I heard a lecturer once who made an observation along the lines that God saves our checkbooks in addition to our souls. That’s sound because the Bible does tell us to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. It’s doubly important in the Western Church, which has more resources than any church in history.

The big question in some circles is whether Christians are obligated to tithe. That question I can’t answer definitively. Tithing (paying a tenth of one’s money and goods) was required of Old Testament Israel, but that principle is nowhere repeated in the New Testament. In fact, when Peter is asked if Jesus pays the temple tax, Jesus has him pay it for Himself and Peter as a concession, not a command. He asks Peter if “kings of the earth take custom or tribute of their own children or of strangers.” Peter answers that they tax strangers, and Jesus concludes, “Then are the children free” (Matthew 17:25-26, KJV). He pays the tax not because He has to but simply so as not to offend. This might indicate that Christians are not bound by Old Testament rules of giving.

Yet give they must. Paul instructed the Corinthians before he visited, “Upon the first day of the week, let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him,” collections for the Jerusalem saints in need. True, Paul wants giving to be voluntary and cheerful, but he does expect it. In Galatians 6:6, he exhorts the Galatians to share all good things with their teachers, and while he himself did not take money from the Corinthians, he adamantly informed them that ministers have a right to be supported by their congregations. As he told Timothy, “The laborer is worthy of his reward” (I Timothy 5:18, KJV). Jesus told two parables where the king gives his servants ancient units of money (a mina in one story and talents in the other) and expects them to use them towards his profit when he returns. In fact, he is furious with the servant in both stories who refuses to do anything with the money entrusted to him. After another parable, Jesus says to, “Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9, KJV). In other words, we should give voluntarily, but it is still a duty. You could say that about any duty God gives us, like love, prayer, and forgiveness. He wants it done with our whole heart willingly, but that doesn’t excuse us from not doing it just because we don’t feel like it. As in any good habit or duty we need to cultivate but don’t feel like, we have to do it until we love it. We can’t just wait for an enthusiastic impulse, which may never come with that attitude.

Christians have more reason than anybody else to be generous. They believe an all-powerful, all-wise God has promised to provide for them and reward them eternally for anything they give in His name. They believe He has called them to love others as themselves. James famously describes how charity shows forth the faith we have. And consider that God required this giving of people with much less economic stability than us. They were paid daily because they needed those wages for the very next day and had the ever-present danger of crop failures, epidemics, and raids hanging over them.

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