This post is the third post in an 8 part series. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: On Giving.
I know very little about cars. Or trucks. Or anything with an engine for that matter.
When the gas light comes on, I know I need to stop and get gas. When the windshield wiper light comes on, I know I need to put more fluid in. When the oil light comes on, well, that's when I phone a friend.
The tithe works well as a warning light.
But that's not how it's normally used.
The tithe is one of the most abused concepts in the Christian tradition (for more on this, see yesterday's post on ignoring the tithe). But all of these abuses don't remove the value of the tithe. In fact, in the face of all of these abuses, it's more important than ever for us to know what role the tithe has in the Christian life.
Here's what I'm thinking ...
If God really owns everything, then we have a responsibility to take care of the portions of His Everything he entrusts to us (for a great article on this, check out Alex Kirk's article on creation care). This includes our stuff, our relationships and even our money.
If we have a responsibility to take care, we should know what's going on with our stuff, our relationships and even our money. What's in your attic? What's going on in your family? What's in your wallet?
One result of this is that we need to know where our money is going. And we need to be actively, not just passively, directing where our money goes. Our responsibility to be active is a direct result of our position as stewards, the inherent pull of money and our hearts' inclination toward selfishness and greed.
In this environment, the tithe stands as a warning light. If you're paying attention to where your money is going and you find yourself keeping more than 90% of your income, the tithe blinks to catch your attention. There may be good, reasonable reasons for your dip in giving: a job loss, a foolish mistake, a job loss caused by a foolish mistake.
The tithe doesn't condemn those of us who are in Christ, but it does warn.
Ignoring the tithe is like ignoring warning lights on your car. It's not a big deal, so long as none of the lights are blinking or broken. But if your gas light comes on, you should consider getting off the interstate. If your tithe light comes on, pay closer attention to where your money is going.
But can the tithe serve as more than a warning?
The tithe can serve as a milestone on our way toward epic generosity.
The tithe can serve as a way for a vision-strong church to project giving.
The tithe can serve as a starting place to discuss money with folks who grew up in church.
The tithe can serve as a round number for beginning budgeters.
The tithe can serve as a reminder of our historical connection to God's people.
The tithe can serve as an eye-opener in a world where 80% of people live on less than $10 per day (which, coincidentally, is a little less than 10% of the average American income).
What role does the tithe play in your thinking about your money?
Tomorrow, I'll be wrestling with the church's role as the storehouse for our giving. Is it okay to give outside the church? Do you have to give your first 10% to the church, before you give elsewhere? And why does this matter?