I’ve suffered a lot of guilt in my life over tithes until a couple of years when I learned why it’s not necessary to feel guilt or fear.
I was raised in a religion that demanded 10% of one’s gross income, or God’s punishment would rain on any who dared disobey. I spent years literally wracked with guilt and fear, because I truly had no extra money to give to any church.
Let me tell you of an experience I can recall as if it were yesterday; it happened over four decades ago when I was five years old. My mother was scared half to death when our pastor proclaimed that God would take tithing money from her one way or another, and it seemed to actually happen. It was a lesson my mother learned very early on, one she wouldn’t forget or let go of for nearly two decades. We were very poor when I was five, my father had abandoned his pregnant wife and two young daughters. We did not hear from my father for several years as he had gone into hiding to avoid paying child support. In the beginning the church helped us out. My new baby sister was born, my mom found a home to rent and a job that barely covered the expenses. One Sunday morning a particularly wrathful sermon on tithing was cast down, compelling my mother to give away the last $15 in her wallet.
A few hours later, reality set in as it occurred to my mother without that money her three young children would go hungry for the next few days. Drawing strength from her mothering instincts, she went back and asked for the money. The pastor warned that God would take the money from her, one way or another. My mom went to the grocery store, came out of the store, placed the bags of groceries on the roof of the car, got her three little girls settled in the car and drove home. Arriving home, the groceries seemed to have vanished. My mother then remembered she’d left the groceries on the roof of the car. She hurriedly drove back to the store. We found a few items scattered on the road, most had been run over once the bags tumbled from the top of the car. My mother was terrified, convinced she had been punished by God himself. From then on, she lived with a heightened sense of fear. The Bible instructs us we are not to have the spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7 KJV) so that should have been a warning sign right there. She had three little girls to take care of, but she also had to give 10% of her hard earned money to the church, and putting food and clothes on her children was not to stand in the way.
I no longer believe that God is in the business of punishing people like that today. I don’t believe we are the Israelites, nor are we being cursed or blessed like the Israelites. Many of the scripture verses which are brought up to manipulate today’s believers were spoken directly to the Israelites in the Bible.
I have learned we are to give what we can cheerfully. It is such a burden lifted from me to know doing the best I can is okay with the Lord. I no longer have to feel uneasy when the televangelist says I should use my credit card to “sow a thousand dollar seed”. And I no longer have to feel my heavenly Father has forsaken me when I don’t reap ten times what I put into the offering plate.
As a Mid-Acts Dispensationalist, studying the King James Version of the Holy Bible, I now understand we are living in the Age of Grace and are supposed to do as Paul, our apostle appointed by Jesus Christ from heaven (Galations 1:1 KJV) instructs us:
II Corinthians 9:7 KJV Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
We are to “purpose” in our hearts; Strong’s Greek Concordance tells us that purpose means to choose for oneself before another thing. We are not to give grudgingly [sadness, grief, grievous, heaviness, sorrow]. God loves it when we are cheerful [prompt, willing] in our giving. Don’t pretend you are happy when you give, find the amount that you can truly be cheerful in giving, and give that amount. If it’s 5%, great. If it’s 10%, great. If it’s 25%, great.
You will find that 10% is mentioned in Leviticus 27:32 KJV, and Numbers 18:26 KJV, but those verses also mention tithing a percentage of oxen, wine, corn and other items. Why don’t we latch onto those verses and feel responsible to tithe those items?
A lot of churches, ministers and televangelists try to persuade their members that one’s salvation is dependent on paying tithes. There is only one way to be sure of your salvation, and that is to believe that Jesus was crucified at Calvary, buried and rose from the dead to pay for your sins (Acts 16:31 KJV). Everything else people think they must do in order to be saved – works – from saying prayers, asking forgiveness for every little sin, all the way up to giving 10% of your gross income is in fact disrespecting the work our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did at the cross.
Do you really think you can earn or pay your way to heaven (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)? God gave his son, his only son to be crucified to save us from our sins, but we think we can do better by following some rules? It doesn’t make sense when you really think about it. Salvation is a gift, a free gift. You don’t have to work for it, and when you do try to throw works in, Grace goes home (Romans 11:6 KJV).
I was relieved to learn this, because all of my life in addition to the fear and guilt, I felt like giving to the church was in a sense like gambling. We’re led to believe we’ll get 10 times what we gave back, or at the very least we’ll be blessed. No longer do I have to feel like I’m trying to score brownie points to get into heaven. Now that I know better, I can give freely and truly give that money to God, without secretly wondering when and how I’ll be blessed, and when it doesn’t happen, wondering why.