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Tithing in the real world

Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. Deuteronomy 14:22


Dear Friends in Christ,


The Vestry recently discussed tithing, a concept we found challenging but eventually rewarding to investigate. As a result, we formed a Clergy and Vestry Statement on Stewardship and Tithing (see below). But how does tithing work in the real world? How does a working person really give 10% away? What does it look like to be that generous if you are not rich?


Mostly, I know my own story the best, so I’ll start there and add how other people have made a similar journey. I had heard about stewardship growing up, and I had watched my parents make choices that trusted God in very material ways. We were certainly not rich. And yet, God cared for us, and we had enough. I was a teenager when the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday really caught my attention. Jesus encouraged his followers to be generous to others, and “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). It’s not about you, it’s about what your gift can do for God and for others. I watched my older brother save his money to send our mom and dad on a special trip. All of these things combined to value trust in God and other-oriented, intentional generosity.


When I got out of college, I thought about my budget, and I remembered hearing about tithing. Some people think of tithing as any gifts to the church. “Tithe” is an old word that simply means a tenth. The Bible called for giving a tenth of one’s income to honor God and support the Temple, the widows, orphans and immigrants. As I started a new job and worked to pay off student loans, I set aside a percentage of my income to give to the church and other charities. This became a standard commitment, like rent. Over time, I increased this percentage, especially as I paid off loans or received raises. In a few years, I was giving 10% of my net paycheck. Then I started to move toward giving 10% of my gross earnings. Sometimes I would see how much I was spending on fun things, and I thought of the needs of others by comparison, and I made sure these areas of my life were balanced in some way. I sought God’s direction in all of this.


What was interesting to me is that I never felt a sense of scarcity. I felt as if God was caring for me, and that I had enough. Sometimes I would save up and have extra, only to find that the car broke down or some other need arose. But I noticed also how God had provided a way for me to cover that need, so it was easy to be thankful. One year, I decided to squeeze my giving a little higher than 10%. Within a week or two, I received a raise. In fact, the dollars I had budgeted brought the percentage giving back to the same percent it had been! God provided for the generosity he called me to.


I’m not saying this is an investment strategy. This is a practice that continues to show how God provides for us. And all these reminders are sources of great joy, and sources of confidence when finances get strained. When I went to seminary, I wasn’t earning an income. We had some money set aside for seminary to carry my family and I through. But God blessed us with scholarships that supported us. When seminary was done, we still had some of that savings and we were able to give away 10% of that savings in thanksgiving for God’s provision for us. That provision, and that thanksgiving, continues.


Some have asked “Is it 10% of net income, taxable income, or gross income?” “What about capital gains distributions or gifts?” All these are practical questions that people ask about tithing. The Bible offers no such detailed legislation. In fact, God wants 100%! These detail questions are things to ask God for your own discernment: “what is the best discipline for me? How can I honor you [God] best? How can I stretch my generosity this year?” And then, “show me how your generosity makes this possible.” God will show you!


So many others have walked this journey. When they give God what is left over, they never have enough. But when they put God first, they have plenty and to spare. What steps could you take to stretch your generosity or to move toward tithing? How would that re-orient the rest of your budget? Give it a try, and watch what God can do in your life.


Yours in Christ,


-Tom


 

Clergy and Vestry Statement on Stewardship and Tithing

Adopted by the Vestry, Monday, August 21, 2023


We believe that God is the source of abundant spiritual, physical, and material gifts. A faithful response to our loving God in gratitude for all that we have is joyful giving of our time, talent, and treasure.

We, the undersigned members of the Clergy and Vestry of the Episcopal Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, pledge and give financially to the parish, and we commend the Biblical standard of tithing as a life-changing and joyful Christian practice. We encourage all parish members to pledge and give and prayerfully work toward and embrace tithing, under God’s guidance.


Susan Sherrard, Sr. Warden

Dale Dodson, Jr. Warden

Chuck Matheson, Treasurer

Tom Mimms, Clerk

Susan Chesshire, Recorder

Lisa Doss

Win Halkyard

Leigh Mickalonis

Jonathan Nadybal

Anne Wright

The Rev. Tom Pumphrey, Rector

The Rev. Elisa Harres, Associate Rector

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