Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tithing

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. :)

5 comments:

Tara said...

hey its tara, here is the website i was talking about where i made the extra summer cash.......... the website is here

Randy Barnett said...

Tara,
I don't know you, I've never seen your post and we weren't talking about a website.

If you think differently, please email me.

Word of caution to other readers, Tara's note has NOT BEEN TESTED by me. I will update this if I get any other information.

Neil said...

Hi Randy,

Nice job on the post. Giving is always a touchy subject. I know the stereotype is that churches talk about it too much, but many (mine included) don't talk about it enough. I think it is partly because they realize people think there is a conflict of interest - asking people to give when it benefits you directly. That's why I think it is a good topic to blog on, since you aren't asking for donations.

I've read compelling arguments on both sides about whether the tithe is applicable to New Testament Christians. Here's my $0.02: Technically I don't think the tithe is required, but the instant I say that I must point out that if God expected the poorest Israelite to tithe then 10% should be a good starting point for people living in the prosperity that we have.

Giving is a joy, and it has to be done to know what it really feels like.

I think you were right on target re. rewards. There will be rewards in Heaven for sure, but I enjoy the rewards today by giving. It is an honor that God lets us be part of his plan by serving and giving.

Peace,
Neil

Anonymous said...

I was surfing the web for information on this exact topic. I have always believed in the "first fruits" & have always worked to give my tithe. With Hubby & I getting ready to enter our first home I was starting to sweat every time I looked at our new budget and what to cut. I am shamed to admit one of the first corners I looked at was my tithe (if I could just pay based on AFTER taxes, things may look less tough) but I realize that this was just me shortchanging God, the one who blessed me with a wonderful husband, caring mom and JOB that I can honestly say is a dream post for me. I will continue to aim for 10% before taxes AND do it with a happy heart because 10% is nothing to what our Heavenly Father has given me.

P.S. We did find places to cut costs & all of them, I believe, are more pleasing to God.

Randy Barnett said...

Anon,
Glad to help. Email me offline if you'd like any other information or opinions