"Are y'all ready to go?!"
"C'mon, we don't want to be late!"
Trying to get 6 people ready for church with only one bathroom was a battle every Sunday. And not just to use the shower, but hopefully, because I was the youngest, having some hot water left over for a good experience.
My dad had a shower protocol:
1. Turn on the water to get wet cold or not.
2. Turn it off and lather up.
3. Turn it on to rinse off.
4. Get out of the bathroom and dress in your room
Even now hearing my kids "warm up the water" for 15 minutes with the bathroom steaming, still makes me cringe to this day.
But that is what you had to do when you are trying to get 6 people to the same place, at the same time.
As a seven-year-old, I didn't know any different. I just went along with the flow.
But regardless of how hectic it was, every Sunday, before we got in the car, I would run into my room and grab my money. I have to admit, my urgency wasn't always about offering, I knew if I brought a little extra, the church would be selling candy.
Excited, I would hop into the car with my money balled up in my hand, and patiently wait until we got to church.
But did I really know what I was doing?
Do Churches Teach Tithing Anymore
As a kid, if you asked me, "what is a tithe? I wouldn't know what you were talking about.
Growing up, I was always taught the word 'Offering'.
Even if you rephrased the question, the most I probably could muster up would be a broken statement like "an offering is when you give your money to the church".
Why is that?
Many Christians have been going to church since they were a child but have little to no understanding of tithing. According to an article by Christian Post it states,
"Only about two in five U.S. adults in the study said they were familiar with the term “tithe” and could provide a definition. A similar share said they were familiar with the term, while 22% said although they were familiar with the concept they couldn’t provide a definition." (Christian Post)
Yet, that same study stated that 99% of the pastors that were interviewed were able to identify what a tithe was.
That is a huge gap!
If 99% of the people preaching know about tithing, why don't a larger number of those listening know it?
I heard something that might help you put it into perspective.
"You can have the perfect parents, perfect pastors, perfect environment, perfect life, but you still won't know what they won't teach"
The extent of our understanding of tithing rarely passes the limits of Malachi 3:10:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
It is no wonder that "the study further noted that only 21% of Christians were found to give 10% of their income to their local church while 25% didn’t give to their church at all." (Christian Post)
It is becoming obvious that quoting scripture is not enough to encourage members to give.
Christians Are Getting Smarter
Over the years, due to the internet, we are hearing more stories about the mismanagement of church funds, and the trust between the congregation and the pastor is dwindling.
Studies are showing that the general public is getting smarter. Some studies show an average of about 10 point increase in IQ per decade for the masses.
It is documented that since the introduction of the IQ test, where we were able to track intelligence. Humanity has been experiencing the Flynn Effect where there has been this long and substantial intellectual growth over time. (National Library of Medicine)
For hundreds of years, the congregation depended on the pastor to read, as many were illiterate, and relied on them to provide guidance according to the word of God.
With that said, people are not solely relying on their churches to educate them neither on their giving strategies nor their faith. And it is becoming obviously clear that the pastors are no longer the smartest people in the room just because they can read.
Many churchgoers are starting to understand the risks associated with their giving and can quickly recognize when someone is representing the church's best interest or their own best interest.
One of the biggest challenges I see is that the church traditionally teaches you how to give but not how to grow your offering.
Churches need to start trusting their congregation that if they were given the right information, they would use their God-given discernment and make the right decisions.
This tradition of blind faith is slowly diminishing as many are living long enough to see the long-term effects of not properly managing their finances.
Churches Find It Difficult To Find A Balance Between Faith and Business
Have you ever walked into a church and one of the ushers said, "Welcome to St. Peters Baptist Church Incorporated"?
Of course not.
But churches under the law are businesses.
You have never heard a sermon that said, "To all the members, this church is a business and we are operating in the RED, and if don't do something about this cash flow, we are going to have to close down the business."
Because no one wants to admit that they are receiving monetary gain and preferential treatment for operating as a church under the law, instead of just a group of people fellowshipping under the Lord.
But I challenge you to ask, why can't we have both?
If the church can receive money as a business and still do God's work, why can't we as tithing Christians, give money as a manager of our finances, and still do God's work?
Isn't it possible to give wholeheartedly to the church because you are following God's word and still enjoy the benefits of a tax deduction?
The church doesn't have a problem taking advantage of these government benefits, why should you?
Barna noted, “Church leaders and Christians may wonder whether it matters if the tithe falls out of the mainstream. After all, church giving should not be reduced to an equation, and heartfelt, reverent generosity can be accomplished with or without deep knowledge of the tithe,”
And I wholeheartedly agree.
But I believe that tithing is falling out of favor because people are starting to ask, "What's in it for me?"
Tithing to churches seems to be a one-way street where they only want money, and the member only receives these non-tangible "blessings".
But let's look at the tax benefits that BOTH sides can enjoy! Because when you tithe to a church EVERYONE wins!
Churches are classified as 501(c)(3), a non-profit, and enjoy the benefits of the following:
Churches and religious organizations are not liable for Federal Unemployment Tax
A minister’s gross income does not include the fair rental value of a home (parsonage) provided, or a housing allowance paid, as part of the minister’s compensation for services performed that are ordinarily the duties of a minister. Generally, those expenses include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, repairs and other expenses directly relating to providing a home. (IRS.Gov)
Are generally exempt from federal, state, and local income and property taxes (exception can be the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) which income from donations, investment income, bingo games, giveaways, etc.
As the giver, you also receive financial benefits:
When you donate stock with large capital gains, when you donate it, you don't have to pay the taxes on it, and your gift has an opportunity to grow!
Tithing (including your cash offerings) is 100%* tax deductible on Tax Form Schedule A as long as it doesn't exceed 60% of your gross income and make sure you get a receipt.
Contributions can lower your adjusted gross income and reduce your overall tax payment.
As they say in the South, "Now you are cooking with oil"
Now we have an even playing field!
The church receives the needed funds to do God's work, you are tithing as a good Christian would, and both of you are receiving tax benefits that save both of you money!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many benefits to giving, both monetary and non-monetary but the point is, that we can't take advantage of what we don't know.
And get used to asking for a receipt from your church if the amount is over $250, so you can itemize your giving during tax season. Everything counts, whether they call it tithes or offerings.
Churches Are Not Financial Professionals
One of the biggest pushbacks I get is that churches are not financial advisors and their job is to lead individuals to God not manage finances.
I can respect that.
But as the leader of the congregation, who is encouraging giving monetarily, I charge you to give the congregation the HOW and not just the WHY.
Many Churchgoers know why they should give....because God said so! But how can they strategically give, without risking their own livelihood?
How can they give now, and not outlive their money in retirement?
You don't need faith to calculate your income and expenses.
It says in James 2: 26- Faith without works is dead
We are putting our faith where our work should be, and we are putting our work where our faith should be.
When it comes to our personal finances. That is where we need to put in the work. It is there, we can control our spending and income. We can allocate funds for giving. We can give out of our sustenance.
Therefore when we give. We don't have to hound the pastor and get a report on how every dollar was spent. We don't have to criticize the church. That is where our faith in God should come in.
Why am I saying all of this?
Because I want Christians to become as familiar with the benefits of giving tithes, as the churches are about the benefits of receiving them.
Going Beyond The Numbers
As Christians, we have to take a long look at ourselves. The ideology around tithing has been distorted over the years and instead of clarifying its meaning so members can apply it, many of us are just deciding not to do it and this is a formula for disaster.
I love what Barna said about tithing.
“Still, as a fundamental, scriptural idea of Christian stewardship becomes a hazy concept, it appropriately raises questions — about how modern ministries approach funding and resources, and, more importantly, about the broader culture of generosity being nurtured among Christians.”
Our churches should be places where we nurture the idea of giving. We can argue over what a "tithe" is. We can discuss the percentages and numbers. But are we looking into the technicalities of scripture and bypassing the spirit of it?
And regardless if you feel the gap between what we know about tithing and if the church should continue to encourage it should be filled with education or more faith. At the end of the day, we all should just ask ourselves, "Is giving good?"
If you answered, yes...then you know what you should do, whatever form that takes.
Because whether you know it or not. There is a seven-year-old boy, on Sunday morning, who is holding that dollar tight because even though he doesn't understand the tax benefits of giving, he knows it is the right thing to do. And if he can do it, so can you.
If you need help building your gifting plan, schedule a free consultation
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About the blog:
Many Christians struggle with the seemingly conflicting views about our faith and the pursuit of financial gain. They were taught that poverty was piety and that a lack of money was the only way to truly detach themselves from the love of money. Our blog debunks some of those claims, teaches you that you can be rich and righteous, and at the same time fulfill your obligation to tithe and give to the less fortunate. We are dedicated to helping you become cheerful givers by organizing your personal finances, providing investment tips to help you create wealth, and encouraging you to create a gifting strategy that will make your family and God proud.
Meet the Author:
A.B. Ridgeway, MBA (email@example.com) is the owner and Christian Financial Advisor with A.B. Ridgeway Wealth Management. With a decade in the finance industry, his goal is to give believers clarity around the most confusing topic in the Bible, money, and tithing. A.B. Ridgeway helps tithing Christians become cheerful givers but unlocking their money-making potential, so they can prosper and be the great stewards of the wealth God has entrusted them with.
This communication is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument or investment advisory services. Any information provided has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee the accuracy or the completeness of any description of securities, markets or developments mentioned. This is strictly for information purposes. We recommend you speak with a professional financial advisor.