Pledge Sunday in most churches focusing on making a financial commitment to support the church. The standard for giving is set at 10% of income because that was the minimum standard set for early Israelites (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). My friend said that her church doesn’t emphasize giving at the 10% level. Rather, incremental giving is stressed. Each year the amount given is increased. For example, Year 1 giving to the church may be at 5%, the next year 6% may be given, and so on. Perhaps, givers continue to increase their giving beyond the 10% level. We didn’t get to that conversation.
I heard a story about a man who wanted to give money to the church. He decided to remove from his earnings the amount needed to live comfortably. Income above the living-comfortably level, he would give to God. Much to his surprise, he found that he needed only 10% of his income to live comfortably. The other 90%, he graciously gave to God. I have no idea if the story is true; however, I have one of my own.
After graduation, I got my first job and joined a church. The first year that pledge cards came around I committed to giving 10% of my post-tax income, post retirement savings, post everything income. In other words I committed to giving 10% of my take-home income to my church. I was so proud of myself. I was able to live well on that take-home pay, even buy a house. Surely, I was making God happy.
When I received my pledge card the next year, off-handed I (mentally) asked God, “How much money do You want me to pledge this coming year?” The immediate answer that come to my mind as “10% of your pretax earnings.” Shocked and alarmed, I screeched (out loud), “You want me to do what, God?” Good thing I lived alone! A quiet, calm voice inside my head said, “Yes, I want your first fruits.” Well, I did it – gave 10% of my pre-tax income. That amount has become my standard for giving to the church. Since that time, I have been able to live comfortably.
In many churches, sermons on giving/tithing have evolved into pastors urging congregates to give of their time, talent, and treasury. Being fairly literal minded, I calculated how much 10% of my time would mean in hours. Assuming I slept 8 hours per night and worked a 40-hour week, the 10% rule for giving time to the church came out to about 7.2 hours per week. I thought – I can do that!. Then, I looked at my calculation and realized I used the same (post tax) formula originally used to calculate amount of income to give the church. Oops, not exactly what God wants, is it?
I stopped before I calculated how much of my talent I had to give to God because I had an epiphany, a new thought that opened my mind. And, a thought that disagreed with conventional church wisdom.
I don’t think that God wants the first fruits of my time, talent, and treasury.
I believe God wants and deserves something more precious. He want each of us! Whoever we are, where-ever we are in our walk with Him, God wants us. God wants every part of us. Yes, that includes our time, talent, and treasury. But, those are just things. God’s got things. He has time. He is talented. He has all wealth. God will never be satisfied with only things from us, from me.
My epiphany led me back to me. I’m fairly (okay, a lot) centered on myself. It is hard for me to give myself to anyone, even my creator-God. In reality, I believe I know what is best for me. I mean, I live with me. I know me. Amazingly, I still cry out to Him, “You want me to do what, God?” “I really don’t want to do that, God.”
I am learning and relearning daily what it means to give myself to God. Believe me it is easier to just give a 10% tithe to the church!