Stewardship – Tithing
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts; and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (The Prophet Malachi)
So what exactly is a tithe? It’s 10% of a one’s time, treasures, talents and influence. Biblically, a tithe is considered the minimal requirement of shared responsibility for community justice and spiritual fellowship.
Noelle and I have practiced tithing since we entered ministry. We began by committing ten percent of our income to our churches and to other causes dear to us. When I moved into a manse it became ten percent of my cash salary, with additional gifts to social justice causes. Today I am moving toward ten percent of gross income, still with commitments beyond the local congregation I serve to our denomination, mission partners and colleges. This is the first commitment we make for the coming year – always based on the current year’s salary.
That’s how we do it. Others do it differently. The most important point is to think of your commitment to the church as a proportion of your income: can you give 2%, 5%, 10%, more? Thinking of giving to the church as a proportion of your income, rather than as a weekly gift, is a way of thinking about what Saint Paul calls giving “according to our means,” rather than thinking of what the hour spent in worship, or the fellowship we are a part of, “is worth.” “What is it worth!” – what a corrupting way to think of the Body of Christ, in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
But tithing as a principle is about more than salary or retirement income. We should be thinking of giving away 10% of gifts we receive, bonuses, inheritances, bequests. And it is about more than individuals and families. Imagine the powerful witness would offer the world that “giving is joyful” if our church committed to give “from the top” at least 10% of our annual income to mission outside our doors. Imagine the difference we could make in our world if we would “pay forward” to our Presbyterian mission partners 10% of any bequests we receive. Imagine our endowment, on principle and not by necessity, giving back something like 5% if it’s interest each year to new ventures in mission – a way of allowing those who have been generous to the church in the past to keep being generous year after year. Now imagine how that kind of commitment by the church could influence how each and every one of us this about our own financial priorities.
We are not there yet, as individuals or as a church. Ten families currently tithe to the church, and others are working on it. Our current mission commitment as a congregation is about 5%, not including our per capita giving. Growth toward tithing must be intentional and incremental for most of us. But as individual stewardship commitments continue to grow each year, as the session manages for the second year in a row to reduce our annual deficit and can begin to imagine a balanced budget and beyond, well . . . Now imagine what new things God is calling this congregation to do and be as the Body of Christ alive in the world.
I’ll meet you all at the Table with my own Pledge Card on Commitment Sunday, November 4.