I’ve always had a problem with tithing.

Oh no, i don’t mind the giving of it, that’s not what i meant.  I just didn’t understand why God would demand 10% of all that we earn, why He made it a commandment, and why He doesn’t accept I.O.U.s.

Perhaps i should explain myself a little bit more.  I know my God to be a loving God, who sometimes has to do things that He doesn’t like for our own good, very much like how a father disciplines a child not because he enjoying hearing the *thwap* on the child’s skin during physical punishment, but that he knows that the child needs enforced discipline at that age to get his/her priorities right.  Let me also say that i don’t condone excessive beating of a child, but sometimes such things should be done within limits.  I also got beated quite a bit as a child and i’d like to think i turned out fine.

But this view of God didn’t fit in well with a view of a God who commands that you give ten percent of your earnings to Him.  Such a God sounded bossy, selfish, greedy, and just like any other god who would demand sacrifices being burned on a regular basis.  The fact that we are commanded to tithe and then told that “God loves a cheerful giver” also doesn’t connect – if we have to be commanded to do something, it’s usually because we won’t really do it willingly.  It didn’t occur to me until recently that there really are a few reasons why we should tithe, and why we should give.  I’m not saying these are biblically proven, or even correct, but i think these are decent possibilities, rather in line with the character of God that i am certain with.  Of course there are practical reasons like “how else would we keep the church going?” but i’ve no need to debate about that because i think everyone can understand that – i refer more to the original context where the church had no problems to “keep going”  (if there was even a physical one at all) and everyone could simply pocket what they earned.

We can’t handle it.  The money i mean.  It’s as simple as that.  You know it and i know it, and even the greatest of men have professed that “the love of money is the root of all evil”.  Money is power, and power corrupts.  Just maybe, God commands us to give it because He knows that we will hoard and when we hoard it will rule over us, and become an obsession, to earn more and amass more, and etc etc etc.  So like in the discipline example previously, He doesn’t need the money, He doesn’t like the fact that He has to force us to give away a part of what we worked for, but just perhaps it’s for our own good.

It’s about perspective.  I’m not one of those people who often proclaim things like “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without God’s help” because i believe God gave us brains and bodies for a reason – you can’t attribute EVERYTHING to “divine intervention”.  But i will concede this point: He made us.  And just as He gave us the ability to think and do things, He also gave us the ability to earn.  We did do the work, we did reap the harvest, thresh the grain, till the soil, sign the cheques, do the paperwork, lift the loads, write the essays, hit the books, blog the blogs, you name it.  We did it all.  But not without Him.  We didn’t sit back and left Him go “let the money be earned, and there was earnings and it was good”, but neither would we be able to do anything if He didn’t let us.  You think if God wanted you to stay at home, you really would be able to get out?  Look at Jonah.  Giving what we have back to Him is a part of signifying that He deserves some credit, that He has some say in the matter.

It’s also about priorities.  Note that the commandment also says that the ten percent is to be the firstfruits.  Not ten percent of what’s left after you’ve paid the car loan, house loan, school fees, new furniture, food, clothes, sundries, and a luxury dinner at the most expensive restaurant in town.  No, we are to give God first.  (Here i’d like to point out that some people have a problem with this – do we give before or after we deduct taxes?  I think we should give whichever we can.)  It’s the same reason why He doesn’t accept I.O.U.s – it just means that “hey God, you’re not that high a priority compared to other things, can i owe you first?  I’ll pay you back when i get the money, just hang in there a little longer ok?”  When we give God first, other things will fall into place as they should.  Who are we to doubt that ten percent of what we earn can do miracles when the young boy gave his five loaves and two fish – all he had?  Personal note:  this is just for me, but normally before getting anything rather costly i would think whether i can afford it here and now with what i already have – if i have to cut out from God’s portion, that’s idolatry.

Commencement was today, and in the valedictorian’s speech he mentioned something about how much of what we learn actually comes from helping other people and sharing out knowledge.  In a sense, what goes around comes around – and when i heard him say that i wondered, if i had helped people any more than i did, would anything be different?  How about if i helped people any less?  I couldn’t imagine either way, which is not to say that i’ve done a perfect job, but only that my imagination is limited.  I do agree though – when i help my peers, i gain new insights, but only proportional to the amount that i bother to probe.  I think the giving of my time is similar to tithing – when willingly done, we also benefit from it.  We learn that money really isn’t that big a deal (and i know of some people who are really poor but faithfully tithe too) but God is.  We also learn that giving begets blessing, because we give out of the little we have as compared to what excess we have. (remember the widow’s mite?)  But what is not similar is that i believe that God will bless you regardless of whether you tithe or not – just that if you do, your eyes would be opened and you will realize that you have been blessed with so much more.

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