But giving a tithe to the local church is not the end of it. A tithe implies a legalistic relationship between us and God—a tithe is about our relationship with God instead of a loving response to God’ grace. This leaves a huge understanding gap in our knowledge of the tithe.
Faithful stewardship includes generous and abundant giving to those people and institutions that give witness to God’s compassion, God’s justice, and God’s transformative power.
There are other options available to us—such as giving to the Red Cross, Public Radio, or any of a number of perfectly good organizations. But I would ask any who are faithfully trying to discern the recipient of their donations to consider the effect the church has by ministering to us in time of personal transition and through the distribution of the Holy Sacraments.
If in honoring a tithe standard we assume that 10 percent—or whatever the amount of the tithe percentage is—belongs to God and the remaining 90 percent is our money, we completely miss the reality of New Testament teaching that it all comes from God and God may require more than 10 percent from us.
As much as St. Andrew’s needs pledges and funds, the goal of this church is not to meet the b-word (budget), but the transformation of souls into disciples of Jesus Christ. Clear and consistent teaching about stewardship and the tithe; about giving and pledging, helps to get us there.
Father Mark +
Pledging has little to do with stewardship. Rather, it has to do commitment and with budget planning. To pledge to a particular organization is to make a commitment to support that organization. When people are able to estimate their giving ahead of time and pledge a particular amount, then leadership of the church is able to determine a budget for the year and establish certain commitments and expectations. Even people who are averse to pledging can be convinced of its merits when it comes to making commitments to staff and program. The church needs to be transparent and clear about its needs.
It gets complicated, too, when we realize that more and more people are living in times of fiscal uncertainty. And they are living with large debts. I wonder if it is faithful to encourage people to make pledges to the church under these circumstances. I wonder if it is good stewardship for church ask people to defer paying off their loans and therefore pay more interest in order to give to the church. I wonder if it is faithful to encourage people to tithe borrowed money. I wonder if it is wise for churches to tempt people to take on more credit card debt by giving them the option of paying a pledge online by credit card.
The local church compromises itself when it teaches or asks its people to give ten percent to the local church, and calls it stewardship. The local church does not model faithful stewardship when is asks its people to give and trust that God will provide, while clergy receiving those gifts are living with the promise of health insurance and remarkable pensions. The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck is the Vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate, a 21st century mission in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.