Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

The act of tithing recently came up in passing with a family member.  They expressed surprise at the percentage of my income that I tithed when I worked for wages.  No, not just surprise.  Their mouth actually hung agape for a moment at my revelation.  Feeling somewhat uncomfortable, I shut my trap on the topic and changed the subject.  And it wasn't even an outrageously high percentage!

Tithing, for those of you not in the know, is cheerful giving to God.  It most likely is given to a church that the believer attends, but I have also heard of others who give tithes to charities they support.  A Christian doesn't necessarily tithe and a giver isn't necessarily a Christian.

The percentage of income historically tossed out as an appropriate tithe is only 10%.  In my research for this post, I've seen it suggested that most Christians only tithe 3% of their income. 

My theory on tithing has always been this:  Everything I have is a gift from God.  I might have worked hard and hustled my buns, but He ultimately can take it all away in the blink of an eye.  Additionally, I might be frugal in a lot of ways, but I can never be cheap with the One who has given me the gift of eternal life, the One who has blessed me with all that I have been given.

Here are some common questions I've heard (and asked in my pre-Christian days) about tithing:
~ Does tithing buy your way to Heaven?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Only faith in Jesus as the only payment for our sins is required to join the Heavenly Host. 
~ Does tithing make one Christian better than another?  Absolutely not!  Frankly, a Christian should not make a big deal about whatever amount they happen to tithe because tithing is between the giver and God.
~ Does your church rely on your tithing to operate?  Absolutely YES!
~ My "god" doesn't need cash, why does yours?  and  Is tithing an obligation?  Tithing isn't required for salvation, but a churched Christian will recognize that their church does not operate by prayer alone and most would want to give in order to support their pastors, building operations, any missions offerings, and other outreach programs.
~ Don't preachers just fleece their flock and rip off the tithes?  If you even remotely suspect your church leaders of financial impropriety, you really must find a new church.  It has been my experience that most men of God lead fiscally responsible lives since they have to rely upon the donations of the church membership for their salary.
~ I don't like some of the things my church supports so why should I give a tithe?  I might suggest that you either find a church that you 100% agree with philosophically or you simply accept that you will never find 100% agreement with any organization.
~ Do church visitors have to pay?  No, though they may donate whatever they'd like.  Supporting the church is the sole responsibility of the church membership.

Prior to my son's birth, I was on the financial committee for my church and I can attest that some very good Bible-teaching churches operate on a shoestring budget.  The widow's mite doesn't just bless the widow, it blesses her church.  That's not to say that the church expects to have all that you can offer, it's to say that offering all that you can will bless you and your church.  Here's to being cheerful givers!

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