This post jumps right on in to perhaps even more troubled waters after the toe-dipping of yesterday’s post. I’d like to offer practicalities, philosophies, and other thoughts related to tithing and contributing.
Nowhere in all the New Covenant documents is the tithe enjoined upon believers. Charitable giving is a choice—a good one, but a choice nonetheless. Yes, “God loves a cheerful giver,” but He does not say, “First, love me. Next, love your neighbor. Third, give 10% of your money.” The decision to give, and the percentage are up to the individual.
I once felt good about approaching 10% and even surpassing it over a fiscal year or two, way back when. As I recall, more than half of this was given to Christian organizations other than my church, and that was because I found the church budget philosophically and practically wanting. I would have been found in direct contradiction to scripture if scripture had any command for Christians to tithe, but it doesn’t. (There is no Levitical priesthood in the church, so there is no reason to tithe. That part of it really is that simple.)
Since then, I have had to feel good about smaller amounts. It’s not easy, because I would like to give more to Christian and humanitarian charities I believe in. If I had more of a surplus for daily living, I would give more. Remember the widow with the two pennies, I try to tell myself in my discouragement. But I still have questions. Here are some more.
Should we “tithe” according to our pay schedules—every two weeks, on Fridays? bi-monthly on the 15th and 30th? or every month, in some cases?
In calculating, does the 10% come off the top, or after tax? Should we wait to calculate until after the final reckoning of the tax return? How can we know how we’ve “prospered” until after April 15? What would the institutional church do if no one paid the bills until sometime after April 15 every year?
Would the answer be different if paying taxes to Caesar were a choice and not exacted by mandated withholding?
What about tithing by credit card? (Although that might be convenient and get me “rewards” which I could then tithe based upon (!), it sure does seem cold and institutionalized.)
When a Christian college student receives a paycheck for $72.51 for two weeks of every-other-day work, does he exempt himself from tithing because he is a poor college student, or does he give $7.26 (rounding up would seem to be safer than cheating God out of a half-penny) to the collection plate next Sunday? Does he hold Christians around him to a different tithing standard because they’re not college students?
When college students or foreign missionaries receive care packages from Aunt Sue or Martha Supportive, do they offer 10% of the cookies to poorer students or to indigenous neighbors?
Does contributing to the Red Cross or to Hope International or to the World Bible Translation Center “count” as part of your tithe?
Does an individual have the right or responsibility to approve or support the spending of the money she tithes?
This last question makes me think of the question of ownership of a retail establishment and spending money in that store. For instance, at one time, a large grocery store chain was owned by Mormons. Did buying a gallon of milk there give me the right to say “No, you can’t send a penny of my $2 to the LDS Church”? Well, no, but it did give me pause about patronizing that store when I had a choice.) In this age of mobility, global communication, and lots and lots of free choice, I figure I have some responsibility to be prudent in where I spend and contribute money.
If large portions of a church budget are allocated to salaries for staff positions I don’t believe in, or for physical plant/facilities, it makes me look elsewhere for a greater “return” on my dollar. While this may seem overly humanistic and even crass in its monetary outlook, the alternative, for me, is a careless, thoughtless, or even halfhearted dropping of a check into a plate–which ends up being a gesture of upholding the status quo and religion’s establishments than a faith-based offering to advance God’s Kingdom.
All this would be pretty troubling if tithing were an in-force law, wouldn’t it? :-)
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For further reading:
- This prior post, (which says some of the same things I’ve said above in different ways), and/or
- This one on the inhospitable nature of church offerings, and/or
- This brief article (not my own), with caution and with the caveat that I do not necessarily endorse its spirit or even the ramifications of the actions suggested therein.