Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
I have struggled for some months with a situation that many others have faced. The true colors of a clergyman come out and instead of being reminded of the love and truth Christ taught, the insatiable lust for power comes to the forefront. Isn’t it interesting that the church only really asks for one thing, your mind. Not your soul, that belongs to the Almighty. Not directly your possessions, family, friends, debt, those belong to you. The church wants your mind. To believe blindly, to follow faithfully and to trust fully…in the church. Now, most clergy would disagree with this statement and would argue that in reality it is Christ that wants these things. Now, for Christ I would go to the ends of the earth. For his leading, for the work of God and to show the love that should be inherent in this Universe if we presume it is created by a loving Creator. However, the church bastardizes Christianity into a series of rules. These are slightly different from church to church, but this one seems to be the same across the denominations:
1. You must give 10% because the old Testament sets that as the threshold. You
can choose to give more as an offering, but 10% belongs to God.
10% of what? Pre-Tax, Post-Tax, take home or gross? In reality the 10% is on your increase. Thus, if you had 10 sheep and all of your lambs died, you were not required to give 10%. This is logical. You use the 10 sheep to feed your family and if the church were to continue in this manner everyone would be starving before long. It’s hard to collect 10% when your parishioners are dead, but I have seen clergymen try. However, if the 9 ewes and 1 ram had 10 lambs, one of those would be sacrificed as 10% of the shepherds increase. This tradition comes from the Old Testament, thus following this train of thought we should also follow the other Old Testament laws, which does not happen in churches. We won’t give up bacon because we like it and Jesus died to fulfill the law, but apparently his sacrifice does not cover the parts of the Old Testament that are convenient for the church.
Now comes the real kicker, that you should give 10% of your income blindly to the local church. What if the church does not use the money wisely? Should I continue to give money that should be spent on the poor, the homeless, the needy so that the church can buy new carpet, a new building or re-pave the parking lot? If the church is not using the money wisely do I not have the option to give in another way? Should we feel obligated to give at all?
Charity is a trait that is universally respected across religions. Being charitable is not unique to religious people. Many atheists give generously with no need for a mind…or a soul…in return. When we see our fellow humans in need, we should help them. When your neighbor might lose their house because of high medical bills, find a way to help. When you see the lady with all of the kids who you know just lost her husband, buy them food. Don’t give money to anyone, that only leads to a debt that can’t be paid and hard feelings. What is harder, but is necessary to live a good life is to find the needs of others and fill the gap. God would want it, Jesus preached it (“whatever you do for the least of these”) and ultimately being kind to one another is the only reward we receive in this life.
Do you have a local charity that does good work and has little overhead costs? Maybe they deserve your giving and your dollar can have a bigger impact on the world around us if you choose your giving wisely. Do you know someone who needs a hand up, not a hand out? Find the person who needs your help today. If you are broke and only have time, mow the widows lawn it helps just as much as a cash donation. When you see that lady with the screaming kids, ask if you can help…she may say ‘no’, and may not realize you mean it kindly…do it anyway. Find a way to make your world better today.
Yesterday is finished, tomorrow may never come for me or you, so all we have is today. Give generously, live vivaciously and make today the best it can be!!
Epilogue December 15, 2014: Today I was talking to my Grandmother about this topic. I offered to print this post out for her so we could have a dialogue on my premise. As I re-read this post I remembered that my Grandmother taught me about tithing on your increase. As you can see from this post, her words ring out at the moment in my life that I could understand the importance of the concept. It is truly a ‘God thing’ that at different points in life our own words repeated through our friends and family are poignant. I am ever grateful to my Grandparents for a variety of lessons that shape my life and certainly have helped form me into who I am today.