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Financial Giving During The Season Before Easter

Tithing: what does it mean to Christians today?

For many Christians, the season of Lent (from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday) is a particularly  important part of the church year. It is a time when believers are often called upon to give up or take on something in order to enhance their spiritual growth and walk with Christ. Pastors will often call upon churchgoers to give of their “time, talent or treasure” for a variety of charitable projects and ministries during the forty days of Lent.

In the year 604 Pope Gregory I (The Great) defined Lent as "The spiritual tithing of the year", a time of solemn spiritual and physical preparation for our own acceptance of salvation through Christ's sacrifice. Tithing is a sensitive subject, one that usually refers to the amount of money one gives each Sunday to the church, and it is often stated that 10% is the “required” tithe amount for Christians. The question is, 10% of what? Does tithing 10% refer to giving up ten percent of pretax or after tax income? What about all those other deductions – you know the ones that come out of your check for things like insurance and your 401(k)? And what do you do if money is tight? Many spiritual writers will tell you that you should give to your church first … but its impossible not to worry about the electric bill, groceries, etc., when one has just given away a chunk of an already small paycheck. Sure … Christians are called to have faith, but that is always easier in the theoretical sense  … and much harder in difficult financial times.

What exactly does the biblical command to “tithe” really mean? The Hebrew and Greek words for “tithe” both simply mean “a tenth.” The original biblical tithe consisted solely of the increase from land (grain, oil, wine) and herd animals and was given to provide food for festivals and to provide welfare food for widows, fatherless, orphans and the poor. The original biblical tithe was more of a command to give to those less fortunate than it was a legalistic 10% formula … in fact, the poor often received from the tithe rather than gave. Obeying an arbitrary, legalistic command which forces impossible choices during difficult times runs contrary to common sense and other biblical commands such as “good stewardship” of one's resources.

Which brings us back to the exhortation to give of one's “time, talent or treasure.” If “spiritual giving” is defined as giving 10% (or whatever one can) wholeheartedly of one's time, as well as one's abilities and talent … not just of one's monetary income, then the command makes greater sense for a larger number of believers today. Exactly the percentage given, or how that percentage is arrived at is a matter of conscience. Giving responsibly and cheerfully of one's abilities, income and time means that the giving affects more than just our disposable income. Charitable giving, or “tithing” should always be something that comes from the heart, not just the wallet.
Published Feb 28 2010, 03:52 PM by moneycoach
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