It happened again. I'm sitting there in a service, listening to a wonderful sermon. "Use your talents for God." Yeah, I'm doing that with my writing. I'm going to use my talents more! In my mind I'm marching around the room like a triumphant toddler leading a marching parade because I feel this. I'm doing this. I can do this more. I know what my God given talent is and I finally figured out how to use it for His service. I am feeling this sermon.
Then he drops the last part of his sermon. He talks about tithing and my inner toddler stops. No, this isn't where we were heading. I don't want to hear about this one. Not again. I whine internally as my inner toddlers goes to pout in the corner. As I'm sitting there, internally pouting, I wonder why do I have such a problem with the tithing sermons?
This isn't the first time. I've been to many different churches, many different Christian denominations and that tithing sermon seems to peek its head out at each of them. So it wasn't confined the grass roots, heavy duty church. It wasn't confined to the little mega-church. And it wasn't confined to the middle of the road church. However, no matter the setting I always grumble and complain whenever I hear THAT tithing sermon.
In case you aren't familiar I will give you a very brief run down (although I'm sure if you've attended church you know what tithing is). In the Bible it says that you are to give ten percent of what you earn to God. In our church settings that is usually counted as giving to your church. Now, I will be the first to admit that I don't tithe the way that I should. I have in the past and it's been difficult with having four kids and bills, and there's always the unexpected fees for clubs, the unexpected expense (what do you mean you have no more pants left that fit? When did that happen?!), the unexpected. It always pops up and I've not been diligent. We don't live an extravagant lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination but there's always something.
I will call myself out and be the first to say that this something that I need to work on. So before you send me your angry comments about how if I tithed better, I wouldn't have a problem with tithing sermons...I'm aware. It's really hard to pay something that is as large as another large bill. That's not the point of this message. I have had a problem with tithing sermons even when I was tithing diligently. So it isn't that its stepping on my sinful little toes.
Have you ever had a friend that you've finally convinced to come to church with you. You know that beloved friend who really doesn't dig the church setting, maybe they even have had bad experiences with churches before and doesn't trust the church. You sit in the pew, convinced that this will be the time that your friend hears something that strikes their heart with love and they realize what it's all about. And then it happens... you find out that this will be THE tithing sermon. Needless to say, your friend politely declines the invitation to come again. Yes, that's actually happened to me. Aw man! Not today! Why today?!?
I think for me, in part it might could be traced back to being a child of the eighties. For those not familiar, that was the era of the television evangelist. Send us your money and we'll pray for you. All your sins will be paid away, something along those lines. Seemingly honest men of God, standing on television telling us good things about God and about healing and what God can do for you. Don't forget to send that check now. We then found out shortly after that these so called men of God were actually taking these poor innocent people's money and using it for themselves. It was and still is despicable. And it put a huge hurt on the image of God's people in the non-believer's eye. So for me, I think there is a little something deep inside that cringes when you mention money during a sermon. I know the people of the churches that I have attended were in no shape or form anywhere close to these bad guys from my childhood television though.
So maybe it's those three points: Stepping on my guilty toes. Turning off the visitor from coming back again. Keeping money and sermon separate for fear of the money grubbers.
I have had the thought that most of us know that we need to tithe so instead of actually preaching about it, perhaps it would be better to send home a special newsletter related to the tithe. The newsletter would not need to go to visitors so that would help on that end and it would be a gentle reminder not stepping on my toes in the middle of a sermon.
The Bible does specifically say that you supposed to tithe. Tithe actually means tenth, which is the amount you are supposed to give. Here are some verses to check out about it:
Gen. 14:19-20; Gen. 28:20-22; Lev. 27:30-34; Num. 18:21; Num. 18:26; Deut. 12:5-6;
Deut. 14:22; Deut. 14:28-29; 2 Chron. 31:4-5; Neh. 10:35-37; Prov. 3: 9-10; Amos 4:4-5;
Mal. 3:8-9; Mal. 3:10-12; Matt. 6:1-4; Matt. 23:23; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 11:42; Luke 18:9-14;
That's a pretty big list of references. In the Old Testament the tithe was typically a portion of what you grew. Now a days, we typically deal in money instead so we can read it as a tenth of any type of income that we get. One verse even says to test God in our tithing and see if he doesn't bless us when we diligently give what is His. One of my previous churches even put it in words that I could relate to. If you love your church, your church tithes are going to helping keep that church functional. It helps cover all those bills like electricity, rent/mortgage, those children ministries that we love, the books for Sunday School classes, etc. A church doesn't run on hope alone and your contribution helps it to provide the needs of the members and the community. Yes, your tithes will go to community outreach programs too (usually).
So, let's try not to cringe at those tithing sermons (I'm going to need a lot of prayer there), and instead let's try to challenge ourselves to do what we're called to do. During this Sunday's sermon the guest pastor made note of what his family had always done. They sent the tithing out first and foremost and then they budgeted with what was left. (Ha! See, I was paying attention! Despite my grumbling.) If we automatically take it out then it's easier to not leave it for last and then when the unexpected comes up and you're left trying to make a difficult decision between the two. We can do it with determination.
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Malachi 3:10