The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
For years I taught the tithe, giving ten percent of what we earn, back to God. It was an easy way to help people know what God expected from them. But in the gospels, Jesus mentions the tithe primarily in a negative way, describing how the tithe is falsely interpreted. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Mt. 23:23). Over time, the ten percent has become like the Christian tax.
I cannot count the number of times people have come to me, asking about the tithe as if I was some religious tax preparer. They ask questions like, “Is the ten percent before or after taxes?” “Can I include the money I give my children as part of my tithe?” Etc. Etc. Etc. The meaning is in the knowledge that it is all God’s bounty, otherwise the gift is somehow diminished.
Instead of making a law out of the tithe, perhaps it is better to rethink our stewardship. In reality, ten percent of our income isn’t God’s, but all of it is God’s. When we realize that it is all God’s, it challenges us to rethink every dollar we spend. It is far more challenging and spiritual than simply paying the Christ tax. It forces us to ask, “Is this expense what God wants us to make?” Now, we are forced to consider the home we live in, the car we drive, the trips we take, the furniture etc., that we spend. God wants us to have enough to find meaning and not be a burden on others, but not so much as to be selfish, when there is so much need around us. It requires prayerful reflection on all our spending.
Today, think about the ways you are using God’s money that was entrusted to you. Pray for God to give you the wisdom to use God’s money well, so you have enough, but not too much. Then, pray for God to help you learn how to give in ways that strength the “body of Christ,” and those in need. Finally, thank God for the financial resources you’ve been given that have blessed your life. This isn’t about guilt, but about being a good steward of God’s resources.