Is Tithing Over Rated?…John Page Burton

I recently engaged in a discussion with a client who volunteered his thoughts on tithing. He firmly believes that tithing is “over rated” and also feels that ” if his tax dollars were put to proper use he would not be subjected to what he feels has become a rash of professional begging”.  He went on to share that he “faithfully” puts 10% of his weekly income into the offering plate at church and feels “it is more than enough to help offset the needs of his community”. ( I couldn’t help but have a flashback of Ebeneezer Scrooge dismissing the charity collectors on Christmas Eve) I asked him what he meant when he said that “tithing was over rated” and he explained that it had never “proven to show much of a return on his investment” as “the poor just keep getting poorer”.

For many years I have been involved in the world of charitable giving. I have volunteered with various organizations, served on the board of directors for a college foundation and have raised considerable amounts of capital for the organizations I have chosen to support. With this being said, I am still surprised by just how many people are conflicted when they hear the word “tithing”. I recently facilitated a personal development seminar that focused on goal setting. I asked each of the participants to set a significant goal in four quadrants. Health, financial, spiritual and contribution. Most of the participants quickly came up with goals in the health and financial quadrants. Establishing a spiritual goal proved to be challenging for many of the participants and defining a significant contribution goal produced a multitude of questions aimed at identifying exactly what I meant by a contribution goal? A spirited discussion ensued on the topic of contribution. Several participants shared the “guilt” they routinely felt for not consistently tithing or volunteering their time and yet most quickly justified their lack of consistency. Several held the belief that they would never be able to make a “real difference” anyway and therefore did little if anything for the betterment of their fellow man. Of course, we also had a handful of “selfless givers” who seemed rooted in the belief that “what goes around ultimately comes around” and they were determined to make sure that their personal Karma would remain unscathed. A few others clearly kept a “tithing score” and were quick to judge others who they deemed capable of “giving more”.  As our contribution conversation evolved, I was able to identify 5 common excuses routinely used for a lack of contribution. Below, are my thoughts on these excuses.

Contributing our 3 T’s…

Before I respond to the 5 most common excuses, I would like to first share what I believe are the 3 T’s for contribution. Remember, contribution doesn’t have to look a specific way.

TIME. We all have a few extra hours each week that can be allocated for volunteerism.
TREASURE. 10% of our weekly income can have an amazing compounding effect.
TALENT. What gifts did God bless us with? How can we share our gifts with others?

The 5 common excuses…

“I barely have enough money to pay my own bills”. There are numerous organizations that are looking for volunteers to help facilitate programs, put on fundraising events and help with other essential activities. Your TIME is “tithing”. Most of us spend quite a bit of money on things we don’t need. I encourage you to examine your spending habits and if you are like most of us, you will find a considerable amount of “extra money” as you begin to eliminate impulse purchasing. Before I purchase something I have a habit of first asking myself if this item is something I need or something I want? This practice helps me keep my spending in check.

“Big corporations should carry the load because they have all the money”. The fact is that most large corporations donate millions of dollars every year. This isn’t about them, it is about YOU! The contribution agreement is between YOU and God. Each of us can truly begin making a difference the moment we quit expecting someone else to shoulder the responsibility.

“I prefer to know where my money is going before I just give it away”. When asked, most legitimate organizations will gladly provide you with a financial breakdown highlighting their income, reasonable operating expenses and a specific dollar amount that the charity receives.*Charities do have reasonable operating costs and these costs are normally paid from a small percentage of every donation they receive. If we are truly concerned about how our donation is going to be spent we can always use our debit card to purchase food, clothing or other items and deliver them directly to a local charity. The charitable organization will welcome your kindness and you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your money went.

“It’s too overwhelming, I will never even make a dent in the problem”. Once we understand the compounding effect of exponential growth, we can also recognize the value of mass cooperation. If I donate $100 to my favorite charity I have made a nice contribution. If I encourage 10 of my friends to do the same we have collectively generated a $1000 contribution. Our focus should remain on what WE can do.

“He or she looks perfectly capable of finding a job and they will probably just buy booze with the money anyway”. Remember, you are on a mission from God. Release the money and move on. We do not know what anyone’s true circumstances are unless we have a conversation with them. We are not called to judge other people but rather to share what we have been blessed with.

My hope is that this message has caused a shift in your thinking and you may now view tithing from a different perspective. When we strive to contribute our 3 T’s we are helping to make our world a much better place and we can also enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes from giving.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.