November 1, 2012

November is Pledge Month at Lakeshore, a time to think through our financial commitments to God and church, and to assess our personal budgets from a faith perspective. Since discussion of money is often a social taboo, it can be challenging to think through, and articulate, exactly what it means to give to God and church, how much is the “right” amount to give, and perhaps most importantly, why we make this commitment in the first place.

Let me begin with a confession. I do not give 10% of my income to the church. I know that is often held up as the litmus test for good stewardship, and if that is what it means to be a faithful giver, I fail the test. I’ve never been very good about living up to set standards of what it means to be a “good Christian.”

So what about the Biblical mandate? Tithing, or giving 10% of your livestock or agricultural yield to God, was an ancient Israelite practice. The tithe was then used for a sacred meal shared with the family, the priests, and every third year, with the poor and needy in the community. By the time of the prophets, it was clear that even more important than the tithing of resources was following God’s moral laws. Micah 6:6-8, which stands as part of Lakeshore’s mission statement, reminds us that what God ultimately requires of us is to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

Jesus was equally concerned with how people treated others much more than how much they publicly tithed to God. Tithing has evolved since Biblical times to indicate the setting aside of a portion of one’s time, talent and treasure for God and the church.

I find the sharing of my resources with God and the church is essential to the living out of my faith. I strive to give a significant portion of all I have, as a way of continuing to align all that I am with all that I believe. So to answer my questions above – for myself at least – here is what I currently believe, and practice, regarding tithing:

  • It is important for me to give a portion of my income to God as a reminder that I want God to be more important to me than money. In a society that often deifies the dollar, giving away some of this precious commodity is a way of reminding myself of what, or in whom, I put my trust.
  • I give to the church because I believe in the work we are doing. Through Lakeshore, I am able to worship God and grow in my faith. I am provided opportunities to serve others and assist those in the community who have needs. Lakeshore reminds me what it means to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God, and I want to support these efforts.
  • I give beyond the church because I believe in the work of many other organizations – other institutions that work to justice, kindness and humbly walking with God are worth supporting.
  • Because I currently have more money than I did in the past, I want my giving to reflect this. As my income grows (or shrinks) it is important for these changes to be reflected in my stewardship practices.
  • It is important for me to give more than I am comfortable giving. Giving does not have to be sacrificial, but it should be significant. I want my offerings to help shape who I am; to this end, it is important for me to struggle to give more than I would otherwise want to part with.

I hope in sharing some of where I am at with tithing, it will encourage you to reflect on your own stewardship practices, and how your relationship with money reflects your relationship with God and the church.

Peace,
Allison