All too often, sermons on tithing invoke more cringing, frustration, or resentment than actual tithing. The groaning becomes audible, the internal squirming becomes palpable, and people immediately start looking at their watches – or the nearest exit.
There is another, more Christ-exalting way to view tithing.
In the first century AD, Corinth served as one of the wealthiest and most integral port cities of the Roman Empire, and the name of the city was synonymous with “immorality.” In Jerusalem, a more pious city nearly 750 miles away, people were recovering from a famine. In the midst of this economic and cultural dynamic, the apostle Paul asks the Christians of Corinth to collect a portion of what God had blessed them with and offer it to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). The reasons Paul gives for being generous ought to radically change the way we typically think of tithing.
God is glorified when we give joyfully
First, Paul tells the Corinthians how to give, or more specifically, what mindset we should have when giving. He insists that tithing is not simply an obligation to be fulfilled within the Christian life but an opportunity to glorify God with what he has entrusted to us.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
Most Christians are familiar with the last clause in this verse, “for God loves a cheerful giver” because that is the stereotypical way pastors prompt people to give, but that misses the full meaning of the verse. Here Paul is telling Christians not to give with a spirit of anxiety or out of obligation; rather, we should give out of joy, because we trust God to continue to provide and desire to glorify him by how we use our resources.