Of the many questions that people perennially ask pastors, some of the most uncomfortable ones are about financial giving. Most of the questions I get about money go back to the idea of the tithe, the Old Testament principle of giving the first 10% of our income back to God. (For those who are curious, you can read my thoughts on tithing here.) But another huge question I get is about the destination of our giving. In other words, should I be giving to my local church, or is it okay to redirect my “tithe” to other ministries?
To cut to the punchline, I don’t believe Christians should give only to the local church, but I do believe that Christians should give first to their local church. In the Old Testament system, the tithe went to the work of God’s institution, the temple. Other important things, like funding itinerant rabbis, or providing for the poor, came from giving beyond the tithe. The principle there, I think, is that the firstfruits of our giving should go to God’s new institution, the church.
But maybe, you say, the Old Testament is not supposed to set the pattern for our giving. In the New Testament, however, we see the believers (in Acts 2 and Acts 4) giving their money, not to specific projects they were passionate about, but at the feet of the officers they had appointed in the church. And it was through the local church that the believers accomplished everything God had called them to.
As we say around here, the local church is God’s “Plan A.” It’s the vehicle through which we care for the poor, feed the hungry, equip people to minister in the community, and send people out to the nations. When we give to the local church, we give to the central institution for the mission of God.