An Open Letter to the church from the Church on Tithing

TitheDear church,

You want us to tithe, and we can appreciate that. We’ve listened to your sermons, read your books, and understand all of the arguments for tithing as both a principle and a discipline.

But there are a couple of things we feel the need to talk about:

Tithing is hard for a lot of people, often for reasons you don’t completely know about. That’s okay. The fact that it’s difficult doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. In fact, sacrifice matters because it’s difficult. So in spite of hardship, many of us still give.

You need to honor this sacrifice. These people in your churches, often ones who the least least to spare, give because they believe in the principle of tithing, they’re passionate about compassionate work, and they trust you. It’s time for you to start asking difficult questions about how that money’s spent.

We’re giving to Jesus through you

You have convinced us that giving is an act of worship, and we believe it. So we give joyfully with the expectation that those finances will be used to further Christ’s kingdom and facilitate the work he’s passionate about.

We realize the needs of the church have to be met. Offerings keep the doors open and the lights on. But as church finances grow, the budget doesn’t need to grow, too. We don’t necessarily need an espresso bar, a smoke machine, or a huge staff, but we do need to know that money is getting to the needy.

If we got to see our finances at work touching lives and meeting needs, we’d be happy to feel like we’re tightening our belt in other areas. As a matter of fact, a lot of the crap we invest in so people will feel like we’re cool and relevant isn’t nearly as attractive as being mobilized with our time, energy, and finances toward issues that matter.

People are aching to be a part of a revolutionary movement that’s significant.

The church in Acts (not to mention most churches in the rest of the world) didn’t use their facilities as an evangelistic tool. In fact Acts 2 suggests that the time people spent in each other’s homes sharing what they had with each other did more to grow the church than a bigger sanctuary or new carpets and chairs ever could.

Sometimes these things may be a necessity; that’s fine. Let’s make sure that we’re struggling with every decision to spend money on stuff that serves us. Let’s not fall for the idea that somehow spending money on us is for the benefit of others.

The church (not just the people) needs to start tithing

We want you to do what you expect from us. Start giving 10% away—right up front. If we don’t place others first, we’re going to continue running the risk of investing money into facilities and things that are important to us but not necessarily to Jesus.

We’re not talking about what we’re required to give to our denominations or missions. We want to see 10% of our collective finances poured into the lives of the needy in our own community. Where our treasure goes is where our hearts will follow. Why don’t we pour that out on the people we say we want to serve?

That’s just a start. We’d love to see the church grow in the percentage it’s able to give away. Many of us followers would be happy to meet in a parking garage if we felt like we were doing work that was powerful, life-changing, and significant.

Don’t tell us why the tithe is important—model it. We want to give. We’re happy to give. We only want to feel like it matters.

Love,
The Church

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20 Responses

  1. froginparis says:

    Last year, about this time, the church we attended posted on FB pictures of new HD screens and sound system.
    Counting Mutant commented, “Because God is so much better in high definition and surround sound.”
    They deleted their post. We didn’t last much longer.

  2. Whenever I give for the tithe collection at Mass, I usually add a quick mental prayer of, “May this money go directly toward helping someone in need.” As to whether it actually does, well, that’s a whole another matter…
    It’s nice to hear someone else talk about this issue. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

  3. repearwo2012 says:

    Tithing is made unto God in the Church Eternal, not the church divided. When the Church actually acts life God and tears down the false barriers between Man and God, I will listen to them ask for money. They might also want to re-purpose those expensive buildings that eat power and sit empty most of the time.
    Lord make me a better servant in your service each day.

  4. Right on. I usually remain quiet about what I’m about to say, but …. our church use to be small and sweet and now it is big and flashy. The missions and initiatives are fantastic – they increase their giving out by 1% every year and I think they are up to 16% or 17% now. The messages are wonderful – but the staff is gigantic and the buildings are – wow – and I struggle. We’ve recently started visiting another church that is small, no flash and they give away 65% to global and local missions. It’s beautifully refreshing. Love this post and will share it!

    • Yeah, that seems to be the challenge. As a church grows in it’s financial giving, it should be growing in it’s compassionate giving.

      Just like people, churches tend to think that extra money coming in is license for growth. I have served in lots of churches of the last 20 years, and there’s a lot of money going to staff members that are often superfluous (not always mind you.)

  5. oppelaar says:

    I really appreciate reading your posts, Jayson. This one, especially. I have a close friend who is a devout Christian who hasn’t been able to find God in a church setting for a while. Instead, her family does a tithe each month and spends it directly helping someone in our community… Making meals and delivering them, helping someone fix their car, making up the difference in missing rent to save a family from being evicted from their home, etc. Even as an Agnostic family, we have a sort of tithe: Our responsibility to our community and living our commitment to model and lead lives of purposeful inclusion and giving, for our children and ourselves.
    Growing up directly in the line of church politics as a pastor’s daughter and even now, seeing how the church at large spends those tithes in the world… I think this is a message that would be likely to entice people to come to church who are feeling alienated or disillusioned by current practice.

  6. I have decided, after years of experience & having lived in 7 states, to never become an official member of any church that does not annually publish and provide a breakdown of salaries to the membership. I now believe if the leadership keeps details from those providing the cabbage, well there’s usually a hidden agenda. Call me a skeptic and you’d on target with that!

  7. froginparis says:

    I shared your post on FB. Brent Orman, expatriate friend of mine who lives in Austria said this:
    Very good advice to the Church but I sort of question the whole tithe principal in the first place. It’s clear that Israel was required to give tithes. I believe even more than 10 percent of certain things. The only clear mandate for the Church is the principle of giving from the heart which can also be much more than 10 percent but should not be out of Compulsion. That’s the problem. My former church always pushed tithes above offerings using miskewed and out of context Old Testament bible verses. It caused people to give from compulsion which seems legalistic. Anyways the article is right on about how churches lose their focus with finances. So much is invested to keep the machine running, to keep it attractive, seeker friendly, cool, contemporary. Some churches attain such large firm-like overheads. It makes you wonder if the church was really meant to be run like a business.?

    • Tithe has become separated from OT law and is simply a euphemism in most churches for giving.

      I think to drag that baggage into this post misses the point.

      In truth it’s all Jesus’ but that’s really not the point.

      Also, how are we not FB friends?

      • brent says:

        Valid point Jason and it was thought of as an extra note to your main point which I liked. So I can understand that it could be seen as baggage and not really the point of what you were wanting to say. Still I think it’s a valid point if one wants to seriously ask a church what they’re doing with their finances. Perhaps today it IS used as a euphemism and I can clearly make that distinction. Still in many churches it is not taught clearly and therefore people are meant to believe they must give a certain amount (percentage) in order to please God. Churches can profit greatly by this. Yes, perhaps I’ve been burned in the past therefore I tend to veer toward extremes. Still it is too easy to call the tithe a mere euphemism of something from the past. It simply is not always the case. People see through it and they leave the church or they stop giving. Therefore the thought was that I believe your question to the church concerning giving was good. I think my question to the church is also valid….and yes, in many churches ‘tithing’ is truly a heavy baggage that people shouldn’t have to carry. God bless

  8. Kathee Lyndon says:

    These are valid points. Churches need to be accountable and transparent in their use of God’s money. But I don’t believe there exists a church at which every member agrees with every detail of it’s finances. I do believe this is an excuse to not be giving to one’s local church. I believe most Christians today look for reasons to NOT give to their local assembly. What a fine line pastors must try to walk to not offend (horrors) their members and yet give clear teaching on the biblical principle of giving – of which the tithe is a worthy example. And then there’s the issue of giving time; say to lay leadership positions which seek to prayerfully guide and direct the money which comes in…

    • Thanks for your response, Kathee. A couple thoughts on your points:

      1. Of course you’re right, not everyone agrees. Consensus is not really the point. Making sure that the church thinks through the responsibilities involved with handling the worship offering of people is really the bigger issue here. It’s never going to be completely trouble free. I’ll be happy when it’s sobering and carefully decided, primarily focused on the things that matter most to Christ.

      2. Do you know how many sermons, books, teachings, classes, and conferences I have sat through or taught on the responsibility to give as both a pastor or congregant? Thousands.
      Adversely, do you know how many discussions I have heard on the responsibility for the church to treat that money wisely and with the utmost respect because it is ultimately the Lord’s and not the congregation’s? Zero.
      I think the sheep get hammered on not giving enough. This was about the fiscal responsibility of the church.

      Thanks again for the comment, Kathee.

  9. Tim says:

    Your encouragement to church leadership to consider its own stewardship in giving the money away is golden. I’ve brought the same thing up when I was on the Elder Board and it seems that some in leadership (pastors and lay elders) are quite averse to the thought of giving money to people or organizations that will administer it outside the giving church’s own ministries.
    Tim
    P.S. I’m glad you cleared up in a comment response that the 10% issue is not what’s important in this post. Tithing is not at all New Testament.

  1. April 16, 2014

    […] Really interesting article about tithing by Jayson Bradley. It’s framed as a letter from the church, to the church, and it touches on some important aspects of stewardship. […]

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