To Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s

My co-worker and fellow blogger shared this article with me in which the columnist challenged people, in the new year and the new decade, to look at a few things through fresh eyes. The writer listed 52 suggestions, one for every week of the year. This week’s topic is tithing.

I’m putting this topic on hold for now. It’s a topic I’m exploring personally aside from this re-thinking project, and I’m not quite where I need to be with it to formulate my thoughts much less write about them here. But I will, before the year is out.

The above was published May 7, 2010. Updated Sept. 29, 2011.

Well, I didn’t write about tithe thoughts by the end of 2010, but at least I made it by the end of 2011.

There is more than one way to look at tithing. Some look at it as an Old Testament command that is no longer required or necessary after Jesus came. Tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament yet giving is. And then there’s the traditionalists that believe in the 10 percent tithe, and some combine the tithing + giving ideals and go with God expects 10 percent but cheerful giving is giving above and beyond that.

My current beliefs are not based any one or two verses or on others’ beliefs or theories. My beliefs are not even based on what my parents taught me, which was that for every $10 of allowance I got $1 went to church. My belief is based on what I have experienced Scripture and the Holy Spirit revealing to me personally.

Around the time of this original post, in May 2010, John and I had recently started giving to church again. We had been lax about it for years. When we lived in Indiana we were faithful tithers, calculating 10 percent to the penny and then rounding up to the next closest $5 or $10, and that small “excess” was our giving.

When we moved back to Huntsville, after Finn as born in 2003, neither one of us was working for some time. No money in meant no money to tithe on. We didn’t just “give” either. Slowly we found jobs — low-paying jobs for what we were accustomed to — and now we had a baby. So it became easy to not give, sometimes not at all and definitely not 10 percent. It occasionally bugged John, and he would say “we need to start giving again” and we might give a little for a week or two or three — never back up to 10 percent but a $50 check here or there — but never consistently. Something always came up right? An unexpected bill, too much spending, etc. We didn’t trust God to take care of us. We didn’t acknowledge our lack of trust but that’s what it really comes down to.

In April 2010, I finished our income tax forms, and instead of getting a refund like we had every other year we were going to have to pay. We were going to have to pay thousands. The IRS listed suggestions for how to not have to pay in the future, one of which was to increase charitable donations. We calculated that if we gave even just $100 a week — $5200 a year — it would put us into a lower tax bracket, so that’s what we committed to. It wasn’t 10 percent. Being transparently honest — we didn’t trust God enough to give Him that much of “our” money — it’s all His to begin with right? — and we selfishly wanted our money for us. It wasn’t for the right reasons. But, we justified, it was a start.

So each week I wrote $100 a week check to the church. Two months later, when John died, I kept writing that $100 a week check. My income was now greatly, greatly reduced. $100 a week was more than the 10 percent tithe on my current income, and I had a small laugh inside when I realized — God gets his 10 percent one way or the other. We weren’t willing to give 10 percent. We were willing to give $100. So He changed our/my income to match what we/I were willing to give. Now of course I wanted to back off $100 and tithe just the 10 percent but I stuck with the $100 … for a while.

When I left my job back in April, not working and thus having no earned income made it all too easy to stop giving altogether.

So lately I’ve been wondering and praying over what God would want me to give now, in this current season. I am not working and thus not bringing money in. Do I tithe on what non-working money comes in? Those provisions are gifts from Him, so I should at least be giving back some to Him, which is the spirit of tithing and giving anyhow.

Then God sent me to the passage in Luke 21 about the widow’s mite.

1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

I am not poor or poverty. God has blessed. But I used to be the one giving out of wealth, giving out of excess, giving what I didn’t even miss. If the amount got high enough that I might actually miss the money and feel the impact, that was too much. But what good is giving if you don’t even notice. The reason John and I never got back up to 10 percent is because when we calculated it, it was too much; it was more than we wanted to give up. Again, being honest, $100 was some week’s less than we spent eating out. Had we given 10 percent, we would’ve had to live differently, we would’ve have had to sacrifice (possibly sacrifice all that eating out), and we chose that was too high a price.

I don’t want to choose this life and forfeit my soul any longer (Matt. 16:26). I pray I never again not give to God, who so generously gives to us.


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