I grew up thinking it was impolite to talk about money. But we’re all mature adults here, so let’s be impolite for a second.
Giving is a sensitive topic, especially in the church. Maybe it’s because we’re uncomfortable talking about money, maybe it’s because there’s been some shady bidness that went down in the church in the past, or maybe it’s because we don’t want to feel like we’re contributing less than Joe Schmo in the pew in front of us.
But I think it’s high time we have an honest conversation not only about tithing but also about other types of giving.
Before we start this fireside chat, let’s get something out of the way first: I can’t pretend to know your financial situation, just like you can’t pretend to know mine. We can never know what expenses people have, whether it’s student loans or medical bills. So let’s all assume that everyone has more expenses than we know about.
Okay? Okay. Let’s talk turkey.
Let’s be clear here. Tithing was a civil law for the Jewish people in the Old Testament and is no longer a “law” for anyone, but it is a good place to start, to be sure. It’s not a “must”—it is a “get to” or “here’s an example for you” situation for Christians.
I grew up with one of those little three-part plastic piggy banks with sections for spending, savings, and tithing. Even with the small allowance I got as a kid, my parents would have me tithe 10 percent. I’d begrudgingly (hey, I’m just being honest) dig my dollar bill out of the tithing section, fold it up, and put it in my Sunday School offering envelope.
I was pretty bitter about tithing for a while, in my own ten-year-old way. Do you know how many gel pens I could get with that money? And what did the church need my money for anyway? I wasn’t getting anything out of it, so why should I give?
Even as I transitioned into adulthood, I (mostly) kept tithing—but I didn’t really ask why. I knew the right answer: We are just giving back to God what He has first given us! But I don’t think I really believed that.
My past self (and my current self, for that matter) needs some chiding:
- I was (am) selfish with my money.
- I was (am) uninformed about how churches use offerings.
- I was (am) prideful and think I’m better because I tithe.
Maybe you see yourself in those statements too. We tithe 10 percent of our salary and call it a day, but maybe we do it out of compulsion, or guilt, or pride. And with online giving, we don’t even have to think about tithing, which is a double-edged sword—we never forget, but we also never remember.
We shouldn’t focus on tithing in a sinful, prideful way, but we are meant to meditate on our giving. Tithing is a tangible way we respond to God’s blessings, and doing it mindlessly takes out a crucial part of the experience. We should, as Paul puts it, give cheerfully:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
But how do you give cheerfully? If you’re feeling less than cheerful in your giving, here are a few real-life, practical, help-I’m-lost tips:
- Ask God to make you cheerful. (We often forget to ask God to change our attitudes!)
- Find out why you’re not cheerful in your giving. Is there a root sin that is preventing you from cheerfully giving (pride, selfishness, etc.)? Pray that God removes this sin from you!
- Go to your church voters’ meetings. You’ll learn more about where your money goes.
Through tithing, God humbles us, creates a generous spirit within us, and opens our hearts and minds to the work that needs to be done for the sake of the Gospel.
So even if you’re not physically putting something into the offering plate on Sunday mornings, try to take that time to thank God for the opportunity to contribute to the mission of your church. Ask God to give your church leaders wisdom in how they allocate and spend money, and ask that offerings are used to further the reach of the Gospel in your community.
“But . . . what else is there?”
(If you know what movie this quote is from, can we be best friends please?)
Okay, so we’ve talked tithing. And for a lot of people, that’s the end of their giving. Which, based on your financial situation, might be all you’re able to give. Don’t sweat it. God knows your heart. (Remember the story of the poor widow with her two mites in Mark 12:41–44.)
But that is no excuse for us to grow complacent with our giving. If we are finding our true joy in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our hearts will be more inclined to give. Tithing and giving are responses to the joy we have in Christ. So, it follows that if we find our joy in Christ, we will naturally give cheerfully as an outpouring of that joy! We’ll feel convicted about how we’re spending our money and whether or not we’re giving enough.
“Enough” is a hard line to draw. We could make excuses all day long as to why we can’t give more, do more, help more. But part of the Christian life is looking objectively at our lives and assessing whether or not we are glorifying God with all that He’s given us.
And, oftentimes, God will convict you of a certain habit you need to do away with, or He’ll hint (maybe not-so-subtly) at something you should be doing. He’ll place opportunities in front of you, or speak to you through your pastor’s sermon, or place a friend in your life who convicts you in a kind way.
I love it when that happens—because usually God has been speaking a specific truth into my heart for a while, and after I’ve ignored multiple hints, I imagine God sighing and making His truth so obvious that I can’t ignore it any longer. Touché, God.
But this is the important part: we can’t ignore when God convicts us. I am the first to admit that it’s easy to ignore God’s not-so-subtle hints—but we’re not called to ignore God or the needy.
So what are you being called to give? Where have you felt convictions in how you allocate your finances? How can you commit to serving others as a response to God’s salvation by means of your faithful giving?