I don't often post on spiritual matters, my blog friend Neil does a good job of that. You can read his entries here.
But lately, some issues have come up where I felt I had to post my feelings on the tithe. In order to do so, a lot of the jargon will be Biblical and Christian in nature. I apologize in advance, if you'd like an explanation of any part, just email me (my email address is on my profile and blog page).
A quick search of Wikipedia says that a tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a voluntary contribution. Today, tithes are normally paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. (liberal editing done by me).
With my favorite search tool, I found that several people don't believe the tithe is still required. I had heard this before, but was surprised to find some long articles on it. I won't argue with them, but I think they're wrong.
So here's my start. I believe a tithe is 10% of the top. That means before taxes. One friend said that he believed God blessed us for the tithe, and he'd rather be blessed on the gross as opposed to the net. I like his idea, but more importantly, I believe that God said bring in a tithe of the FIRST fruits. That sounds like the gross to me and it's clear from the definition above that tithe = 10%.
I've also explored the issue of cash versus "in kind, such as agricultural products." God didn't bless me with a green thumb and I don't raise cattle or sheep, somehow I don't think he would think 10% of my 'maters or my dog would be an appropriate tithe. My income is in US Dollars, so I tithe based on that. Basically, I look at the Gross Income box and move the decimal one place (a little more complicated, but close enough).
Now the question that comes is what about the guy who doesn't tithe? Does that man go straight to hell, do not pass go, etc? No, I don't think so. Nowhere have I seen that tithing is a requirement for salvation. The price for salvation was paid long ago and my 10% can't measure up. So he gets off free? Yep, best I can tell he does. (more on this below)
What if I give more than 10%? Does that get me a better place in heaven? Does it pay me back now? (A lot of ministers say so). Doesn't the Bible promise 1000% ROI? This is where it gets touchy. For the first, there aren't "better places in heaven". One size fits all. The life-long Christian and the guy saved 10 minutes before death are on an even playing field. Remember the price was paid years ago and it was sufficient to cover the super-tither and the cheak-skate. And while there may be some short-term payback, there is no guarantee. Like the stock market, greater risk does not guarantee greater reward. And that 1000%? Well, it's a neat idea, it just doesn't work that way.
That's not to say that there aren't rewards in heaven. There are. And the rewards are based on our giving. But more importantly, they are based on our hearts and the reason for our giving. My thought is to just ignore the hereafter and concentrate on what you're here after. If you're after the short term reward, you shouldn't be here. The short term rewards can be real, but typically aren't measured in dollars (unless you count the tax savings - woo hoo). The emotional rewards in the here and now are real, but that shouldn't be our reason either. If it is, we'll be disappointed a lot (or won't give much).
So, why is the tithe important? Seems like a bad deal based on everything I've said. In order to explain this I have to steal some thoughts from Dave Ramsey (Radio talk show host and Christian Financial Counselor). Dave explains that our Father is a giver and He wants us to be givers. He enjoys giving to us (just as I enjoying giving to my children - only better). When we get something good, He smiles. He wants us to be happy. Only trouble is (like my children sometimes), we don't know what we truly need. So sometimes, we don't realize what He has given us. He's trying to teach us, some of us (me) are just slow. Remember when He had to teach us to pray? When I read that passage I think of holding my children's hands together folded at the table (sometimes with great force). When He teaches us to give, He has to treat us like little children and say "this is how it's done."
When we give, we become a little more like Him. When we begin to see the good that it does, to see the way others react, we see how he feels. I know at Christmas I feel good when my children open their gifts. When I see the good that is done with my tithe, it makes me feel good. God must feel like that a lot. But more importantly, when my children go out of their way to help someone, I feel good. I hope God feels like that a lot.
So if God is teaching us to be a giver, why is the tithe important? Why not just give what feels good? Simply put, it's because good enough, isn't good enough. 10% isn't enough. But it's a starting place. God doesn't need our money and 10% isn't going to make a dent in His budget. But by setting the standard, He tells us what He expects us to do. When we fall short, He is saddened. Much as we are saddened when our two year old learns the "mine" word. God doesn't want us to hang on to our stuff and He wants us to share. Just as he's saddened when we say "mine", he smiles when we share and play nice.
I know this post is long, but I hope you made it through. Take time to read it over a couple of times. Then post your comments. I won't argue with you if you see things differently. I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it's wrong. :)