Tithe… on it’s own it’s an old word meaning a tenth, but the fuller meaning is to give back the tenth to God. Do you tithe?
When Shawn and I started attending church, we’d toss the occasional “offering” into the plate. Oh, we’d feel all good and generous about tossing in the odd $20. But really, compared to the amount we were earning/spending/wasting, it was nothing. Unlike the widow Jesus praises in the temple, it didn’t really cost us anything.
As our faith and commitment to Christ grew, so too did my conviction that this was not enough. We began hearing a lot about this word, tithe, and it floored me. “ What? People give that much to a church?!”. I spoke to a lot of Christians that I knew and began exploring this idea. Really, it’s a recognition that God gives you everything you have, including your salary, and that He asks you to return the “first fruits”, 10 %, back to Him.
I began to question… 10 % of what though? We talked to a lot of people about what they would consider income to tithe on. Your pay? Definitely. Child tax? Some say yes, others no. That birthday check your parents gave you? Probably not. If you received a gift instead, you wouldn’t calculate the value and pay 10 % of that to a church. Some do, though. Tax refund? Again divided… if you’ve tithed only on your take home pay, this is income you haven’t yet tithed on, but if you tithe based on your gross pay, you have. That leads to my biggest question… tithe on your net pay, or gross??
Many years ago now, Shawn and I both felt that God was telling us to tithe and watch how he would bless us. We worked up to tithing on his take home pay, my child tax and our tax refunds. This was our personal decision and goal, and I am by no means telling you what to do, but I would also have to say that this is a very direct Biblical standard. I think this is something that each of us has to take to God, and not set our standards based on others or what they tell us. If you feel an inkling that you should take this area of your life to God, pray about it and see what He tells you.
So, for several years, we have loved the fact that our church will direct withdraw the same amount from our account each month. I figured out what an average month’s take home pay with everything included is and set an amount. I don’t even have to remember to write a check! I have, however, realized that when Shawn earns overtime, we are not great at calculating what more we should be tithing. Slowly, an idea has been settling in my heart that we are not quite being faithful to this principle. When I looked at the total gross income to this house, and looked at our total amount given to the church, I realized that it was under 5%, not the 10% we thought we were doing.
Recently God has used several things to get my attention about this. Some excellent sermons at church, as well as that inner voice. Next was a book I read called “ The Generosity Ladder”. The author makes this point: It’s called first fruits for a reason. You are supposed to give this 10% first, before anything or anyone else is paid from what you make. Tithing on your take home pay is technically giving the first part of your income to the government, and giving God 10% of the left overs. It’s not the first portion.
As often happens when it’s a “God thing”, Shawn’s been thinking and feeling the same things. We’ve talked it over and are in agreement. It is our goal to work up to tithing a full 10%.
I admit, this feels a little scary. In a time where there is not a lot of wiggle room in our budget, working up to double what we are currently doing seems impossible. Part of me, the selfish and doubty part, would rather use this amount to pay down debt, or save or increase our monthly budgeted amounts for certain categories. However, I can look back and see how God has blessed our first efforts at this, and how I have never regretted it. Not even once. I can trust that He will also bless us as we seek to follow his command to give the full 10% back to Him. This isn’t money just laying around looking for a budget column though, so we didn’t feel able to get there instantly, we need to change a lot of numbers to accomplish this. We’ll be increasing once right away in the New Year, and then making it our goal to increase again, reaching the 10% mid way through this year.
Instead of focusing on how scary this feels, I am going to trust in God and look forward to seeing what He is going to do in my life this year.