Giving to the church: What is up with tithing?


A Reflection on Tithing by Kim Nemchick

 

I am a sometimes tither.  I have never really bought into the concept of tithing, perhaps because I came to the Lord as an adult and did not grow up in a “churched” household.  My husband on the other hand, did grow up in a churched family and was taught from a very young age to tithe his 10% every week, at first based upon his allowance, and later his income from working.  For him it was never optional, it was something one did as a rule – it was a “right” thing to do as a Christian.  When we married I would get irritated at my husband for tithing off the top before we had paid our bills and purchased food and other necessities.  I simply did not understand how something so seemingly careless could point to faith.  What if we did not end up having enough to finish the month? What if God did not honor our tithe by making our ends meet?  Brad was a strict 10 percenter.  His feeling was that unless it was 10 percent off the top it was not good enough for God.  I would argue that God wanted us to feed our children and surely would accept 8 percent after paying bills if that was what was left.

Over time we changed churches and began attending a smaller congregation that met in homes rather than a church building.  In the beginning, the Pastor urged the congregation to tithe as a show of faith, both in his vision and in God’s work in the life of the body of Christ.  Over time however, it became apparent that much of the tithe money was funding the pastor’s mansion on the hill and his trips overseas.  After leaving the congregation we later realized the enormity of the problems that existed and we were absolutely crushed.  It shook the foundations of our belief and I swore I would not return to church.  I would worship from home.

After a few lonely years of denying my need for church community, we tried out our current church.  We talked about our attendance in terms of a “trial basis” and if things didn’t “work out” we would simply leave.  No commitment.  Amazingly, we found ourselves still there after 6 years!  I had finally accepted our new church as home and was beginning to volunteer in different capacities.  After 9 years we decided to become church members and after 11 years I began serving on the church board.  We are in our 12th year of attendance and I still begrudgingly left the tithing up to my husband.  Since coming to this church, Brad tithed when we had “extra money”, always after we knew our financial situation was fairly secure.  I would see the checks and shake my head, left with the feeling that we may be again funding things not necessarily vital to the life of the church and not understanding where the money went.

My perspective has changed since I started serving on the board. I began reading the financial reports, seeing the losses, noting the gains, not totally understanding the categories or flow of money, and mostly too afraid to ask questions for fear of looking stupid.  As the second year of serving on the board began we were presented with the hard news that our church was in serious financial straights.  Giving was way down and we were seriously behind.  Unless we began a successful campaign push to increase tithing, we may be forced to lay off key staff and shut down programs essential to the life of our body.

As we went over things, I was brave enough to ask questions, gaining a better understanding of the categories represented on the pages.  With this understanding it began to dawn on me how much I truly loved our community.  How many times our family was served by our ministries, in little ways and in huge ways.  How much my husband and I have grown during our time at the church and how vital our relationships in the body were. I looked around and realized that every paper plate, every chair, every piece of audio/visual equipment, everything in the church buildings was a result of past and current church members giving faithfully to God.  I realized that my view on tithing had shifted rather dramatically as I purposefully claimed ownership of our church community.  It is ours!  The buildings, the parking lot, the staff salaries, the aforementioned paper plates, all of it!  Not only is it ours, it is ours because God gave it to us.

The other piece I have wrestled with (as much as I dread to admit it) is the subject of lordship.  According to the aforementioned conclusions, I am now more willing to tithe because it ultimately benefits me.  And what does that have to do with serving God or allowing Him to be in control of all of my life? Perhaps coming to those conclusions about how important my church family is to me is the first baby step on my journey towards fully giving it all to Him.  I want to want to, but hesitate on the threshold of those things that truly matter to me, like my family’s security and future.  The truth is, God is already in control but it is up to me to admit it to myself. God doesn’t need me to tithe, to bow to His Lordship, to participate in community.  He created those things that we might be in closer and healthier relationship with Him.  Those things are simply like bridges between us and God.

So how do I reconcile my new perspective with the church tradition of 10 percent?  Do I give before I pay my bills? Do I give responsibly?  Do I give because I now understand where every penny goes? Do I give because others gave before me? Do I give because it is the “right” “Christian” thing to do?  Do I give above and beyond because I believe that God is in control and that he will take care of me in all ways?  What does giving with my whole heart even look like?

As I continue on this journey with Him I continue to ask these questions and many more – to admit my ignorance and to beg forgiveness; to receive grace and some understanding; to inch closer to The One that is already so close to me, and to find love and peace and life under His command.

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