“To give or not to give”
Is NOT The Question
Every Christian knows that “giving” is what we do. No one questions it. It is automatic. Even new Christians, not yet schooled in the art of giving, have a nagging sense of responsibility to give. When urged to do so they give without hesitation, in most cases. This means, of course, that “Giving” or “Not Giving” is not the question.
The real question is “how much should one give and how regularly?”
Or to put it another way, how does one determine how much they should personally give? Is there biblical instruction, a rule of thumb to follow, or a general principle to apply?
Most of the responses to that question fall into one of two categories: Tithing or Grace Giving.
Tithing is contributing 10% of your net income (some say gross) to God’s purposes. That statement isn’t exactly clear. There are still questions to answer but the Grace concept is a little less definitive. I’ll share more just now.
Unfortunately, the discussion between the adherents of these two schools is often frictious. Not always but often and that isn’t strange. Money is a sensitive issue so we shouldn’t be surprised when people get lathered during discussions on right and wrong ways to manage it. For the record, just so you know, I’m not trying to start a fight here.
At the heart of this debate is the discussion about Old Testament Law. One side says the tithe is only an OT legalism rescinded by the Cross and the other says it spans the entire history of the Old and New Testaments, pre and post-law.
For now, I won’t focus on the “law” because we could discuss it forever and never agree. In fact, I have written about it elsewhere and the questions are never resolved. Suffice it to say, relative to tithing, the two sides see it differently and I’ll leave it at that.
The problem is, those on the “Grace” side of the argument, when pressed for details on how much, how often, and how regularly one should give, will quote a verse from 2 Corinthians 9.
Let each one give as he purposes in his heart… v. 7
And we all agree. That is a great verse of Scripture. One that Tithers and Grace Givers both accept and quote often. They differ, however, in how they treat the verse.
Grace Givers quote those words and leave it at that. Nough said. Figure it out.
Tithers think the phrase “purpose in your heart” needs to be unpacked a bit and they start by asking…
Which part of the heart are we talking about? The emotional part or the cerebral part?
If what we “purpose” to do is determined emotionally, there isn’t much more to discuss. Emotions are unreliable and inconsistent, so they can’t be the foundation for serious financial commitments. The interpretation would be…
Whenever you feel like it, give something, i. e., if you have something left to give.
But “cerebral” activity is different. It is synonymous with the thinking process by which we evaluate ideas and concepts and, when it comes to giving, the thinking person seeks to answer questions like:
- To what purposes should I give?
- How much should I give?
- How much can I afford to give?
- How often should I give?
- How continuously should I give?
- Where should I deposit this offering?
- Should “giving” become a regular or occasional item in the budget?
And so on.
To answer these questions, considerations must be made for:
- One, personal budget.
- Two, needs.
By needs, I mean the things offerings are invested in. Do the needs I’m sensitive to parallel the ones God is sensitive to or am I humanizing my giving?
To put it another way, is my giving funding needs God respects?
- Three, faith.
This is important because faith issues will sometimes conflict with budget issues, so faith prevents one’s financial situation from becoming the controlling factor in what a person offers.
Faith doesn’t trump the budget but it does balance our approach to budget considerations.
There is nothing sloppy or mystical about this approach OR tithing. A thoughtful person who has enough faith to be consistent has no problem accepting 10% as a legitimate amount to offer. It is reasonable.
In fact, one reason I believe tithing is for today is that it answers all the above questions even when the budget changes. The percentage stays the same so the actual amount one gives rises and falls with financial ups and downs but it is still tithing and still legitimate.
No one needs to rethink the issue every time their income changes.
So here is the point. Even if I didn’t believe the tithe was the biblically established baseline for giving, understanding “purpose” as described above, it definitely satisfies all the considerations.
Therefore, if you aren’t sure what to do, tithe. God will bless you for it.
If you disagree with tithing, at least be mindful about your approach to “Giving” and helpful enough to reduce your practice to a statement of principle we can all use.
But whatever you do, go well and be blessed.
In Tithing, Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. He doesn’t repeat the same worn out arguments the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he admits to being “no theologian or exegetical writer,” Douglas has found an intriguing way to cut to the real heart of the issue. He shares the experiences of eleven different couples and one lone Monsignor, all of whom practice tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.