Sunday, June 27, 2010

One Tenth of Everything Part 2

I have posted three newer entries that seem to have vanished into thin air! Weird. I apologize to anyone who might be waiting for me to write something. I don't know what happened there, but the material is all gone, so I'm going to start over.

Explaining tithing to a child is really great practice for explaining stewardship to a congregation. Our kids get their allowance every Sunday morning: $2.50 for a week's worth of chores. We settled on the $2.50 amount because it is easily broken into 1/10 increments--the kids can bring 1 quarter to church and put it in the offering plate. The kids get the money on Sundays so they can see a direct transfer of that quarter from their pockets to God.

This morning things weren't as smooth as I'd hoped. "WHY do I have to give MY money to something that I can't even SEE?" asked my oldest. Direct and to the point, I think she just gave the title for my next Stewardship sermon! Why indeed? It made me ask the question of myself. Of course, God is real, and I explained to her that even though we can't see God, we were made in God's image and everything we have is from God. We enjoy good food, a good place to live, and each other. We should joyfully, thankfully give back 1/10 of our best harvest to God.

"But I EARNED that money!!! It is mine. God didn't give it to me." But honey, God put you in the position to have good things. Everything we enjoy is sort of on loan. Yes, you worked for that money, but you have been given an able body to work, you are healthy, with loving parents. We remember that God is the author of everything when we give some of our hard earned money every week.

"But WHERE is it going? WHO gets it? WHY don't I have a CHOICE??" A harder question. It goes into the church budget. We pledge money to keep up church operation. Our pledge and membership helps to sustain the organized body of Christ. I didn't say any of that to her. I didn't think she'd get it.

I'm not sure I get it anymore either. With so many of the conversations around church Sessions revolving around "getting folks in the door and pledging" it seems we are working hard a propping up an institution that no longer serves the original purpose: to glorify God and serve humanity. That isn't to say there is no good working happening in churches--there is! But we've become obsessed with surviving as a mainline denomination. And, my church friends, the people who are eating bagels and reading the paper on Sunday morning hate us for that short-sightedness.

On the other hand, there are many I know who give at least 1/10 of their earnings to good causes. This is wonderful. The trouble with that approach, however, is a sense of entitlement and ability to withdraw those funds if economic times become strained or the giver becomes disgruntled. We owe EVERYTHING to God. The tithe is more than just a charity case, it is a way of life. If we are truly tithing to God, we need to give, and then let go of the idea that we can strong-arm that money into our own pet projects. The money is God's. The question then becomes, do we trust God to handle it properly?

Our family continues to make our tithe to God through the church. Do we feel this is a perfect arrangement? No. Do we agree with everything the church is doing? No. Do we have ideas on how that money should be spent? Sure. But it's out of our hands. We try to think of it as God's, even before we give it. And even though the institution of church as we know it is going by the wayside and is broken in so many ways, it remains the best attempt to be a faithful people of God in the world that I can see.