Money is a big deal. For many, it’s the biggest deal. If you have lots of it, you’re happy. If you have little of it, you’re sad. Like every other gift of God, it can be used to bring him glory and others joy, or it can be an idol that leads us to all sorts of sin. “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything," wrote Solomon (Ecc. 10:19). “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” wrote Paul. “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). Jesus taught us that, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
TEN PERCENT IS NOT THE POINT
I’ve heard it said that Jesus talked about money and stewardship more than any other subject. When it comes to tithing, New Testament Christians have questions: Are we supposed to tithe? Does the New Testament teach us to do so? The short answer to both questions is “no.” (Hang with me.) There is not a command in the New Testament to directly give a certain percentage of our income. Some would ask “Why not?” Here’s why: I think the New Testament doesn’t speak directly to how we ought to tithe because when you signed up to be a Christian in the first century, you signed up literally for death, and so giving an arbitrary percentage of your wealth would pale in significance to giving your life.
“Taking up your cross” was not a metaphor likened to a headache or having to pay the bills. If you were to bump into one of the early converts in Acts and said, “Are you going to tithe?” their reply might have been, “What do you mean 'tithe?' You mean give my money to advance the gospel of Jesus? Of course. I gave literally my life to following him! Of course I give my money! After all, it is Jesus’ money entrusted to me anyways!” Jesus literally expected martyrs to follow him all the way to death.
JESUS GENEROUSLY PAID OUR DEBT
At Christmas time, we celebrate our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who made the world (Heb. 1:1–3), who was in debt to no man, clothed himself in flesh, lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we should have died, and rose from the grave that he may bring God glory by converting his enemies into Abba’s children. Paul knew this, so when he spoke of money, on one occasion, he didn’t guilt the church into giving, which he called an “act of grace,” but appealed to what we celebrate during the Christmas season: the Incarnation of Jesus.
"I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:8–9 (emphasis added)
Paul points to the grace of Jesus and when we see his grace for what it is: our hearts open to Jesus, and our money following what he is passionate about.