The TITHE: Can I use it sometimes if I need it, like for severe family needs?
Question: Can I use a portion of my tithe money to take care of my family's needs, such as my sister's poor children or my elderly father-in-law?
Here are the ways in which the Christian gives his money, according to scripture:
1) The tithe: The tithe is "the tenth" of our income, and it is holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30)
In scripture, the principle of God is that every first thing is the Lord's. The first-born lamb, the first born male, the firstfruits of the field, or the first tenth of money. And it is never to be touched. Though we are no longer under the law of Moses, we still live by principles of God's kingdom, some of which were set forth in the Old Testament. This tithe principle is to ensure that our best portion goes to God, without any personal or family benefit.
2) The offering: this is any money given to God above the tithe. And it is commanded (Proverbs 3:9,10, Malachi 3:8). It is money that could have been used for our families or ourselves, but that which we choose to give sacrificially to the Church for God's work or for God's people.
3) Giving to the poor, or to the saints, or to the poor saints. (2 Corinthians Ch. 9, Ephesians 4:28). Again, this giving is in addition to the tithe and in addition to the offering.
The principle of the "firstfruits" appeared before the law, when Abel "brought of the firstlings of his flock" to God (Genesis ch. 4). Cain only brought "of the the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." And the "Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering", but not to Cain's. At first, we all wonder why God almost seems to show favoritism. But if you notice that all important word "firstlings", and interpret it in light of other scriptures, you can realize that God wants our best. He doesn't ask for all of our hard earned material goods, but He does expect us to dedicate our best. The best is that first portion that is so desperately sought after. When a farmer has toiled for months on a crop, he is in great expectation. When that first basket is harvested, it is prized and rejoiced about by the whole family. But don't eat it. Instead, give it to God. It costs us something. But it reveals a life that is dedicated to the Lord. It reflects the heart's treasure. When God is first in our lives, so is our first portion of income, the first portion of our time, our energy, our focus, our desire. It is for God.
So how much should our firstfruits be? Well, combine the "firstfruits" principle with the "tithe" principle. The tithe also appeared before the law, when Abraham had plundered the enemy and decided, out of his own heart, to give "a tenth" unto the Lord (the priest Melchisedek). Isaac continued the tithe principle. And then the law commanded it. But we teach, and rightly so, that we are not under law. So what do we do about the tithe? We honor God. We don't look for reasons to do less; we look for the principle that keeps us doing more. For those who keep fighting against "the tenth", why is it that they are never promoting "give a higher percentage." Why not 15%, or 11%, or 20%, or more? They always want to give less.
If we want to get scriptural, then New Testament giving, which does not mention the tithe frequently, includes "sell all that you have, give to the poor, and follow Jesus." Also, the early church, on two occasions, "And all that believe were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (Acts 2:44,45, Acts 4:32-35).
The truth is that those Christians who have a problem with giving money to the Lord usually just haven't opened up to the Bible truth about finances. And they can get fighting mad, too, just like Cain did. When we realize that the God we love actually wants more dedication from our lives, it can be challenging. But remember, where your heart is, there is your treasure also (Matthew 6:21). If you find yourself pondering your bank account, your income, and your bills, more than you are pondering on God and His kingdom, your heart is in the wrong place. Even if you don't have much money, you still might be treasuring it a bit too much. And if you want to get out of that mess, #1: start trusting God better without worry, and #2: start tithing. It will help your faith toward God concerning your finances. If you need a jump start, Matthew 6:25-34 is basic Christianity 101 for finances.
If you think about it, we all have people in our lives that could benefit from extra money. And our plights can be very complex and overwhelming. Consider our children especially, many poorer saints could easily rationalize that their children need the money more than the church, or God. And some have done just so, therefore choosing to put food on the table or clothes on their back rather than give a full tenth to God. But a tenth is a tenth. And though our family, whether immediate or extended, could certainly benefit from it, we still separate that which is holy unto God alone. This is the first step in getting God involved in our situation and turning it from 'barely-get-along-street' to a life of abundance. Then after that, offerings are the means by which we plant seed in order to reap harvest. Many people who have chosen to tithe are doing well at maintaining the status quo in life. But because they have not given offerings freely, their harvest is little or nothing, and they aren't increasing very much. And then even after the offering, people could increase more as they give to the poor saints, or anyone in need, since God will see to it that Luke 6:38 comes to pass based upon the value we place on our giving.
(The truth is that usually, what people are in danger of giving up is not food or clothes for the kids, but rather some convenience or pleasure of our own. Regardless, I wouldn't touch the tithe.)
I wouldn't suggest that anyone dip into their tithe money for anything. It is the means by which we keep covenant with God concerning our finances. What I would do instead, is suggest that we put your faith out to get a raise so that we have more income to give. Believe God for extra so that we can help our people. As a matter of fact, many people have used their faith and tithed off of the new income they desire, even before they get it. If you want your monthly income to increase to say $5000, pray about it, request it of God, believe that you receive it, and then act like He is answering (at the same time, please keep going to work, and stay diligent!). Next, go ahead and start tithing $500 per month, in anticipation of the supernatural means by which God answers. And thank God for it. If you believe it, He will answer. That is what true faith looks like. If necessary, instead of believing God for one big amount all at once, start with a little. Begin to give to the poor the little extra that you do have. And use your faith to increase it each month.
Our earthly financial challenges can be very strong, and are almost always fighting against the tithe and the offering. But the tithe and offering should have already been reserved for God, without even flinching. My wife and I have made the decision in life that we will never touch the tithe, and we will never let anything stop us from giving offerings. So if we want more money to help others, we'll have to believe God for it. And I would teach everyone to do the same, especially those who don't seem to be able to afford even the tenth. Give it anyway, and give it first. We do it by faith, regardless, right off the top of the paycheck, even quicker than we pay taxes. We wouldn't rob the government, and we certainly wouldn't rob God. If there was no guideline at all for this, then everyone might choose to "eat the tithe", or a portion of it. And the Church would suffer. Instead, we all stay consistent and do our part. Don't eat your tithe; give it. And don't eat your seed; plant it.
It is good, and even scriptural, to care for our family. If we don't, then the Bible calls us "worse than an infidel." But remember that God comes first (Matthew 6:33).