president and chair of the board.