It is stewardship campaign season so I wanted to rerun this post from 2008, which had an interesting comment thread. I’m also adding this link describing a plan for giving generously. The four suggestions were simple and excellent. One that has worked well for us is the Lifestyle Cap:
Lifestyle cap. As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving?
Living below your means — not just within them — is a great place to be. As you cap your lifestyle in terms of cars, housing, clothes, vacations, etc. you’ll be amazed how much more you have to give and save.
I have mixed views on the Biblical concept of tithing. On the one hand, I think 10% is a nice, round number and a great amount for people to give.
But I don’t see New Testament support to make it a requirement for Christians, and I see many preachers take Old Testament verses that were just for the Israelites and project them onto the New Testament. The only NT passage that I am aware of that mentions tithing is Matthew 23:23, and that was to point out the hypocrisy of the listeners (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former”).
Also, 10% was not the upper limit for the Israelites. My guess is that many of the people reading this could give more than that. We’re in the richest 2% of people who ever lived, and I think that as a country we’re wasting a huge opportunity to put our wealth towards advancing the Gospel and his kingdom around the world.
Some think they can’t afford to tithe, though God expected the poorest Israelite to give 10%. If you really want to give 10%, you can find a way. Think of it this way: If your boss cut your pay 10%, what would you do – die?
And the hypothetical wage cut figure really isn’t 10%, since your contributions are tax deductible. Roughly speaking, going from 0% giving to 10% would reduce your spending by roughly 8% or less. And if you are already giving, say, 5%, then it would only impact you by 4% of your income.
Most importantly, I really don’t like to over-emphasize anything that might turn giving into a legalistic enterprise, because that can take the fun out of it. Giving should be joyful!
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Yet if we really believe what Jesus said and don’t consider this next passage just a sound bite, our giving habits will reach into eternity. Right after we die I think we’ll have some serious regrets about how we handled our money much of the time, and some serious joy over the good decisions we made.
Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Is that enough of a contradiction for everyone? How do you help turn people on to the joys of giving without making it legalistic and burdensome?
Don’t be slaves to the 10% target, but don’t assume you are limited by it, either. You may be able to give much more. Are you taking advantage of the opportunity you have in this life to help advance God’s kingdom?
And when you give, give intentionally and give to God first. Don’t give him what is left over.
P.S. Here’s a good article on why the often-used example of Abraham is not a good justification for requiring tithing.