Talking about money in church, just as in most other areas of life, can be a scary proposition.
Money is personal.
It’s my understanding, as I highlighted before, that being a steward of all that we have in life is part of being faithful. It’s part of responding to God’s love for each of us. Just like when a friend gives you a birthday gift, you are more likely to turn around next year and get them a birthday gift.
God’s love for us really is a dramatic gift – an amazingly, generous gift for which there is no equal. For someone who has experienced pain and struggle and tragedy and failure, being told by God, as in the words of Brennan Manning, “I love you as you are and not as you should be”, comes out of the blue and wakens us to new ways of living and being in this world.
How can you not respond back to God with the gifts of your life, resources, and love?
So, how much should we give?
The common number tossed out for a tithe is simply 10%. Originally, this tithe comes back from the stories of the Israelite people and how they sought to order their life so many years ago. The book of Leviticus (ch. 27:30,32), for example, instructs the people of God this way:
All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.
Of course, we live in a different situation than the ancient Israelite people did. And 10% was considered mandatory at times in Israelite history, largely because it was how they maintained their state. We today pay taxes in other ways, and due to the benefit of separation of church and state, we don’t consider taxes our tithes. In the end, though you may hear lots of ministers and other good church people claim that 10% is a holy or God decreed number, it is just a guideline. Your generosity and response to God is always based on what God has done for you. You might give more than 10%. You might tally all of your giving to charitable organizations. You might tithe your time just as you tithe your financial resources. In other words, faithfully responding to God is the key, no matter how you do it.
Yes, churches and other organizations need money to do things, maintain buildings, and serve others. Tithing 10% of your income is an awesome thing to do, but it’s still up to you and where you are financially. In particular, the Table is not the kind of community which will tell you how much to give or require you to give – we will receive in thanksgiving whatever it is that you offer to God.
I’ll close out my mini articles by exploring how giving in response to God can change… our world.