Tithing is a beautiful thing. I’m a tither and always have been, other than a brief time from graduate school through the first year or two of ministry. The reason for that period was I didn’t realize that as my income had increased from “grad student extraordinaire (tongue in cheek) to full-time minister I didn’t adjust my weekly giving amount. I still gave regularly–just not to the level of the tithe.
I’ve been a tither since I was a young child. My parents taught me to. I was given an allowance, fifty cents a week, and told to put the first ten percent in one of three baby food jars on my desk labeled, “To God.” I was also taught to put ten percent in the jar labeled, “savings,” and the rest (that whole thirty cents per week) was mine to spend as I pleased. Each week I would take the money from that jar and put it in the offering plate, and it felt good to be honoring God that way.
There was that one week when I accidentally put a quarter instead of a dime in the collection plate. I realized my mistake and chased the plate down. I began sifting through looking for my quarter much to shock of my mother and the tray passer. When he tried to pull my hand out of the tray, I exclaimed, “I gave too much! I gave too much!” My mother laughed about it later, but was rather short on laughter at the time.
As we head into this series of posts, I want you to know where I’m coming from:
I tithe with all the excuses in the world not to. After all, in what other line of work does one give 10% of their income back to their “employer?” Don’t we who are in ministry accept less money than we could make in other professions in order to do the work of the Kingdom? That’s our tithe (yep, I’ve heard many friends in ministry try that one). Blah, blah, blah. I could try the reasons I’ve heard from Christians over the years–we don’t have to (oh, really–but even if that were right, what does it say about our hearts), I give elsewhere just not to the church (usually a fabrication), or I any of the myriad of rationalizations we create. It wouldn’t please the Lord, even if it felt better to me.
I’m still “old-fashioned” about tithing. While I respect and understand differing perspectives. I believe the Bible teaches we are to offer God the first-fruits of our income. Gross, not net. I believe we are to tithe first to the church, not whatever we feel like giving it to. Tithing is a starting place for the Christian, not the end. I don’t believe being poor exempts you from giving to God (there’s that whole story of the widow’s mite). I don’t believe one is biblically warranted to withhold one’s tithe based on a disagreement with the church. One gives to God first, not the church. But, they do so through the church. I think dispensationalist arguments can be made, but they ultimately fail.
I’m not interested in arguing those points on this blog–but rather to state what I believe–as did the VAST majority of our ancestors in the faith–church leaders, theologians and scholars. I also believe the example and teachings of Jesus bear it out. I’ll get there as we go. But, I want to begin autobiographically.
Why I Started Tithing at age 6
Before I get to all of the other reasons I tithe in this series of posts, I tithe because I was taught to by my parents–who honored the Lord themselves through the leanest of times. Later, the Scriptures themselves taught me to. But, my first instruction came from watching my mother sit down at an old secretary’s desk in our house, overflowing with envelopes (probably bills in hindsight), and write out their weekly check to the church. They also were the first to give to people in need–or nearly anyone who asked them. But, as far as I know, they wouldn’t take it out of their tithe. The best statistics say people who give regularly to their local church also give more generously to causes outside the church, as well. That’s because generosity is a worldview, not usually a matter of economics.
They were consistently generous people and it was obvious to me. I don’t remember them saying anything negative about tithing or any giving they did. They taught me it was a beautiful thing. I still find it beautiful. I’ve never felt it was a burden–even when we’ve gone through extremely tight financial times. In fact, I’ve felt God’s favor even more in those times. We’ve also, by God’s grace given to other causes we’re passionate about beyond the tithe.
Parents, it is such a good thing to teach your kids to give money to a homeless man on the street. Do that. But, teaching the discipline of tithing (or at least consistent giving) when they are young–from their own money rather than yours–will pay dividends down the road. Tithing cultivates faithfulness, rather than simply giving reactively (when we see a need–but not giving otherwise). More on that later. But for now, let me say:
Thank you, mom and dad, for demonstrating what it means to be generous…consistently.