Should we forget tithing? Is it passé? Does it set up an artificial target on which too few people actually agree? Tithing seems like an obvious principle–10 percent of your income–yet too often it becomes a negative point for confusion, rather than an experience of positive passion for celebration.
[See my previous article Does Anybody Really Know What Tithing Is? Does Anybody Really Care?]
I know that for many people tithing is a non-negotiable biblical principle. Many who feel this way are from the Silent or Builder generation, with fewer coming from the Baby Boomer generation. Less agreement, I suspect, is found among the younger generations called Baby Busters and the Millennials.
Tithing can also be a restrictive cap on financial discipleship. It can set up an arbitrary goal you seek to achieve, and when you arrive at the tithing finish line you declare your race over. Now you can rest. Now you can put on your Pharisee clothes and be proud that you are not like those non-tithers.
It is similar to how many who claim to follow Christ approach the Ten Commandments. They see these as something they are trying to live up to. But, what if the Ten Commandments are foundational for Christians? What if they are a beginning point for a wildly grace-filled life and not the goal of a rules-based life?
What if we viewed tithing the same way? What if it is not a destination? What if tithing is a beginning point, the threshold, the doorway, the launching pad, the birth of generosity? What if we run past tithing and morph our giving pattern into a wildly generous lifestyle.
What if . . . Wait for it . . . Wait for it . . . What if generosity begins to happen when people soar past the concept of tithing on their way to becoming wildly generous?
The wildly generous disciple does not talk about a strict definition of tithing because they never intend to stop there. They are always headed somewhere beyond the tithe. They are like the runner who glides through the tape at the finishing line looking multiple yards down the track. They are not blinded by limited vision. They have the farsightedness of a generous heart and soul that has fully surrendered.
What Do Wildly Generous People Say About Generosity?
I tried unsuccessfully to gather a focus group of wildly generous people to talk about their generosity. The trouble is to gather them and have them talk in front of others about their generosity is often contrary to their character and nature. I had to go see them individually to get them to tell their story.
Here are three stories.
“I grew up in a home where I was taught tithing as a child and developed a commitment that stuck with me. I was also taught that another 10 percent of my allowance and later my salary should be placed in long-term savings. The simple miracle of compound interest turned it into a lot of money. One day I realized I would not need all that money for myself and I began to work with a financial planner to figure out how I could give a lot of it away to my church and other Christian ministries, and still provide for myself.”
“I will only share if you promise not to use my name. All the significant gifts I make are anonymous. I believe there is something wrong with appearing to brag about generosity. I have been extremely fortunate in business dealings for most of my life. I made money I did not think it was possible to make. I have a deep sense of gratitude to God. While I believe God has blessed me, I believe that blessing was given so that I might bless others. To be less than wildly generous might even be a sin in my case.”
“I know it is a common cliché, but my husband and I feel a deep and sincere attitude of gratitude for all we have received in life. Seeing the desperate needs, particularly of children, just tears us apart emotionally. Some years ago both of our children had serious financial needs. With the best wisdom we could determine we helped them through their tough times. Ever since then we have continued to give sacrificially to families in our church and community going through tough times. We could not think of living our lives any other way.”
Are any of these people wildly generous? Perhaps. We cannot know for sure. Does anybody really know what being wildly generous is? Does anybody really care?
Ponder this while waiting on the next post on this issue. The stories shared are about people who are 50 years old or more? What about twentysomethings, thritysomethings, and fortysomethings? Can they be generous also? Yes, the next post is on generosity is not just for the old.