Giving and Tithing

Giving and Tithing

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by Larry Burkett

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Giving and tithing—something that concerns everyone

  • Does God need your money?
  • What is a tithe?
  • Should you tithe from your net or your gross?
  • Why give to the church?
  • How can you know which organizations to support?

Although it is better to give than to receive, giving is harder for most people.


Giving and tithing—something that concerns everyone

  • Does God need your money?
  • What is a tithe?
  • Should you tithe from your net or your gross?
  • Why give to the church?
  • How can you know which organizations to support?

Although it is better to give than to receive, giving is harder for most people. Giving is not only good stewardship; it enables the church to help those in need.

Respected Christian financial expert Larry Burkett uses God's Word to show the strong biblical basis for giving to and serving in the church. Using benevolence ministries as an example, Burkett explains how God uses Christians to minister in His name. This is accomplished by giving back to God a portion of what He has graciously given to us.

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Moody Publishers
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Giving & Tithing

Includes Serving and Stewardship

By Larry Burkett

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 1998 Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-3737-2


Giving and Tithing


Nothing interferes more with our ability to serve God than our need to earn a living. An observer from one hundred years ago would be awestruck by the "improvement" in our living standard and by the amount of leisure time our technology now provides us. Few North Americans regularly work more than a fifty-hour week; most work forty-four hours or less. In addition, we now live an average of eighteen years longer than we did one hundred years ago and have at least one-third more disposable income per family. When all of those factors are weighed, together with the fact that in America alone there are perhaps twenty million Christians, it seems clear that we ought to be getting out the message of Jesus Christ much better than we are.

The simple truth is that most Americans are too busy to serve God. We have grown complacent and comfortable in God's blessing and have forgotten the first commandment. In the meantime, immorality and cults have grown to alarming proportions because their advocates are more zealous in their support than we are. Since God asks for obedience rather than demands it, many Christians simply ignore the very reason for their existence: to glorify God. Without exception, God has a unique and meaningful plan for every believer that does not depend on age, income, or ability.

It is also clear that God calls each of us to fill this gap. Like Esther, every believer must decide either to be used by God or to be bypassed and allow another to be chosen instead. What a loss that we allow temporary comforts and laziness to rob us of true riches, both immediate and eternal!

"Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).

Most Christians would never refuse to do God's will; it's just that the timing is not right. When God calls us, He wants obedience first and worldly wisdom last. We allow the urgent things of our society to overshadow the important things, but that is not unique to our generation. In fact, Christ experienced it in His walk on Earth and predicted it. He told a parable about God calling men to follow Him. They were invited to a dinner, but most were too busy to attend. They wanted to be part of what was happening but had too many responsibilities.


Service to Jesus Christ is demanding. It may actually mean that we have to work as hard for God's kingdom as we do for earthly riches. Few salespeople consider it a great imposition on their time to talk about their product line. Being a success at anything requires dedication, training, and perseverance. It would be a hungry company that trained its salespeople to expect perfect success on every call. Just one turndown and they would all give up, considering themselves failures. Instead, the key to successful sales starts long before the product is seen; in fact, it starts at the job interview. A good sales manager knows that not everybody can be a good salesperson, and many don't even want to be. Christ knew that not everybody would serve God and most might not even want to.

Some want to have a foot in both worlds. They are willing to be called Christians, provided they can pick the times and places to serve. "Jesus said to him, 'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:62).

These people are actually worse off as Christians than they were as nonbelievers. They are content to know about God but are fruitless fakers who generate false blessings. They are poorly nourished spiritually and quickly waste away until there is real doubt in their minds about their salvation. "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture" (Luke 8:6). They truly fall prey to every wind of doctrine because they are too busy to grow firm roots.


"The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14).

In the parable of the sower, Christ defines the thorns as worries, riches, and pleasures of this world. At first glance, one could assume that committed service to God would yield peace, but judging from the way Christians avoid total service to God, the peace is bland.

Yet Jesus Christ said that total service to God yields peace and blessings within His will: "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you" (Luke 12:30-31).

Each of us has experienced the thorns of this world. Everything around us is moving at a frantic pace. A family can hardly get one car paid off before another is needed. Only twenty-five years ago our goal was a high school education to get a good job; now it's a college degree. Family life is degraded because it now takes both spouses working to hang on to the "good life."


Just as misguided are Christians who apply themselves to fruitless effort in the name of the Lord. They busy themselves to the point of exhaustion, going to conferences and countless church activities and serving on committees. They rarely, if ever, quiet themselves enough for the Lord to direct them. They are irritable and often envious of others. They are working at God's work but not in it. Even those who walked with Christ suffered from this busy malady from time to time.

Once when Jesus was visiting Martha's home, she complained that she was stuck doing all the work while Mary just sat and listened to Jesus. Jesus told Martha, "You are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42).

Many Christians have taken on a life of meaningless works to avoid the reality of serving God according to His will. The fruits of true service (see Galatians 5:2223) cannot be denied, whereas the effects of human work cannot be hidden.

If you wonder how to determine if one's service was truly being blessed by the Lord, you might ask that person's pastor or close friends. However, the best and by far the most enlightening is to ask his or her family.


Most Christians are familiar with the principle of sowing and reaping as it applies to giving—though few really believe it. That principle applies to sharing time in the Lord's work. Just as God can multiply the fruits of our labor, He also can multiply the use of our time. Any good administrator knows that ten minutes spent in productive effort is more valuable than two hours of confusion and frustration. Therefore one of the first things a busy, frustrated, overworked Christian needs to do is to dedicate the best part of the day, week, month, and year to the Lord. To do so will mean reordering priorities at work and at home and establishing sound goals, but before you do that read Luke 6:38.



No other goals are going to be meaningful until the first and most important one is settled—one's relationship with God. In Psalm 51:10-13 David tells us of some prerequisites to teaching others God's way: assurance of salvation, a steadfast spirit, the Holy Spirit's control, and a clean heart. If any of those is missing, utter frustration will result. If a Christian's first priority is God, then an understanding of God's way is mandatory. That means personal Bible study. It also means a personal prayer life dedicated to the needs of others as well as to personal needs.


Most families drift for lack of a rudder: the father's leadership. A family's most important need is a godly father; that is far more important than all the material possessions a parent can provide.


There is nothing wrong with being successful, even by worldly standards, unless one becomes a failure by godly standards. The rate of divorce and bankruptcy among Christians is an undeniable indicator that Christians have been duped into using the world's yardstick as their measuring stick. Every Christian must ask, "Am I certain my priorities are in line with God's?" If not, a change is in order, no matter what the cost is in dollars and cents.

Usually those at the highest end of the material scale are the biggest violators of priorities (executives, doctors, attorneys, and so on). But equally guilty are many in full-time Christian service, with pastors leading the group. "It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep" (Psalm 127:2).


To some degree, we all suffer from being too busy to serve God. Some are so busy doing things for God that they fail to do the things of God. Some have already been called by God to go into full-time Christian service, but they weigh the call against the cost and decide they can serve God better where they are. Others clutter their lives with so much materialism that they never have time to listen to God. The urgent things crowd out the important things, and Christian service is shelved until "a better time."

We can all give thanks to those committed saints, from the apostles on down, who did not think that fame and success in the eyes of men were as important as God's blessings. One day each of us will evaluate success on the basis of Christ's evaluation and none other. I trust that each of us will hear Him say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant" (see Matthew 25:21).


"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). The Lord admonishes us to seek first His kingdom instead of worrying about material possessions. There has never been a generation of Christians so caught up in worry about possessions as we are. We have a greater abundance available on a daily basis than any previous generation. Most of us have machines that reduce our daily household labor, our children are well-clothed and well-educated, and life expectancy is beyond God's promise of three-score and ten. We have insurance plans, retirement plans, disability plans, and unemployment plans. Yet we are so caught up in making more money and buying bigger and better things that we have lost our focus on the unsaved world. God's Word keeps asking us the same question: Are we seeking first the kingdom of God?


It seems evident that since we will spend eternity in the presence of God and live only seventy years or so on this earth, we should be more concerned about what we will receive then than what we are getting now. But when we review our priorities, it is apparent that most Christians live without real hope, as Paul describes it in Romans 8:24-25. We're willing to settle for what we can see, rather than what is unseen. That is exactly the principle that Christ is teaching in Matthew 6:19-33.

Material things are not what cause our difficulties. God says that He will give us the things that the world cherishes so much. But are we more dedicated to accumulating material things than to serving God? The evidence shows that we are serving money—not God. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21).

The question is often asked, "What do Christians stand for?" The answer the world would give is, "Not much other than what we do." The sad part is that most people really want to know a personal God. We have the only hope for a world without hope; yet we spend our time pursuing vain things.


Christ says that we have only two choices: to follow God or to follow money.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).

The scriptural warning is clear: We will be judged on the evidence of our material lives. The attraction of materialism is so great that Christ devoted two-thirds of His parables to warning His disciples about it. The writers of the Epistles amplified that teaching as they observed the destructive force of materialism in the lives of believers.

"The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang" (1 Timothy 6:10).

Again, it's not material things that are the problem; it is materialism. What is alarming about our generation is that we have found a way to scripturally rationalize our excesses. Many Christians actually believe that we can attract the unsaved by having the best. Let me assure you that those who are seriously seeking God are not attracted by luxuries. They are attracted by an uncompromising commitment to God. If that commitment also yields material blessings, it's just an added benefit.


"Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38). Few Scripture verses are quoted more often than that verse regarding the principle of giving and receiving. When I first read the verse, shortly after committing my life to Christ, I pondered it for many weeks. Did God really mean what that verse says? Do God's promises depend on our giving first? I read the previous and subsequent verses to see if perhaps it could be interpreted in another context. I then studied parallel and contrasting verses. After dedicating many hours to God's Word, I concluded that I really didn't understand the meaning of Luke 6:38. There were some obvious difficulties with the principle that receiving was a matter of giving first. What about Christians who give but don't receive much in return?

My first response was to assume that the principle did not apply to all Christians. Perhaps it applied only to those with a gift of giving. I quickly eliminated that rationale. If Luke 6:38 applies to only a select few, Christ would not have delivered the message in Luke 6 to the masses. God may select a few to receive and dispose of a large amount of His resources, but the principle described in this verse is a promise to anyone who will apply it.

Then I thought that perhaps the principle applies to spiritual rather than material rewards. Indeed, further study confirmed that it does apply to spiritual rewards. But there is no way to dissociate the material giving and receiving, since in verses 30-35 Christ makes direct reference to material things. The more I reviewed other Scripture dealing with the principle of giving and receiving, the more I realized there was no contradiction at all.


Once an understanding of God's promise is reached, it is necessary to believe that promise. I determined to make a study of giving and receiving in the lives of Christians I knew and then match the result of my study to God's Word. Since all of God's principles are given as examples for living, an applied principle must be verified in changed lives. If it isn't, we're probably misunderstanding the principle or else not applying it. Before I define the scriptural principle, I will give some observations of the study that started many years ago and still continues.

1. Most Christians give far less than one-tenth of their income to work done in the Lord's name.

2. Many Christians give at least one tenth of their incomes regularly but do not experience what they assess to be God's material or spiritual bounty.

3. Many Christians give at least a tenth of their incomes and can identify many instances of God's abundance, either materially, spiritually, or both.

4. A small percentage of Christians give far beyond a tenth of their incomes but cannot identify any anything they would describe as God's abundant return.

5. A very small percentage of Christians give far beyond a tenth of their incomes and can identify God's response, both generally and specifically.


Excerpted from Giving & Tithing by Larry Burkett. Copyright © 1998 Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

LARRY BURKETT (1939-2003) was a well-known authority on business and personal finance. He wrote more than seventy books, including non-fiction bestsellers like Family Financial Workbook, Debt-Free Living, and The World¿s Easiest Guide to Finances. He also had a worldwide radio ministry. Larry founded Christian Financial Concepts and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Crown Financial Ministries®. He is survived by his wife, Judy, four grown children and nine grandchildren.

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Giving and Tithing 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a lay person with little depth of contextual Bible study, this book will be very appealing and a delight to read. Larry is a financial planner, not a theologian, and is more skillful in getting people to agree with him than instead of correctly teaching God's Word. PLUS: (1) When New Covenant principles such as those in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 are discussed, the book has a lot of worthwhile comments, although they are still in proof-text style. (2) On pages 32-33 he correctly points out that the real biblical 'tithe' was actually 23 per cent, although he does not go into embarrassing detail. (3) He correctly concludes that a great deal of the Old Covenant tithe went to the poor and needy in the community and even states the churches should give a portion of their 'tithe' income to individuals or para-church organizations that are filling in the gap (page 35). NEGATIVE: (1) Pages 14-15: While claiming to spend many hours studying the Bible in its context, Mr. Burkett does not show any knowledge about the correct definition, contents, covenant, limited purpose, or failure of tithing. (2) Page 29: In reality the tithe was always only food from landowners and herdsmen inside Israel and never applied to craftsmen or the poor. His definition of tithing ignores the food only contents of every legitimate tithing text after Moses. Although Abraham was before the Mosaic Law, he was obeying the Arab law which is clear by Genesis 14:21 in most commentaries. (3) Page 29: Burkett says 'no punishment was indicated for not tithing.' King Saul (1 Sam 8:14-17), David (1 Chron 23-27), Hezekiah (2 Chron 31), and Nehemiah (Neh 10-13) sent soldiers to collect tithe-taxes to support their Levitical government workers. (4) Page 30: Since tithes were collected and stored in the king's storehouses, it was not voluntary, as Burkett, and thus is disqualified under free-will principles of the newer and better covenant of grace. (5) Page 31: Burkett also missed the 'purpose' of the tithe by ignoring its key chapter, Numbers 18. The tithe was a temporary replacement for the 'priesthood of believers' and only its supported priests could draw near to God. When tithing ended at Calvary, Exodus 19:5-6 was fulfilled in 1 Peter 2:9-10. (6) Page 31: The wicked 'they' were most likely the disobedient cursed priests from Malachi 1-3. (7) Page 32: Says that the tithe was considered a minimum without giving any supporting texts. This is not true. The poor gave what they could and were not covered by the definition of the tithe. (8) Page 34: 'The priests and the tribe of Levi would be the equivalent of the pastors, church staff, missionaries, and evangelists today.' This is also not true, because the believer-priest replaced the old priesthood and the pastor-teacher is a new entity comparable to the rabbi, who was usually self-supporting. (9) Page 34: Says that the system of tithing was 'kept nearly intact by the early church.' Actually, while the earliest church was very strong on helping the needy, tithing was not reintroduced until Cyprian's time in the 3rd century. Tertullian, his teacher, taught otherwise. (10) Pages 16-17: Claims that Paul's 'material suffering' following his great sacrifice was 'unique' and, therefore, not the norm, which contradict his own survey found on page 16. (11) Page 17: The statement that 'Paul amplifies' the statement that 'those who give less than a tenth of their income limit what God can do for them' is absurd when compared to New Covenant principles found in 1 Tim. 5:8 and 2 Cor. 8:13-14. (12) Page 17+: While quoting Mal. 3:10-12 numerous times and 3:8 once, he does not quote the curse of 3:9 because it contradicts his statements about no 'fear' of being 'punished' on pages 22-23. The old covenant curse context of 3:5-7 from Neh. 10:29 and Deut. 27-28 is totally ignored. Actually, the priests in Malachi were cursed for keeping the best of the tithe for themselves and not giving it to the poor in verse 5. The curse of