In the Old Testament, God’s people were encouraged to give a tithe (10% of their income) back to him. Leviticus 27.30 says “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord”. In addition, there was a tri-annual tithe to support the poor. On top of both of these tithes, many Israelites voluntarily gave free will offerings to God as an expression of their faith in him and thankfulness for all that he had done for them.
In the New Testament sacrificial generosity replaces the Old Testament principle of tithing - “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8.9). So now, rather than being commanded to give 10%, Christians are called to generosity in response to God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ.
The New Testament never names a specific amount that we should give. It simply tells us to be generous in proportion to our income (1 Cor 16.1-2). This means that a widow’s mite can be more generous than a rich person’s offering, even if the widow’s mite is a smaller amount (Luke 21.1-4).
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 9.6-7 reminds us that our giving is ultimately a matter for prayerful consideration before God. At the end of the day, our finances are just one of the many areas that we must bring before God in prayer as we consider how to worship him as “living sacrifices”. Nevertheless, we must be careful not to fool ourselves. Australians are typically bad givers. Recent figures published in the SMH indicate that on average Australians give 0.4% of their taxable income to not-for-profits. Instead, Aussies seem to be obsessed with building wealth and securing their next piece of real estate.
As believers, we must take seriously what Jesus says in Matthew 6.19-21:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.