Q: I'm a single mother whose only income is child support. How much should I tithe?
—Patty Axe, Paradise, Pennsylvania
A: The word tithe means "a tenth" or "to give a tenth of one's income or property to God." In the Old Testament, Moses directed the Children of Israel to acknowledge that everything they had came from God by giving at least a tenth of it back to Him. It was an act of worship, as well as obedience.
In Malachi 3:8-12, the prophet compares withholding the tithe to stealing from God, and urges people to give generously in order to experience God's blessing. God promises that if we will honor Him with our finances—no matter how difficult it seems—He will honor us. He will provide for us in ways we can't even begin to imagine. So tithing is also about faith and trust.
In the New Testament, we're reminded that those who sow sparingly reap sparingly, but those who sow generously reap generously (2 Cor. 9:6). The apostle Paul adds, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (9:7).
Don't forget that there are many ways to give—it's not just about money. Consider any special skills you have that you might use to bless others. Donate your time to serve your church or community. Open your home to a Bible study group or make dinner for a visiting missionary couple. "If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have" (2 Cor. 8:12).1