The Generosity Tension Between Obedience and the Heart

March 9, 2020

Question: Do you feel a tension between responding to God out of obedience and responding to God out of love? If so, describe where it emerges in your life experience.

In this clip: Daniel Grothe, Friday Night Lead Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, shares the contrast between giving in obedience at the expense of giving with the heart. 

Question: What is the connection between giving out of obedience and giving from the heart?


In the video clip, Daniel Grothe cites a New York Times OP Ed article (12/3/19) that said, “In a typical year, 45% of Americans did not give a single dollar.” Given the fact that this statistic includes Christians, it raises the crucial question: Will followers of Jesus be different when it comes to generosity?

What about tithing?

Daniel Grothe refers to the tithe that Abram paid to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20 as an example of the tithe existing outside of the Mosaic Law. Grothe explains, “Hundreds of years before giving was written into the Mosaic Law, Abram shows us that giving is written on the human heart.”

But what do we do with the Bible’s references to the tithe? While pastors may often use Malachi 3:10 (“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house.”) to motivate congregants to direct their giving to the church, is a tithe still binding on Christians today?

Discerning what’s descriptive and what’s prescriptive

A survey of the Old Testament reveals that Israel was instructed by God to bring a variety of offerings and tithes to God, typically through the priests at the temple. While this is a description of Israel’s practices in that time, should we conclude that it’s a prescription for all of our giving today? While there are Old Testament commands and practices that are repeated in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Peter 1:16; Lev 11:44), it would be a mistake to think that all the commands and laws for Israel now apply to Christians today.

The “want to” and the “ought to”

2 Corinthians 9:7 summarizes God’s heart for our giving today - “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (NIV). [Tweet This]

In other words, our “want to” should be a greater motivation to give than our “ought to.” God wants our giving to flow from a heart of generosity that exceeds any dutiful obedience to a fixed percentage. God is more interested in the condition of our heart than whether we’re achieving a 10% benchmark in our giving.

It’s okay to use the training wheels

Daniel Grothe says, “The more you study Jesus, the more you realize that tithing is training wheels to get you started in the life of generosity.” [Tweet This]

In other words, tithing is Jesus’ way of saying “Let me show you how to discipline yourself into a life of generosity.” A regular disciplined percentage of giving is a great place to start. But God wants our generosity to grow beyond 10%!

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:6-8, NIV)

The tension resolved

Ultimately there’s no tension between giving out of obedience and giving from the heart. They can coexist. Both are responses to our trust in God to provide the resources he wants us to use to bless the world and to see his kingdom expand.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Cor 9:10-11, NIV)

Follow up:

  • How can we encourage one another to give both in obedience and with the heart?
  • What are some ways that we can connect with our friends in the body of Christ to keep them focused on giving with the heart?

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