Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze.”
And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So, they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD.
What is the difference between a tithe and an offering? As we have seen before, a tithe is simply a tenth of our income. The Bible tells us that the tithe belongs to the Lord (Lev. 27:30). It even goes so far as to say that when we withhold the tithe, we are actually stealing from God.
Malachi 3:8 “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”
The truth is everything belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1). We are only His managers, so when we dishonor Him by not returning the tithe and contributions to the One who owns it all, we are quite literally robbing God. It’s not simply money that we are taking from Him though, we are actually stealing His glory. When we trust God and put Him first in our lives, we are giving Him glory, but when we withhold from God because we do not trust Him, we are robbing Him of the glory due His name. That is far more valuable than any amount of money or possessions.
If a tithe is a tenth of our income, what is an offering or contribution? The tithe is based on a percentage, but the offering is based on a generous heart. Imagine that all of your life was spent as a slave. It was all you had ever known. As a matter of fact, it had been the state of your family and even your entire race for generations. As Americans in the 21st century, all we know is a life of freedom. This has been our culture for generations. A very oppressive bondage had been the culture of the Jews in Egypt for over 400 years. Then, in a miraculous turn of events as a Jew who grew up in this situation, you find yourself being set free and you leave all you have ever known to go into the desert of the unknown. Before you go, your captors give you valuables that you could never have imagined owning.
Weeks later, you find yourself in the wilderness living on a diet of manna and unsure of the place you will settle in. You know that the Lord has delivered you, but you are really just learning what it means to follow Him. Then you hear about it. There is a plan to worship this God who has saved you and it involves a tent that would be dedicated to His honor and glory. The call has gone out for a special offering to build the tent and all that God says is needed for proper worship. This contribution is not based on a percentage. It’s not required. The entire offering is based on love and grace. You look at the resources that your captors have given you. You had planned to use that to help get established in your new homeland, but now there is a stirring in your heart. Your love for the One who has saved you is motivating you to give. You decide to contribute as an act of love and gratitude to the Savior you adore. That is an offering!
An offering can take many forms and be given in various situations. The Jews gave offerings to build the tabernacle, the Law even provided for “freewill offerings”. In the New Testament church, many of the believers in Jerusalem sold property and gave it to be used to care for the needs of their brothers and sisters. The Gentile churches took up a collection to send to the needs of those in Jerusalem suffering as a result of a famine.
By definition, an offering is not the tithe. It is a gift given out of a generous heart that is apart from the tithe. Because of that, it would be improper to take our tithe and redirect it to an offering. If we believe the Biblical pattern that God gave in the Old Testament for the use of the tithe, then the tithe was given to the Lord, and the Lord gave it to the Levites for the support of the ministry. So then, taking our tithe and redirecting it to a special offering is not really an offering at all. It would be like taking the food given for the Levites and giving it to the craftsmen building the Tabernacle instead. If the tithe belongs to the Lord, that means that the worshipper doesn’t have the right to choose how He uses it. However, an offering is given often in response to a specific need or project. Both are given to the Lord for His purposes, but sometimes the offering might be a little more specific.
Once a year at West Park, we have the Jehovah-Jireh offering. It is typically used for a special project like our current building program. The Lord has blessed us in tremendous ways as we have seen Him provide in truly amazing ways through this offering. My prayer is that He will do great things again this year to expand the kingdom of God through the ministry of West Park. May we all be faithful to respond to the Spirit’s prompting with generous hearts filled with gratitude for all the Lord has done for us.