The Stewardship Series: How Much Should I Give?

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“Charitable giving should make some difference in how we as religious people experience life from day to day. If giving to your congregation is similar to writing a check at the end of the month to pay the phone bill or the electric bill, and then forgetting about it until the end of the next month, you are not giving enough.  Similarly if you take spare change or a dollar or two from you pocket or purse for the weekly collection and never notice the difference, your giving has too little meaning either for you or for your church.” - Michael Durall

When it comes to financial stewardship many of us would like to have a clear answer to the question "How much should I give". Unfortunately the Bible does not give us a straight-forward answer which is why there are differing opinions about how much we are supposed to give, resulting in many confused people.

In the Old Testament a number of different tithes were commanded for the Israelites.  In the New Testament we are not given any figures.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I like things to be concrete.  I want Jesus to say "give 10% and keep the rest - have fun, treat yourself, splurge" but that's not what happens in the gospel.  Though the Israelites were given defined figures, in the New Testament Jesus doesn't give us anything of the sort.  He simply asks for everything.

Everything. But, but, but... I don't get it. How do I give him everything.  What does everything even mean? I want a rule. I want a law.  I want to know exactly what I need to give to be doing "the right thing".  But I'm not granted that - what I'm given is a much harder scenario - I need to sit down and look the money I'm given straight in the face. I need figure out how much I will give away and how much I think I should keep for myself.

This is hard work for me because I seem to want to keep a lot of money for my own purposes.  I like new things.  I like to travel. I like to eat out. I like spas. I like investing. I like having money.  And this is exactly why I need to give more away.  Tithing is something we do with our hearts and giving our money away helps to free us from the money god which says "more more more for you!".  When we tithe we come to understand more deeply that all of our resources are God's.

In his book God’s Thrifty Extravagance – Understanding What the Bible Says About Money, Jonathan Kopke writes: “If God doesn’t need a single thing from us, why is He so adamant that we should give Him so much?  The answer is simple: God wants us to give to Him because that’s what breaks us free from the tyrant-god of Money. Giving to God reduces our attachment to the things we’ve loved more. Giving to God builds our commitment to Him by putting our treasure where we want our hearts to be.  Giving to God strengthens our koinonia within the body of Christ, the church. Giving to God – as opposed to hoarding – is the most concrete way we have of expressing our faith in the God who promises that He’ll never fail us. And in every case, when we give to God, it’s not God who benefits – it’s us.  God doesn’t want our gifts because He needs to receive, but because we need to give.” 

When we tithe we come to see that it's not about what part is God's and what part is ours - but that it's all God's.  And God asks us to tithe so that the spiritual power that money holds on us is broken. God doesn't need our money - he is the CREATOR of the universe.  I hear story after story of God's faithfulness in tangible ways for his people - he has access to all the resources of the world.  As Kopke writes a later in his book "Tithing is not God’s way of raising money; tithing is God’s way of raising children"

We are given immense freedom in deciding how much of our God given income we would like to donate.  We are given the freedom to choose where that money goes.  We are given the responsibility of stewarding God's kingdom resources.  It is a blessing to give. It is a privilege to tithe.  It is liberating to let money go and cling to the King of kings. 

How much should we give? All of it and let the kingdom stories flow as you share wealth for his glory.

What story do you have about God's surprising provision through the gift of another?  How have you witnessed your tithes expanding the Kingdom of God?

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My Dad was a non-practicing Jew an always tithed. He said something to the effect that if God wanted 10% he was going to give 10%. (Mom always  was a Christian). We never missed out on anything. The bills were always paid on time.

Three decades before I heard of the CRC, I heard a Baptist sermon on tithing. I asked the preacher, "Gross or net?" He said, "Gross." In 50 years it has never "cost" us anything. The old people in First Everett CRC say the same thing. Tithing doesn't "cost" anything. With God, "A deal's a deal."

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It is obvious--I have several texts that I use to tithe:[I'll only use 2]:... Mal 3: 10 works;  also Luke 11:42 NLT, where Jesus says "....You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect  the more important things!"   NASB and GW versions says essentially the same thing, PTL

"A tithe is a very good place to start".   But any couple's current life situation will affect their ability to give back to God.  A young couple with 4 kids vs. an "empty-nest" working couple vs. retired seniors...  In some cases, the person's ministry work is the gift to God and that choice of ministry may mean that they are already giving 50% to ministry work (assuming they could make twice the pay in the secular world).

God's ministries should, however, receive "first fruits", not left-overs.  I've actually heard people complain that the increase in a church or school budget will affect their ability to vacation in Hawaii (and I've quietly reminded them that camping at the lake was their parents' idea of a good vacation... while they paid Christian school tuition and supported the church faithfully)

I've read that Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" has mentioned that, with the financial rewards of his publication success, he and his wife have been able to move to a "reverse tithe".... giving 90% and living quite comfortably on the remaining 10%

I met one person who had what he called a "tithe tax".  He contributed to church budgets as required but, every time he bought something extravagant, he would forward a gift to Kingdom Work equivalent to 10% of that purchase price.  He told me that if I ever saw him in a Ferrari, I'd know that some ministry also received a great gift.

If you do believe in a tithe, a good question is to figure out what percentage that actually is.  For my wife & I (living in Alberta and paying annual income taxes), we receive a 50% tax credit for every dollar we give annually to charity (after we've given at least $200 in the year).  So, at that point, a tithe (for tax-paying Albertans) is 20%.  If our income was $100,000, our tithe would be $20,000 since we'd get a tax credit of nearly $10,000 tax refund.  If we were retired, without taxable income, that tax credit would be useless and our tithe calculation would require adjustment.

 

 

Ron, some great comments!  However, your comment on someone involved in ministry work perhaps perceiving a 50% contribution since they could make twice as much somewhere else, ought to be taken with a grain of salt.   I know a fellow who could make twice as much money working in the field in the oil patch, but deliberately took a different job because he wanted to be home every night and weekends with his children, since he feels being an available  faither to his children is what God calls him to do.  His ministry to his family is his ministry for God, so to speak.  Should he then regard this lower paying job as a 50% contribution?  Where does this "ministry" contribution begin and where does it end?   A farmer who farms 500 acres less because of the time he needs for council work or christian school board, or the mechanic or carpenter who doesn't work overtime because he works with young people group and the deacon board.   Etc.  ??  

John, there's a great quote "Anyone can write a cheque".  It's the people on the front line of ministry that impress me.  When a teacher works at a Christian school and, by doing so, accepts a salary that is 1/3 less than a public school counterpart, I'm impressed with their gift.  After all, they could work at a public school and simply tithe. When somebody realizes that it's the ministry, not the paycheque, that makes their work precious (whether that's carring for kids or helping in the church, etc.), then I'm impressed and I, as a deacon, wouldn't be hitting on them too hard if they weren't contributing $$ as expected on a "per member" basis.  

Ron, I think giving should be voluntary and cheerful regardless, so I doubt I'd be hitting anyone too hard on it.  I kind of agree with you, especially from a deacon's perspective.  It's really the job of deacons to help others, not to grind on them.  But from a personal perspective, if I was a teacher in that perspective, I would find it hard to say that I've given enough simply because of opportunity costs for my employment.   Obviously, if you have no income, you can't give anything, and if you are paid less, you would likely give less.  But it is not too hard to identify an opportunity cost no matter what job or occupation you might have, whether making financial sacrifices to minister to your family, or to provide time for other mission causes.   If you spend two weeks of vacation on a diaconal project and spend your own money to get there and for lodging, would you subtract that time and money from your tithe, for example.     I don't want to make a big deal of this;  just provide another perspective.   

Matt 23:23 is often overlooked.  Jesus clearly says, "you should have done the latter (do justice, mercy and faithfulness) without neglecting the former (tithing)"     I conclude that Jesus assumed the tithe to be a norm for God's people.   Yes he kept the law for us, and frees us of it's obligation and of it's curse.  But the law is a clear guide to our living.   So tithing ought to be the starting point for the people of God.