Rethinking the Tithe

Many people who follow a religious or spiritual tradition have a handful of favorite verses from a teacher or holy scripture. Some are well-worn, and have stood the test of time in terms of popularity such as the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, and 1 Corinthians 13 from the Christian tradition.

While there’s nothing wrong with taking comfort from ancient words of wisdom, it starts to get sticky when we build hard and fast rules around some of the words in a holy book while ignoring the others.

In some Christian and most New Thought organizations, tithing is a regular practice and an oft-quoted verse used to back this up as a legitimate spiritual mandate is Malachi 3:10

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.”

The tithe, or 1/10th of the harvest, is referenced as the right and proper amount to give to a church or spiritual organization. In New Thought there is a great deal of focus on prosperity as a “birthright” of all and poverty, it is said, is caused entirely by one’s consciousness.

Classes, workshops and more are offered to teach prosperity and to reinforce the link between tithing and personal wealth. And I’ve seen a LOT of personal wealth built up,…but it’s usually for the people selling classes on tithing and teaching that it is right and proper to tithe, and that it needs to go to the place where you are fed, spiritually (i.e. the church, spiritual teacher, or religious organization).

I’ve also seen a lot of givers experience extreme stress over trying to meet this “requirement” and struggling to understand why the windows of heaven aren’t opening for them as they give to the church/center and pay for groceries and gas with their credit cards. And worse, I’ve seen people preach tithing for others while they give as they please.

I’m not against giving and do believe that the more we give; the more we get back, but as I have stated in workshops and on other blogs: in giving, the position of our HEART is much more important than the position of the decimal point.

But this is a SPIRITUAL LAW – and it says so right there in the Bible!

Yes, it does. But is also says this:

But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house.So you shall put away the evil from among you.  [Deuteronomy 22:21-22]

So, I ask you: while you’re pointing to the spiritual requirement to tithe and referencing the Bible as the source, do you also support the stoning of young women who have sex prior to being married? And then there are those admonitions about women wearing men’s clothing and men wearing women’s clothing, tattoos, and divorce (need I continue?)

Stoning

Ancient texts are filled with bits of wise counsel for life and guidance in matters universal to people across time, as well as more than a few abominable historical practices. It is dishonest in 2017 to insist that tithing is required based on a few statements in the same book that mandates misogynistic violence.

Giving is an important part of life, but I’d have more respect for the insistence on the practice if the people preaching it would encourage the giving of tithes to someone other than themselves or the organizations that pay them.

Like the practice of stoning, the manipulation game of preaching tithes as a spiritual requirement needs to be relegated to the pages of history. People will give and give generously if they are being fed spiritually; if they find value in an organization or a teacher’s gifts and if they feel supported by the organization’s mission, vision and values. If they’re not giving enough to pay all the bills, the only place for the minister/spiritual leader to look is in the mirror.

It’s time for religious and spiritual leaders/organizations to focus more on what they give to their members; to know (& model!) that spiritual circulation works in both directions (gotta give to receive) and to leave the manipulation that is prosperity gospel and tithing where it belongs: in the past.

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