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The Floor or the Ceiling?

Read: Leviticus 27:30-33

Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s. (v. 30)

Tithing was common practice in Israel, commanded here and also commented on in the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is mentioned early in the Bible, in the story of Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis 14. It is a simple, straightforward practice. But by the time of Jesus, the extrabiblical rabbinic commentaries had added layers of complexity, and what was once simple became a complicated burden.

What’s so hard to understand about 10 percent? Today, Christians ponder questions like “is that net or gross—pre-tax or after taxes?” And, according to several surveys, many Christians do not tithe. Many look at 10 percent as a goal, something to strive for.

I’ve been blessed to have had several conversations with deeply generous people who look at 10 percent as the floor, not the ceiling. For them the question is not “How much shall I give?” but “What shall I keep?” Their trust is in the Lord, not in their bank balance or investment portfolio.

We make a mistake when we assume that only the wealthy can afford generosity. Would it really be easier to give a million dollars away than a thousand? Tithing takes discipline no matter what your income level—just as prayer, Bible study, and fasting all take discipline. These disciplines are gifts of God to us, for our own good. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, consider the disciplines and generosity God is calling you to.

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About the Author

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal and, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Living Generously