Does tithing matter?
Ask a Pastor
Is tithing important to show faithfulness? In today's economy, it can be so difficult. -- Kathy, from Flint, Mich.
Here's what our pastors had to say.
Neddy: Tithing is a way of being thankful for the many ways God cares for us. It is a recognition that what we have belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Tithing is a choice to continue trusting in God's care and in the church as a divine instrument to spread God's love throughout the world. But there are many ways of being faithful to God. We also have our strength, our vocation, our spiritual gifts, which are all given to the people of God, for their personal wellbeing, but also for the blessing of the community. It is important to discern what gifts God has given us, and put them to good use. As a pastor of a Latino ministry, I also struggle with the issue of tithing. Most members in our congregation are low income and each month most of them send money overseas to help their families. In some ways, they are tithing because they are caring for one another, not just themselves. As a salaried pastor, I do need to worry about the bills. But what I have seen so far is that while some may not be able to tithe in the traditional way, we all have gifts to share. And when we all do our part, no one goes hungry, and the mission of the church is done in the world.
David: Kathy, we have gotten turned around in our approach to money. We think of it as ours, and very often, we give as we are able. As in: I happen to be in church this Sunday, and I happen to have an extra $20. Such giving is easy. It makes very little impact on how we live.
Instead, the Bible reminds us that all that we have is God's. How we use God's gifts, including what we use for the ministry of the body of Christ, needs to be a central part of our life. To be clear: God does not want you to be unable to feed your family because you gave your whole paycheck to the church. However, we are called to take a hard look at where our money really goes, and what that says about our relationship with God and one another.
So does tithing matter? Yes, but it is not a law. More important is the underlying principle: All that we have is God's, use it wisely and generously.
Monica: Dear Kathy, you are so right. In today's society tithing is a challenge to family budgets and to faith. When Jesus was asked about faithfulness, he said it is important to love God and love neighbor; everything in life is dependent on this. Tithing is one expression of faithfulness. Sharing your time with others is also an expression of faithfulness. Using your talents/skills to make a difference in your family, neighborhood and world are also expressions of faithfulness. We talk of stewardship as time, talents and money. In 2011 according to the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, the ELCA's churchwide average for member giving was 2.3 percent. Imagine if we grew more in love and trust with God so that every member of the ELCA desired to give even just a little more so that God's love can be shared even more fully with others. Our faithfulness could truly transform today's society!
Ron: Absolutely, yes! Perhaps it is even more important when things aren't going so well. Tithing is a way to set aside gifts in a sacred space; to take a portion of what we have received from God and to declare that to be a gift that we will share with God and the people of God. I'd like to also point out that often when we hear the word "tithing" we normally think of just money. But, since all of life is a gift from God, let's expand our understanding to include all of our life, our time, our energy, our hopes and our dreams.
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You might also want to read:
Against tithing: tipping, justice and ignorant pastors
The things God has minted
Giving back to God