More on Tithing and The Church

I had a conversation earlier today with a good friend of mine over my post earlier this week on money. We both agree that we are called to give radically (in all areas--not just money), going beyond tithing. He was questioning, though, if we must tithe to a church (disclaimer: I'm going to paraphrase some of his thoughts--combining them with things I've heard elsewhere and examples that he didn't necessarily say). He doesn't like the fact that in most cases, more than 90% of a church's budget goes to infrastructure (salary, materials, building upkeep). He would rather have the money go to organizations that use the money more directly in ministry--helping the poor, the homeless, the hungry--rather than going to salaries and buildings. Yet, at the same time, he would admit that he would give to the person begging on the corner without needing to know where the money would be going, feeling that Jesus calls us to help without questioning the results, but he admits that he has a hard time giving to the church knowing where the money is going. He knows there's a disconnect there, but he'd rather give to things like Gospel for Asia or a local homeless shelter. And I completely understand where he's coming from.

I don't know if I had (or have) formulated my thoughts enough to verbalize them well. But I do believe that our tithing starts at the local church to where we belong. Probably some of that is based upon the fact that I have been in ministry and hope to someday return to it. I also am aware that the church isn't perfect. It is often too structured, too bureaucratic, too hierarchical. It often puts programs and tradition before people and outreach. Too often the leadership is driven by politics (the fear of being voted out or moved to another diocese if they don't appease everyone) rather that prophetical ministry.

But I also believe that the church is what God has given us to be a community of followers who love Him and love others. I believe the church (by which I don't mean a certain building, but the collective people) has great potential to change the world (for the better), to usher in the Kingdom and to have effective ministry.

I also find it interesting that one of the few examples we have of Jesus dealing with money is when he has Peter catch a fish with a coin in it's mouth with which Peter is supposed to pay for his and Jesus' portion of the temple tax which was used for the upkeep of the Temple (see Matthew 17:24-26). I've always felt that our tithe first goes to the church and our support of other ministries is above and beyond that. Of course, if the church was fully doing it's job, we wouldn't need para-church ministries. And if we were all tithing, there would be more than enough resources for the church to do those ministries itself.

Which all goes back to us needing to be radical givers and stewards of what we have--time, talents, possessions and money. I don't have all the answers on church or tithing. I'd love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I'm giving. Even when it hurts.

1 comment:

Douglas Dart said...

Thank you brother. If it doesn't hurt, it isn't a sacrifice, and the nature of love is sacrifice.