The mathematics of tithing
I don’t know about you, but it seems like every single month the world throws money my way. Weeks after clearing a credit card, my wife and I were told that we were ‘pre-approved’ for a Line of Credit. The amount offered made us gasp. We have calls from banks telling us of new rates and better savings; We have people push flyers our way enticing us to ‘win-big!’
Money is deeply ingrained in the very manner in which we live; there is simply no way around it. We use money, we spend money, we save money. Yet so often we fail to view money in any sort of spiritual context. Money is seen as simply that which is used as we go through the functions of our every day lives. Yet peel back the layers and we find that money is able to exert a dominating and consuming force. The money we have, or long to have, controls us; it drives our action, establishes our focus, and demands our attention. Just think, how much time do we we dream of ‘striking it rich’, ‘hitting it big’, or moving from ‘rags-to-riches?’ It is, after all, the slogan that our contemporary world is built upon, yet this slogan is a lie. Too often those who win the lottery, who strike it rich, quickly find themselves in financial, moral, emotional, and spiritual bankruptcy.
Money promises freedom and happiness yet delivers slavery and depression. It keeps us in anxiety and fear. It tells us to be fearful of never having enough, despite the fact that too often that which it calls us to is far from necessary. It keeps us always focused on the riches we do not have, rather than highlighting the riches we do. Jesus knew that money too easily becomes a rival God demanding servitude. “You cannot serve both God and money (mammon),” he said. Jesus knew that the money is able to exert an intoxicating pull over us. Like a rival deity it demands an emotional attachment. We become emotionally tied to the trinkets we surround ourselves with. This unhealthy attachment sometimes means we find ourselves unable to part with the smallest of units. Is it any wonder that our modern world, so full of abundance, has produced such a soul-crippling problem as hoarding?
This is why the discipline of tithing can be so powerful. Tithing dethrones the rival power. It frees us from the emotional enslavement that money too often holds over our lives. In tithing we reclaim our proper place. This is because tithing, ultimately, is not actually about money. Tithing is about worship. It is about divine allegiance. In tithing we strip money of the sacredness that this world wrongly gives to it, and we again submit ourselves in humble faith to our Lord. We enter the joy and freedom found in living in a posture of dependence. Ours is not to strive and fret – ours is to humbly receive and give thanks. Consider the lilies and the birds, Jesus says.
There are many ways that we can enter into the discipline of tithing. While it does not have to be the typical 10%, we must resist the attempt to minimize its force. Tithing has a cost and we should feel it. We should not value our ownership of money over our life with God. That being said, if tithing is seen only as an obligation, or worse yet – a bill to pay – then we will never see it as an act of thanksgiving. In tithing we express our thanks to God for all of God’s blessings in life. It is an act of praise and worship. We become free from any sense of deserve or ownership over our money as we release it all into the hands of God. In doing so we render our confidence and trust.
Tithing is not about dollars and cents. It is not about 10% here and 10% there. Certainly, it is not about the cheques we write. Tithing is about our life with God; about our focus, our devotion, our worship. To that end, the mathematics of tithing should never equal 10%. No matter the particular amount, our tithes should always be a gift of 100% of ourselves.