Giving To The Church
The tithes in ancient Israel were how God provided for the financial support of the tribe of priests who served the nation as their full-time jobs. Tithes also provided for the maintenance of the temple. Some tithes also provided for charity support of widows and orphans who had no family members to provide for them.
Notice what God is saying here: when the Israelites withheld their tithes from the temple, they were holding out on God. In those days, the nation of Israel had a covenant agreement with God. Obedience to the agreement brought blessing, while disobedience resulted in a curse. But sometimes the curse took a while to show up, and the people would see their neighbors breaking the law and still prospering. Pretty soon, they felt like there wasn’t much benefit to obeying (verses 14-15 of the same chapter).
Today as believers in Jesus, we are free from the curse of the old covenant (see Galatians 3:13). But the principle of sowing and reaping is still in operation (see the first post in this series: What You Give Is What You'll Get). The person who gives generously receives a bountiful harvest.
Charity Isn't Just For Non-Profits
As we see above, God takes it personally when we cling to our resources instead of using them in ways that He has taught us. Let’s look a little closer.
The book of Proverbs gives us another insight: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Proverbs 19:17 NKJV)
It’s not just giving to the church that God takes personally. It’s when we give to those in need. Our God is near to the broken-hearted, the hurting, the defenseless. Jesus even went so far as to say that when we act in compassion towards someone in need, it’s as if we’re doing it to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:34-45).
When we take care of their needs, God will take care of ours.