By Dave Weber
Why do I tithe? The answer is simple: I tithe because televangelists promise me that it’s the key to having a new 2011 Lotus sports car that I can look at from the trophy room of my 4-car garage Camelback Mountain villa estate. Also, for the assurance that someday I’ll be able to afford my weekly botox injections and that my wife will be guaranteed enough money for insane amounts of caked-on makeup.
If it were only that simple.
This is the lie I think many churches try to communicate to its followers (although not as blatantly as my opening paragraph). The church often speaks of tithing as a means to an end or a “spiritual retirement fund” –that I may not see in the future as monetary gain, but certainly as a ‘quality of life’ or ‘joy gain’, right?
For many years, I tithed because I benefitted from parents that instructed me at an early age it was the appropriate thing for me (as a Jesus believer) to do, and it’s commanded in the Bible. They told me to plan to live on 90% of my income, and that’s what I’ve done- though most often, blindly. So why would I recommend it to others?
It’s not for the reasons of “well, I attend church, eat their communion food which they have to buy, and sit in a room they have to rent. So it’s only fair that I pay for my portion of what I consume.” What a shame if we treated tithing as simply as if paying for a movie ticket admission.
It’s not because I expect anything in return, either. Some churches may cite the “test me” phrase mentioned in the Bible with respect to tithing and remark that this is the only circumstance where God asks his followers to test him. To be honest, I never understood this and still don’t. I believe every word in the Bible, but I must be missing something in the context. It seems more like another ploy to convince potential tithers they’ll get something in return.
The best instruction I ever heard about tithing is that it is a “detox, not a tax.” We tithe as a sacrifice, because it certainly is a sacrifice (and it does no good to avoid acknowledging that it is). Financially speaking, it’s the same as receiving notification that your salary is docked 10%. Thank God it’s more than just a financial decision.
I tithe because it’s a statement that money has no control over me, because I’m willing to part with 10% of it. The more I have, the less I want to give away, and I don’t like that about myself. It’s also a sign of trust in God. God asks for my faithfulness and asks me to trust him with that 10%. It’s sobering to think that God trusts me with that other 90%.
Life Church in Oklahoma City offers all of its attendees a 3-month money-back guarantee. They will refund anyone 3 (prior) months of tithing with no questions asked. In the 4 years of the program, 10 refunds have been handed out. I love the message being sent- that they are convinced of God’s faithfulness in this financial area.
Part of me is reluctant to write this, because yes, I do tithe and feel that this statement showing up in Friday’s Chrio newsletter is like the man in the Bible who entered the temple during the busiest time, pouring bag after bag of loud coins into the collection pot to bring attention to himself. Jesus said that that man already received his reward (the impressed looks and respect garnered from onlookers). I certainly don’t want that! I confess that most of the tithing in my life has been for wrong or misunderstood reasons. Do I really, deep down think it is a “privilege?” Hardly ever, but I wish I did. Many times when I’m writing tithe checks, my mind wanders to all of the fun things I could do with the money instead. The truth is I still have many selfish issues to work through, which include issues of tithing.
But Jesus is who He said He is, did what the Bible said He did, and God is faithful.