That was the question put to me recently by a friend as we discussed tithing and our evolving lives and financial situations. My friend’s health has deteriorated and his energy for work as lessened. His income may suffer as a result. He’s wondering how he’ll be able to tithe 10% of his lower income in the future.
Further into the conversation, my buddy confessed he doesn’t always tithe 10%. Year-to-year is hit-or-miss. He presented some common excuses for defending those years in which he falls short:
“I’ve been on the Finance Committee; I’ve seen what people give. I give more than most.”
It’s not a contest
“10% of What? AGI or net? Include asset sales? Include tax refunds?”
All pretty Pharisaic
“I pay a lot in taxes. So much of that goes to welfare.”
Render unto Caesar
We’ve heard about stewardship all our lives. We receive the Bishop’s Appeal letters. We listen to school representatives and missionaries asking for money. Good causes, all. We know we should give. Why don’t we do what we know we should do?
Surely we can admit we are blessed. Even in difficult circumstances, still most of us are blessed with good health, loving families, and economic opportunities. Most of us have material goods way beyond what is necessary for survival. We know we’re blessed. So why don’t we tithe?
Brokenness may keep us from giving. We are all broken in some way. It may be sin in our lives, the sins of greed and covetousness. It may be worldly pressures that stress our lives because of perceived cultural demands. We may feel the need to maintain certain lifestyles. We may be enslaved to debt or held hostage to social obligations. These may make it difficult to meet monthly bills much less give to charity.
Other’s opinions paralyze us. We hide behind a mask of materialism. Worry for our future wellbeing envelopes us in clouds of dread and scarcity. We know we should tithe, but we feel we just can’t.
My friend suggested that there must be a catalyst, some trigger that moves us to tithe. Let’s consider a few:
- Bargaining with God: “God, if you do _____, then I’ll give $X.”
- Prosperity Gospel: “If I give $X, God will bless me with _____.”
- Guilt: “Bible says I must give 10%. Pastor says I’ll go to hell if I don’t.”
- Pride: “Look at how much I give. That’s more than most at ____ Parish.”
- Gratitude: “I’ve been blessed. In grateful response I’ll give $X.”
So, what was the catalyst for me? What made me tithe?
I was raised a Presbyterian and attended a Baptist church in my teen and young adult years. Tithing was woven into the fabric of worship. It was preached constantly. It was expected. Even so, I didn’t start out giving 10 percent.
For me it was a spiritual transformation over a period of years (and hopefully, on-going to this day). I wanted to be a better Christian. I made a Cursillo weekend and plugged into its 4th Day movement. Having the support of my Cursillo brothers and sisters has helped my discipleship tremendously. But, it didn’t move me to tithe 10% of my income. I knew in my heart that I should tithe 10%, but my mind couldn’t grasp how that would work in our budget.
What Cursillo does is connect me with a group of like-minded people. We form small group communities. These small groups support each other and hold each other accountable in our Christian walk amongst our various environments: home, work, clubs/organizations, church.
One of our group gave his testimony from the pulpit on a “Stewardship Sunday”. He was a friend. I knew him and I respected him. He said he and his wife were just going to tithe 10%. Period. It didn’t add up but, they would simply trust that God would provide.
A Matter of Faith
That testimony really struck me. If my friend was willing to try tithing, shouldn’t I? Did I believe all those Bible passages I learned at the Baptist church, or not? Did I trust God’s promises, or not?
It took my friend’s sharing from his heart his fears and trepidations, but also his trust and his willingness to step out in faith. It is a matter of faith. The math doesn’t work. But God’s calculus is higher math than my algebra.
Because my friend shared, I gained the courage to take that same step of faith. And I now have experienced the faithfulness of God. He provides for my every need—way beyond anything I deserve.
What will be your catalyst? What will help you step out in faith and tithe?