As our blog writing team knows, we write our posts with complete autonomy, but the hope is to rein it in enough to focus on the current topic, and provide some conversation about the topic as we head into services. The topics, depending on their nature can certainly be held in higher regard than others. As an example: Easter and Christmas. I have had the privilege of writing for this blog as we got close to both of those important holidays and they are fun to write. Two of the most important moments in history and HIS story, colored in by our own experiences and emotions. Then, there are others, which do not give you the same warm and fuzzy feeling…those that make you think about what it is I could have possibly done to Tom Rich to get today’s topic…not just once, but two years in a row. With that rousing introduction I give you the topic you wait for each and every year: Tithing.
I’m mostly kidding of course, but it is a very different experience when I go to write about tithing, compared to the birth of our Savior, as an example. Why? When I grew up, any experiences I had with “the church” and money weren’t positive. I grew up in the era of Swaggart, Bakker, and Roberts. I grew up thinking that church was a business that traded hope for dollars. I should also note that I did not grow up as a Christian. My views, as skewed as they were, seemed to be in line with the reality I was seeing play out across the newspapers and TV screens in my home.
I rarely went to church growing up, but when I was old enough to go and saw the offering plate pass in front of me, and didn’t really know how that worked yet, I remember feeling guilt that I didn’t put anything in the plate. I remember thinking that everyone around me just saw that I didn’t put anything in there and I felt judged by people who, realistically, didn’t even pay attention to my 5 second interaction with the offering plate. Yet, for me, inside, I knew what I felt and I didn’t like it.
So, why can tithing be a topic of uncomfortableness, or even…icky? Because we feel guilt for the amount we are giving…or because we give for the wrong reasons. I’d like to share some scriptures with you, and help you see tithing in a new way. I’d also like these scriptures to show us two key points in our understanding of, and our relationship with, tithing.
- God wants us to tithe, but he wants us to live like Jesus even more. In Matthew 23:23, it says, “…You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” In other words, you cannot buy your way out of serving others. Tithing, in place of trying desperately to live like Jesus, is not what God wants. It also shows us that if we can only do one thing; living like Jesus, rather than tithing, carries more weight throughout the Kingdom of God.
- How much should I give? Is the 10% supposed to be before tax, or after tax? If you ask that question, you’re missing the point. If you feel like you aren’t giving enough…guess what…you probably aren’t. Read in 2 Corinthians 8:11-12, “Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”
This verse, from 2 Corinthians, is incredibly powerful. If you suffer, at all, from tithing-guilt, let this be the conscious clearer you’ve been hoping to find. I have always struggled with what amount I should give. I often asked myself, “ Am I giving enough?” This is a common question, no doubt. If you measure your tithe based on these two criteria (am I giving eagerly? Am I giving based on a proportion of what I have?), you’ll soon be giving at the right level.
Are you giving eagerly? If you are tithing at the right amount, balancing the blessings of our lord with the balance of your bills, and you are giving with joy, knowing you are fulfilling your responsibility and helping to spread the name of Jesus, you’ll be able to give eagerly. As you give eagerly, you will be blessed, and maintaining this balance of giving eagerly will help you to give even more than you have been. Giving eagerly is a big deal… I have never sent a check to the IRS and done so eagerly.
Lastly, verse 12 says that we should give according to what we have, not what we don’t have. In other words, in real time words, if you view tithing as the Powerball of blessings, hoping you’ll get a windfall, you’re probably going to be disappointed. If you give eagerly, expecting nothing in return, however, God said, in Malachi 3:10, “…I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
My prayer for all of us, as we start 2016, is that we’re able to get rid of tithing-guilt for once and for all. If we give eagerly, based on what we have been given by God, and work to live our lives as Jesus did…how can this not be a great year, indeed.
In His name,
Eric J. Wasson