I recently stopped tithing and I didn’t even feel bad about it. Mostly because both my wife and I had been unemployed so there really was nothing to tithe from. But I started my new job this week and now I’m considering if we should continue on this course of holding back the holy “tenth” of our income.
I’ve been tithing since I received my first paycheck at minimum wage, working as a grocery bagger at Winn Dixie. I was taught that the tithe belongs to the Lord and over the course of my life was even threatened that if you don’t pay tithe for awhile, you owe interest on “back-tithe”.
As my relationship with God has matured, I grew into a more heart-based approach to giving. Many times I’ve stood on a stage talking about how God doesn’t need our money, but He wants our heart. An orphan heart is one that doesn’t believe they will be taken care of so they hold back the little they have.
I still believe giving is about our heart and yet here I am considering if we should not tithe.
The thing is that in this time of unemployment, we’ve gotten behind in our finances. We’ve been given quite a bit of money already by our parents and family, which was quite a humbling experience for me.
SIDE NOTE: Please stop saying how “humbled” you are when people say nice things about you or ask you to do important things. If you’re not humiliated, you’re not humbled. Use another word.
And yet, we’re still a little behind and every month some new, unexpected expense pops up. There’s no way I’m going to borrow money and then turn around and tithe on that money. We blew through all our savings that kept us afloat all these months I was out of work and so we have a decision to make.
We can tithe and be short every month on our bills or we can stop giving and play catch up.
I honestly don’t know if we’re going to do it. Not because I feel this obligation to give my “ten percent” but because I honestly do believe it’s a trust issue.
I’ve always put my trust in God with my actions. I trust Him with salvation by giving my life to Him. I trust Him with my gifts by using them for His glory (like this blog). I trust Him with my finances by tithing to the local church.
This isn’t a debate on whether tithing is right or wrong. I believe giving trumps not giving and the tithe is just a symbol of consistency with a precedent. I don’t feel the need to debate either side of that. I know what I believe and I’ve made peace with it.
But for me, the tension lies in this particular season. To give or not to give?
If I stopped tithing for a season to get my feet back under me and make sure we don’t run up our credit cards, is that a demonstration of not trusting God? Is it really faith to give ten percent of my income to the church, even if I could possibly go into debt?
I really don’t have the answer. I’m in the middle of it right now and I’m talking to God about it a lot. I’m not afraid that He’ll be upset with me for making the wrong decision. It’s a heart thing for me. If this is an opportunity to put my faith in Him and watch Him come through in a way that blows me away, I don’t want to miss that.
On the other hand, I don’t feel like pulling back my tithe is a fear-based decision. I think it could really just be a wise decision. We’ve been in transition and our finances have been in flux for a few months now. We’re preparing ourselves to get adjusted to a single income after being without any income for awhile.
Or maybe the 10 percent is what’s really hanging me up. Maybe the amount doesn’t really matter. I think of the story of the widow who brings her last two mites as an offering and she was honored above the wealthy people who brought much more. I really don’t know.
It makes me uncomfortable not having answers. Especially writing about not having answers. But I was talking to my friend Keith the other day, who is one of my favorite writers, and he said that he isn’t really interested in reading stories with all the answers. There’s a beauty in the tension and some of the most honest and powerful writing comes from wrestling with life’s tensions.
More than anything, I want to make a decision without fear. In a recent sermon, Jonathan Martin said that any decision made in fear is the wrong decision.
And fear does not exist in this dojo.