2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
There are really 3 things the Bible talks about when it comes to giving of ourselves. They are the tithe, the offering, and alms. These are three very different and distinct things, but we are required to do them all as Christians.
How many times have you been getting ready to go to church and you log into your bank account online and see how much money you have left in there and then do this big, long mathematical problem to figure out if you can afford to tithe this week and how much you can afford?
I’m raising my hand.
We’ve all been there.
Just recently, when I started my new company, it was very sporadic as to when I would get paid. There were some months I did not take a pay check. I remember quite a few Sundays looking in my bank account and saying to myself, “can I afford to tithe this week?”
And, truth be told, there were some Sundays where I did not put anything into the plate simply because I had nothing coming into my bank account.
But what I want to look at this week is tithing and how those differ from offerings and alms. I’d also like to define this tithe a little better because a lot of people feel the tithe is only money.
Simply put, a tithe is 10%.
Ok, Fred, 10%. 10% of what exactly?
Malachi 3:10 – Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Now that my schizophrenic moment has passed, I want to be serious. The tithe is 10% of everything…off the top. Many churches call it the “3 T’s:” Time, Talent and Treasure.
The treasure part is easiest to define. We all get a paycheck. On average, most paychecks are comprised of 72% of the overall gross pay. So if you get paid $1,000, you will most likely bring home $720. Now that changes with bonuses and other one-time payments as the government taxes those at 45% or so. But to make the numbers easy, we are simply going to talk about that $1,000 GROSS paycheck.
Your company pays you $1,000 but the government gets their due. After you are done getting Uncle Sam to take his 28%, you are left $720.
YOUR TITHE IS 10% OFF THE TOP…the gross pay.
This means that when you get your paycheck, you should immediately take $100 and tithe that to your home church.
But, Fred, taking $100 each pay period means I can’t afford my mortgage or food or gas.
Here is my answer, and you are not going to like it.
If you can’t afford to give a tithe off 10% of the gross pay, then you are living above your means.
Proverbs 11:24 – One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Let me ask you, do you have one of those fancy smartphones that do everything and you are paying $117/month for? Most people who claim financial problems do.
How about cable or satellite TV? Are you paying your $74/month for that?
When you get your paycheck, you already know what bills you need to pay and you pay those based on the $720/check you receive.
If you took the $720 and reduced it by $100 and gave that to the church then put the rest toward your bills, that is what you would have to live off of, or $620/check.
I realize that is a scary proposition. Money is necessity in this day and age. And most families do not have enough money.
But most families also do not have a budget set.
I bet if you polled the average church-going family and asked them to show you their weekly budget, they would not be able to show it to you. You would get a lot of people thinking hard about the bills they pay and you might hear something like, “well, I have to pay the mortgage, then the child care, then I have the car payment, college loans, etc….”
Not a lot of people have it written down and modify it as bills change or salaries change.
At the end of this post, I will list some action items for each of you to get you on track with your tithing and your finances.
Also in the tithe is our talent and time. When I was not making any money with my company, I had the thought every day that I can’t give time to God because I need to pour more into my company. Yes, I needed to work smarter, but I did not need to sacrifice the time I gave to God to make it happen.
Psalm 4:5 – Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
You have 24 hours in a day. 1,440 minutes. We should work up to 144 minutes per day being dedicated to God.
Now I will readily admit that this is where I fail Him.
But just like our money, we should be budgeting our time.
This time with God could be spent completely in prayer. I’ve done that before. But then again it could be spent reading your Bible, singing praises to God, reading books from other authors about God and Biblical studies, or attending church events.
I try every morning to spend at least 30 minutes in the Word. I start with the Bible verse of the day that is sent to my phone and pray about that. Then I take that verse and try to follow it systematically throughout the Bible. I will have a concordance with me and look up the basic meaning of the verse.
For example, today, my morning verse 1 Timothy 4:13. This is a verse about reading Scripture. Not just reading it, but reading it in public. Preaching and teaching it. So after I read that verse, I prayed and asked God to give me wisdom with regard to it. Then I dug into my concordance and came up with Psalm 119 (my favorite chapter in the entire Bible, by the way), Nehemiah 8:1-18 and Revelation 1:1-3. I followed the Bible through the Old and New Testaments to learn about God’s Word.
That took up about 30 minutes of my morning.
In the evening, I try to spend about an hour on God. I’ll read some verses or spend some time writing things like this blog or my message for Wednesdays. But I will also read some books by my favorite authors and teachers. Right now I am reading Life on Mission. I’ll come up with plans to help incorporate those teachings into my life as well as the lives of those I teach.
But as you can see, I am still about 60 minutes shy of a time tithe to God!
As I write this, there are many days I just want to do something mindless like play xbox or games on my phone. I have plenty of time that I could find without having to stay up extra late or get up extra early.
I simply need to budget my time better.
Ephesians 5:15-17 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And I bet each of us are like that. That we all have pockets of time we could dedicate to God that we are selfishly dedicating to self.
Finally, we should be tithing our talent. We should be engaged in ministries in the church. This can fit within the construct of time, as you don’t need to spend 144 minutes a day at church.
We are called to go and make disciples.
Discipleship is a life-long calling.
We are put into peoples’ lives for a purpose, to engage them about Christ.
When we begin engaging about Christ, then find that well over 2 hours of our day, even if we are not directly preaching the Gospel, is being used for Christ.
Let me explain.
A friend of yours is going through a tough time in life. They need someone to talk to. You spend your lunch break texting them inspiration or even just calling to check in with them. You are showing love. Christ’s love. That is tithing of your talent.
When you are sitting in a meeting and the presenter forgets to turn off the lights before showing the Powerpoint. If you get up and quietly turn off the lights for the group, you are showing love toward them. Christ’s love.
When a ministry in church needs help, EVERY CHRISTIAN should step up and help. No ministry should ever be without people to help. If there are ministries in your church that are suffering and you have not offered to help and you are not currently helping in any ministry, you are not tithing your talent.
Now I am not saying we should count how many hours we spend doing “Christ-related” things. That would be ridiculous. But we should never allow a church ministry to suffer while we stand on the sidelines and we should constantly be growing in Christ to the point where we desire to spend more and more time in Him.
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
As I promised, here are some basic steps to tithing properly.
Begin with your take home pay and subtract out 10% of the top line pay. If you make $1,250 before taxes, take $125 and set that aside for the church immediately. The rest can be used for your regular bills and savings.
- Do not live above your means
You never want to be paying more than 60% of your take home pay in bills. If you are doing that, you will never be able to save enough money in case of emergencies. When I left the corporate world and started my own company, I had some very lean months where I did not pay myself. If I hadn’t had money in my bank account that would last me 6 months, I would have been late on all my bills and in significant financial strain.
I have to admit that I have not been very good at following mine. The example I use is from a pastor I heard once who said that we have 21 time slots a week. Give 2 of those slots to God. Give 6 of those slots to your family. The rest can be spent doing work or personal. And with the family, at least 2 sets of 2 of them need to be consecutive. For example, there are 3 slots per day, morning, afternoon, and evening. If you are going to work the morning, make sure you have the afternoon and evening available for your family.
If you aren’t. You should be. ‘Nuff said!
James 4:13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.