Wednesday, February 24, 2010

to tithe or not to tithe

Oh boy.

Disclaimer: I bring this up because of a conversation I've just heard, but also because I am trying to coerce you, my dear readers, into commenting. Bwahahaha.

“As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-3 NIV.

There are many who believe that tithing is a mandatory part of a Christian's life, much like baptism or even salvation (in extreme cases) - in other words, "If you don't tithe, God will not bless you financially." Or, in some cases, (and roughly phrased) "If you don't tithe, you are a bad Christian." Understandable I suppose, and the "proofs" and verses found in Scripture that back up this view are plentiful and convincing. But what about the other side? There are just as many arguments (with just as many proofs) to say that tithing is not mandatory, but rather, that the 10% figure was pulled from the OT and is therefore irrelevant. This side is more likley to argue that giving should be done with joy and not because "we have to." I can't say I fully agree with either side yet - convincing as they both try to be.

The reason I can't agree with one side or the other is because neither side allows room for the human experience. For example - should someone who is excessively wealthy be excused from giving more because "I've given my 10%, I've met my quota. I'm a good Christian", when they clearly have more to give? Or, should someone in mass amounts of debt be expected to give 10%, even if it means bouncing/missing payments?

The second of those two questions is the one that weighs much more heavily on my mind. Reason being, I am that person. Until this past December, tithing was not a regular part of my life. Truth be told, I've made some financial errors that have landed me in a significant amount of debt. You can save me the lecture(s), because I've heard them all - but I will say that my reasons for not tithing before this period were, in my mind, completely legitimate. I had nothing to give. Not even two coins. Did I give of my time? Absolutely. Did I give when I had the chance? Of course. But I didn't set aside 10% every month - in fact, I still don't. I give what I am able, and prayerfully, and am looking each month to increase what I give, but I don't let myself further the debt load to tithe.

I quoted the passage above because it was mentioned to me earlier today, as it has often been quoted to me. The person mentioned that in this case, the woman who had nothing gave all she had, and was therefore blessed - in fact, praised, because she "gave more than the others". This concept I have no problem with, at all. In fact, I love this story. In my head, she looks a lot like Mother Theresa - who couldn't love that image?

The question I am asking (although I've likely brought up hundreds more, above), is whether or not a person should go into debt to tithe. The woman gave all she had, yes, but she did not give what she did not have. We are called to be good stewards of our money, to be frugal and wise - to be open handed and giving, yes - but wise. Is it wise to bounce payments? Is it wise to further a debt load?

Although I already have ideas for what I think, those of you who've been here before will remember that I like to stir the pot every now and then. This is kind of a taboo subject, which makes me want to bring it up all the more (what a brat).

I am by no means suggesting that we all need to agree with eachother, but simply calling for a discussion. Please remember to be tactful and respectful with your responses.

So, what do you think? Should a person give a tithe out of a debt load?


Anonymous said...

well, ill tell you that ive definetly been (and currently am) in that situation. many times i would be thinking "but i CANT give, i dont have enough. this will just have to wait" or "ill just give my tithe from this paycheck next time when i can afford it". its just OBVIOUS that i would need to pay my rent first so i dont get evicted or pay my phone bill so i dont get cut off.... right?

growing up and even recently my dad has said to me "if you cant afford to give, you cant afford NOT to give". he would say that THIS is the point where faith really goes into action. a number of timed i decided to give my FIRST 10% even will full knowledge that i wouldnt be able to pay rent because of it. you know what, EVERY time i put my faith in God like that He always came through. SOMEHOW i had some government return land in my account or i get a random late birthday card from my grandpa with just enough money in it.

if God can create heaven and earth, shouldn't i think He can handle my finances? if i believe that an all-powerful creator can heal people (and ive SEEN it), then i have to believe He can help me with my finances like He promised He would if i tithed. Malachi 3:10 says "Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

that said its a lot easier said than done. it took me a lot of courage and a lot of blind faith to relly take that step just like when Indiana Jones took the step of faith on the invisible walkway in The Last Crusade.

if you have not seen that movie than i cant be friends with you haha

my 2 cents,

Ryan H

alvina g(ee) said...

Thanks Ryan :)
What do you say to a person who has "tested" many times and always come up short (ie, no money landed on their doorstep, and therefore payment A B and C were missed/etc)?

ps - I think I saw that movie when I was little, although I'm not entirely sure...can we still be friends?

Anonymous said...

Is the deffinition of Tithing ONLY giving money?

From what i understand at a Christian perspective and level..Tithing is simply a "freewill of offerings" that help support a church.

So why does it have to be cash? What if you have some personal amazing talent that you can use to help the church out, or time you can donate (I have always heard thats invaluable). Why does it have to be cash?

I do not, unlike Ryan H's comments, believe one should go into debt to tithe. I believe if you are at the crossroads of "put food on the table" or "tithe" you should not be tithing (atleast not with money)

Christianity has put way to much emphasis on tithing...BUT Due to the fact that the New Testament explicitly directs Christians to give voluntarily as each person has determined in their hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7) and condemns those who make a show of their donations to organized religion (Mark 12:41-44, Matt. 6:3), it seems a little contradictory.

AGAIN..voluntarily..meaning when you can. AND AGAIN...if you cant give cash..why not something else.

Summary : No

Hauser said...

here's the clip from the movie just for you

as for it being tested, it wasnt until i was giving not out of obligation but when i started giving expectantly and joyfully did i start getting blessed. i dont know why God does the things He does, but i DO know that He has perfect timing that surpasses every bit of my understanding. being in a really hard place for me just makes me grow in faith faster, but only when i want to grow. many times i would blame God and just be angry and hold on to things.

its seriously one of the most challenging trials ive ever had to face, but you probably couldnt tell if you saw me (which you did the other day). the JOY of the LORD is my STRENGTH.

peace out homes,

Hauser said...

there is a difference between tithes and offerings though. tithes you give your first tenth of what you make (which is what tithe means - tenth). offerings are above and beyond and part of God's promise as well. An offering is something given after a tithe

Anonymous said...

The real question you should be asking is, what's more important to you? Getting in that daily coffee, going out for dinner with friend, or tithing... A lot of people say they have no money, but a lot of them are the same people that are more than willing to run their credit cards for that cup of Tim Hortons. I'm not judging because goodness, I've done it, but I think its something that should be brought up.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your thoughts and the comments. I don't think anyone should go into debt to tithe.

However, perhaps the greater question that has not yet been addressed is this: To what standard are we living, and if I do truly desire to tithe to God a portion of my finances - does the manner in which I spend my finances and go into other debts reflect my desire to give?

These are generalizations, and I'm not trying to point fingers, just raising questions.

We do live to an incredibly high standard in North America. If going into debt to go to college were not an option, far less would go to college. If financing and credit cards were not available, far less would drive newer cars etc, and buy things they can not afford. I'm not against certain debts (college and mortgages) but we need to really think them through and plan accordingly. Lots of people go for post secondary education and don't end up using it in the least (Bible School is a bad culprit of this), etc.

I guess what I mean to address, and this is difficult for most of us is this: Often we say: "I can not afford to give", and yet I have a car payment, eat out every day and drink $5 of coffee every day, have a $60/month cell phone bill for convenience sake and because we like shiny, etc. We just don't think our finances through in a manner that is conducive to giving in the first place.

I truly think most of us in North America are absolutely terrible being financially responsible and sacrificial. How can we tithe when we can't even manage our money well in the first place?

There have been several books that have been written on income vs amount given not just to the church but to missions and charities, and the numbers are staggering.

It's tough. That's why Jesus talked about it so much.

I must say I'm just as guilty as anyone.. It's tough to adjust when even many teachers in our churches are not setting the example. We desire to be as comfortable as possible and that we "deserve" this or that luxury because we have done "this or that" or worked for it. It's too easy to be selfish.

Anyways, I have written enough. This is an incredible challenge and needs to be addressed. Glad you have!

I know you have written elsewhere about living frugally and even about the money we spend on the things we eat, I commend that. It's good discussion!


Anonymous said...

I don't think someone ought to go into debt to tithe because, in essence, you're not tithing your own money. My understanding is that when you tithe, you give back a portion of what God has given you. I don't count VISA or Mastercard as giving back.

I also believe that tithing is a monetary gift. If I volunteer at a church, I don't put a monetary value on my services, then subtract it to whatever I normally put into a collection plate.

In my circumstance, my tithe is part of my budget. I decide on a number, and it sits along with my rent, food, travel etc. So going out for a coffee or hanging out with a friend has no effect on my tithe. Coffee is out of my food budget, friend/movie out of 'Other', etc.

When I tithe, I don't pray and ask God how much I should give on a specific Sunday. I already had that conversation that led me to choose the amount I give monthly.

Of course, there are times where I don't meet the number, but the number stays. Its where I want to be. So I have to try and work my budget around, AND be mindful of my spending habits in all areas of life, primarily the variable costs (i.e. food).

So to answer the question: No. Debt for tithe = bad idea. Tithe as a part of your expenses = good idea.

Victoria said...

I think that we tithe yes, because our local churches need money to run, but more importantly because we need the reminder that God comes first. Money is the worst competition for God in our lives. This is not an agenda I'm flogging, but one of the most talked about things in Jesus's red words. You can't serve God and money. So we give first because we serve God first.
In our success driven culture that whole paragraph up there is a big fat joke. And you know all of the reasons why. It all boils down to the fact that along with worshipping sex and power, we are definitely kneeling at the shrine of ole "Mammon". Its a part of our nationality. Of our whole world. Everything has a price. Even life.
But I do not think that you should bounce payments in pursuit of some idealistic guru status as a REAL WOMAN OF FAITH. God, in addition to being a big Show Off Of Great And Wondrous Miracles, was a practical guy as Christ, and remains the same today. He calls us to be faithful stewards. He calls us to be people of integrity. He calls us to be shrewd. What kind of witness is it to your landlord when you bounce checks? This is a no brainer.
But, as previously discussed, there is a third option. If you can't afford to tithe, stop drinking lattes. Wear the clothes you have. Eat at home. Move somewhere cheaper. Rent movies from the library. Visit in houses instead of coffee shops. Drive less and walk more. Be content with old things. Cut up your credit cards.
In short, live a sustainable life. Debt is a burden too big for anyones shoulders to be comfortable under. The real issue is not tithing, its priority.
The discussion in previous comments shows that when you are tight on money the first thing people cut out is tithing.
I find this discussion interesting because at one of the tightest financial times in my life, God has challenged me to double my tithes. The only moveable figure was the grocery budget. So it moved. And we give. Not because we want to attain some holy level of recognition, but because when God says give, it's because He wants to bless. We give because He comes first. Before our food. Before my image. Before our house. God first. Money last.

Anonymous said...

A brilliant can of worms! Probably so many different views, though I would probably lump this in with my category of “can’t condemn either side, cause the bible really isn’t clear enough.” That being said though, it is with those issues that we need to spend more time searching the bible and in prayer that we can learn what God would want with this area of our lives. Also because of the potential inconclusiveness, I would merely like to share a few things from my finance-questioning journey, but really this should be done over a nice cup a’ tea.
Taking out loans for school, I always struggled with knowing what to give, cause that really was my source of income, but also not freely my money. I decided then that loan money wasn’t mine but rather the bank’s or government’s, but all the money that I did make/receive wasn’t even mine but God’s, and that I not only had to tithe but offer more if need be – before even food, housing or repaying my loan – and let him provide in maybe unconventional means.
John Piper came out with a campaign that really made me think with one of its phrases. “_____has been given to you, so that you may show the world _____ is not your treasure, Christ is.” Friends, family, job, money, talents, etc. Do I really use my money to show the world that Christ is my treasure, or do I show that things like a comfy life, security, entertainment, or whatever is?
I have just moved across the ocean, to do what I feel God has called me to do, but with absolutely no security of any finances whatsoever. One of the first books I read was George Muller’s autobiography, which completely revolutionized my viewpoint on money. He lived completely through faith for his finances, as he served God. He was in charge of hundreds of people though, so there was so much struggle with coming up with money… just prime stuff. His faith was continually grown so that he could say he was “ poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2Cor6:10. If you are serious about seeking God’s for your money, I would even go so far as to say you HAVE TO read this book, and would even buy it for you :0 (seriously.) He had to say that he was devastatingly poor at times, and really had to do everything in his power to come up with money, like selling ANY extra’s, but it really just allowed him to grow his faith and seek God’s direction that much more.

For fear of writing an essay, I’ll just chip out with a couple of questions that you’ve made me ask; What is the purpose in tithing? Do we give just to be blessed financially? Why do we think the poor widow was blessed, especially financially (is it just our natural tendency towards a prosperity gospel)? How does one’s tithing make them go in debt, would it not be their expenses that make them? Maybe the first thing to go before tithing would be to minimize their expenses? What if we looked at all “our” money as God’s, and we are simply stewards of 90% or less?

Thanks for making us think, and let us know how you’re coming along with it! Also congratulations on starting this journey.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? – Luke 16:11

Anonymous said...

There is something I have noticed about pro-tithers; they always seem to have this air of self-righteousness any time they speak about tithing. More like they have scored more brownie points through their tithes.

I read your post and fully understand your question and here is the simple answer. Tithing was introduced in the Old Testament as a means of sustaining the priests and the less privileged in the society of Israel. It never consisted of money but was always on agricultural produce from within the Land of Israel alone. Contrary to what you have heard, it was never 10% of anything but A TENTH. In order to get the tenth, the farmers had to group their produce in tens and set every tenth one aside as the tithe. So if for instance a farmer had 10 sheep, the tenth one was the tithe. If he had nine, he could not tithe because there was no tenth. If he had 10 to 19 the tenth one still remains the tithe and not until he had twenty would he be able to give another tenth. I hope this illustration makes sense.

In the light of the proper biblical definition of the tithe, tithing becomes impossible in today’s church because we are all not farmers and neither do we all reside in Israel. The other scriptures used to support the tithe doctrine like Malachi 3 cannot be applied to today’s church because we were never given the command to tithe in the first place. What is being practised in today’s church as the tithe is not biblical because as I said earlier money could not be tithed and the tithe was never 10% of anything.

However, when it comes to giving, the New Testament admonishes us to give what we can afford cheerfully and willingly and not grudgingly and out of necessity. (Please see 2 Cor 8). This is very much in keeping with the scriptural reference you provided about the widow, she gave what she was happy with. You also made a good point about the human experience and this the New Testament takes into consideration hence you can never find any percentage being put forward as a minimum to give. Give what you are happy with be it 1%, 5% 10% or a 100%.