Practially Speaking…

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I finished up our “Monopoly Series” on Sunday by talking about tithing (returning 10% of your income to God).  In the big picture, tithing is about trusting…you can listen to the message by downloading it here:  Monopoly:  How to Really Win.

I had some great feedback and some really fantastic questions coming out of the message that were super-practical.  I thought I’d take a shot at them here:

Where should my 10% go?  All of it to the church?  Is it OK to split it among other charities that carry Christ’s message?  I feel like I’m the worst person to answer this question because I’m a pastor and people could definitely perceive a bias here.  First..and I hope this theme runs through all of these questions…I think the worst thing we could do in talking about tithing is to get legalistic and lose the spirit and joy of generosity.  So on one hand, I really want to say “do what you sense God is asking you to do”.  Here’s how I see it (and practice it) biblically:  The Bible talks about tithes and offerings.  in some ways you could say tithes (10%) expected to go to the temple (their place of worship) and offerings (pure generosity above 10%).  For Jenny and I we give just over 10% in our regular “tithe” to Suncrest (where we worship) and then try to do what we can on top of that as an “offering”.  That would be anything from special offerings at Suncrest (benevolence, etc) to supporting friends of ours who are missionaries to giving to faith-based or charitable organizations like breast cancer research, etc.

Should I tithe if I’m already focused on getting out of debt?  It’s a fair question purely form a dollars and cents perspective.  But I would still answer yes because tithing is about trusting God and involving Him in your financial situation.  What he does in his blessing has the power to transform you beyond the math.  Each story is different, but when I hear people tell stories from this perspective it has always been how they found God’s hand on them (blessing) overcoming their debt when they tithed.  And they feel as if something is working against them getting out of debt if they don’t.

What should I do if I disagree with my spouse on this issue?  I think there are 2 categories to this. 

First, in a setting where you want to to give, but your spouse is not a believer, I wouldn’t make an issue out of it at all.  Doing things that push him or her further from interest in the faith is almost always a bad strategy.  The priority here is to live in a way that your spouse would be attracted to the faith. 

Second, in a setting where you are both believers, I think you have to at least have some challenging conversations about trusting God, the example you want to set for your children, the blessings that you could potentially experience.  I talked with a lady Sunday who told me she really held back on this area, but her husband pushed on it…and today years later she is on board because of the blessings and the feeling of being generous.  Having said that, this issue is not worth the overall health of your marriage.  To the one who wants to tithe…Don’t be legalistic about this and then pay a price in your relationship.  To the one who doesn’t…I’d only be disappointed (especially if you are the man and expected by God to be the primary spiritual leader of your home) that given the chance to lead your family to trust God and experience blessings, you actually lead in the other direction.

10% is a lot.  How about if I start at 4% and get to 10% over the next few years?  I’ve used the phrase in the past that “10% is a great place to grow to and 10% is a great place to grow from.”  Then I heard someone teach that if God is asking for 10% then 8% is disobedience.  That’s a little strong for me and doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of Jesus.  But I can still see their point if you really want to experience God’s full blessing.  That powerful passage in Malachi about robbing God does say “bring the whole tithe.”  Again, do what God you sense God is telling you to do and what you can do with cheerful heart.  Give out of conviction, not compulsion.  There is a HUGE difference.

Should I tithe on my gross income or after-tax income?  Again, don’t be legalistic about this.  We tithe on the gross because I believe what I read from Jesus on Sunday…”With the measure you use, it (the blessing) will be measured to you.”  Start with “net” if you want.  I just believe after you do it for a while, you’ll decide to do it on gross.

Why set the testing time-frame at 90 days?  I want you to know there is nothing Biblical about this.  it’s just a time frame that felt like something that was the right mix between attainable and something that would stretch people.  Most importantly, it gives you a season during which you can live with your eyes wide open to see how God is blessing you.

I can’t wait to hear the stories that come from this.

~ by Greg Lee on February 9, 2008.

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