Struggling against the Tithe

One of my goals in our Be, Do and Have More Challenge is to grow my faith. I’m making progress in this area and this week marks my second consecutive month of giving the first 10% of our income to our church rather than whatever is left at the end of the month.

I really love Jon Acuff ‘s four part video series¬† directed at high school kids¬† (what does that say about the maturity of my faith?) In one of these videos, Jon talks about how in high school he didn’t feel he needed God in a lot of areas of his life. I get that; for a long time I thought I didn’t need or want God in my business life or my money life or even in my relationships. In my old way of thinking, God is who you call on when it looks like things are gonna go to crap, when someone you care about is about to be hurt or death is knocking at your door. Back then, I thought I just don’t need God day to day.

My faith has grown from that pinhead sized faith in the past couple of years but I still have a long way to go.

One of the struggles I’ve had along the way was with the tithe. I knew that some Christians with a church home regularly give 10% of their gross income to the church but I didn’t know very many of these people. When I started doing financial coaching, I met several of them. Some of them have great income, some not so much. Often that 10% looked to me like money that would be better used paying down debt. I struggled to understand how some of these families, who had very little disposable income, could happily give away the first 10%.

On one hand, I think many people have been bullied into tithing by pastors that promise a curse if they don’t or a reward if they do. That kind of thinking does not fit with my understanding of grace and I want no part of it. On the other hand, winning with your money is all about learning some self-discipline and a tithe or at least a regular scheduled donation is an excellent place for many people to practice some discipline with their money.

When I would hear “give God 10%”, my immediate thought is God doesn’t need my money and besides I understand who deposits this check and it sure isn’t God. I now hear it as “give 10% for God’s work” even if the pastor fails to say it that way.

I’ve always preferred to do my giving as directly as possible. I would rather buy a kid a book then donate to a reading foundation. I feel better knowing exactly how my money is spent. If I give the church (not God) 10% of my money, how do I know that they are spending it responsibly? The answer to this is I don’t. I have finally figured out, it’s up to me to choose a church I trust and then demonstrate that trust with my time and my money. That, to me, is the difference between being the church that I attend and being my church.

It’s taken me a while to really get that the tithe (or regular giving) isn’t for God or the Church, it’s for me. It reminds me of my commitments, it helps me become an unselfish person and it makes me a contributing member of our church family.

2 thoughts on “Struggling against the Tithe”

  1. I also like to consider my giving as payback and paying forward, for what the church has done for me and my family over the years. For instance, my current and future giving supports our church youth activities and summer camps, which have been extremely important in shaping the character of my children over the years. I love knowing that the money I give today provides similar experiences for the current and future generations of children in our church.

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