By: Rev. Ed Schneider
I have often said that the quickest way to clear a room full of church-folk is to start teaching or talking about the biblical concept of tithing. One of the reasons why the majority of professed Christians, much less marginally attached churchgoers, avoid paying “the tithe” is because they view it primarily as an obligation….or a forced bill….paid to an entity they have little faith will use the money toward its prescribed biblical intentions.
Truthfully, if that was the only reason, I would have a hard time disagreeing with those offering this argument for not contributing their tithe. This argument relating to misuse of donated funds is not particularly valid. In fact, this specific concern, more often than not, reflects a rather spiritually weak and disappointing mind-set of those who either;
- haven’t been taught correctly about the tithe or
- it speaks clearly to anyone continuing to intentionally limit their own walk with a great an awesome God.
Another common excuse some folks produce for their lack of participating in the tithing process involves the widely held perception from both inside and outside the general church population. What I am referring to is the sometimes well-earned reputation of local congregations, regional associations, or denominational authorities for having lots of good intentions and not enough competency in the area of administrative stewardship to back up those feelings of willing service. One of the most dangerous and notorious things that contribute to this belief is the lack of practical instruction and the accountability regarding any person serving in the area of church administration. It is shameful and completely avoidable in not taking the time to assure a person having the willingness to serve in any financial capacity. Unfortunately, the church and the individual have to take equal blame in this area. This shared guilt occurs mostly because it is remarkably easy to address this area of concern if you are inclined to in the first place.
One more reason why some folks may not offer “the tithe” is because they are unaware of its foundational purpose.
The concept of tithing has a much deeper meaning and purpose beyond a few dollars in the offering plate. In a very real sense, tithing is the Biblical partnership with two other base components of our journey in Christian development; faith and thankfulness. These two concepts, as viewed through a Christian perspective, are for good reason directly linked with the tithing process.
Here is why:
The most important thing to state right at this point is that tithing is NOT an obligation of the believer. It is a privilege. It is the divine call to growing intimacy. It is an awakened understanding that all we have is of God. The tithe is a symbol of our understanding that everything is of God. In Genesis 28:22 it says,
“This rock will be your house, and I will give back to you a tenth of everything you give me.”
We must recognize the utter completeness of God’s giving to us if we are going to have any opportunity in fully realizing the purpose and blessings in participating in the tithing process. Again, the tithing process is not primarily about gaining cash. It has a much deeper purpose and divine symbolism. As much as the Cross is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, so is the tithe a symbol of our understanding of the immense and overwhelming giving of God. When we put Psalm 50:14 and 56:12 together we can clearly see what our thoughts and our intentions ought to be, as it relates to all of our giving that supports the ministry of God’s church. These two marvelous verses tell us,
“I and God Most High! The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful and to keep your word. I will keep my promises to you, my God, and bring you gifts.”
There are those who will question whether their gifts to the poor of spirit or the practically needy substitutes or lessens there tithing participation.
A couple of things come to mind in that regard:
First, the tithe in this context is one tenth of your increase that is brought to the store house (the church) for the work of the mission of God to be administered by the clergy. So, if you don’t want to give to your local church because you don’t trust the people who are administering God’s money, then go someplace that you trust, but stop using trust as an excuse. There are plenty of churches that do a great job at faithfully and ethically caring for the dollars that are dedicated to demonstrating God’s glory and grace.
Secondly, tithing is a symbolic representation of our proclamation of God’s complete provisions in our life. It is NOT to be confused with the general term “offering”. Tithing is a systematic, disciplined and reasonably precise amount that is given in a specific manner. An example of this understanding can be gleaned from 1 Corinthians 16:2 where it says in part, “each Sunday each of you must put aside part of what you’ve earned.” Offerings are in addition to the tithe.
If you earn $40,000 per year, then you really have $36,000 to administer personally. If you say you can’t afford to pay your tithe then I would argue that you haven’t really dedicated your life to God. You are still sitting on the outskirts of your “potential relationship” with the Divine. As a matter of fact, it can be legitimately stated that one who excuses their nonparticipation in the proclamation to God through the tithing process, or any other spiritual component of faithful transformation, is still negotiating with God about what they will or won’t do in their church relationship. If you are still negotiating within yourself regarding your “church” relationship then you have little relationship with God.
God is not the building or the institution. It is merely a symbol of a larger belief not unlike “the tithe” is a symbol of a larger belief that the actual money that is brought to the storehouse of the church.
Beloved, I need to say this last part loud and clear. If you faithfully practice the tithing process, that doesn’t make you “more holy” than the person next to you in the pew. I am always disgusted when either clergy or laity try to use sinful pride or overt greed in motivating people to tithe. Some clergy actually will form two lines of folks in the sanctuary on Sunday morning; One line for the “tithers” and the other line for the people who brought “just” an offering. Others will tell folks that if you tithe, God will reward you with more money. If you try God out with your dedicated gifts, you will always experience an increase. Both of these are completely bankrupt theologically. God has already given you everything and the Divine has done so graciously. You do not have to bribe God to get more stuff. That is not the God that I know! In Mathew 23:23 it reminds us that,
“You Pharisees and teachers are showoffs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill and cumin. Yet you neglect the most important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either.
And finally beloved, I want you to allow God to speak to you with this Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 8:12 it says,
“It doesn’t matter how much you have. What matters is how much you’re willing to give from what you have.”
This coming Sunday I encourage you to bless God through your private, personal, passionate and purposeful giving. Peace.