This morning, we were given an "Anonymous Giving Survey" in church, that officially defined Tithes and Offerings as:
- Tithes - 10% of gross income. Tithing is the act of giving 10% of your gross income to the work of the Lord (your local church). [Seriously, can we get 10% of your gross income in one more time?]
- Offering - Giving additional amount over and above the tithe to support the work of the Lord.
- Group A: Regularly giving both tithes and offerings
- Group B: Regularly giving tithes
- Group C: Regularly giving something (less that 10%)
- Group D: Not regularly giving (less than twice a month)
The problem lies with the definition.
Most sermons on tithing are fairly predictable. Let me summarize the points that will most likely be hit upon:
- 10% of the top, before taxes (ok, we get it)
- God loves a cheerful giver
- Bring your tithes and offerings into the store house and God will bless your socks off
- It's all God's anyways, we are only his stewards
- God doesn't need your money (my personal favorite)
Here is something to chew on: did the poor have to tithe? What if you were a carpenter or mason and did not have fields or cattle, were you expected to tithe?
For once, I would like to hear a sermon that encouraged the members to be good stewards of the money that God has given them, provide classes to teach people how to budget their money and how to become cheerful givers. It is hard to be happy about giving when you are in debt. Our churches need to start teaching Proverbs 22:7 - the borrower is servant to the lender. Teach your flock how to be good stewards, rather than just telling them to be good stewards. Give them the tools to be successful.
For years, I was in a category that felt uncomfortable with the messages on stewardship. I thought that if I just went ahead and gave 10% gross, I would be doing a good work, according to James. And to be honest, that was my motivation. There was no love in doing it, and definitely nothing cheerful. I even found myself a little bit scared (guilty) if I failed to give 10% gross. I was looking at a fairly sizable amount of debt, that I could not get knocked out.
I decided that I had to get my own financial life straightened out. I put to work the Baby Steps described in Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover." I put our family on a budget, and I budgeted giving to my church right in there with the rest. Why? Because I plan to give. I confess that it is 10% of my net, not my gross. Am I tithing? No I am not, however I believe that I would not be tithing if I was giving 10% of the gross income because this is an incorrect definition of the tithe.