Sometimes people call it a tithe when it’s really an offering. I made this mistake once as a kid and my dad taught me a life lesson.
This is my first big tithing experience. It starts when I was in elementary school.
As far as personal finances go, Dad and Mom raised my three siblings and I to work hard, save a lot, spend wisely, and give to our local church.
Although Dad isn’t much interested in teaching, he has never shied away from an opportunity to show us what he believes God commands in the Bible.
Driving to Church
I learned about tithing early in life from both the church and my dad. It’s a biblical practice he believes in and, well, practices.
TITHE: One-tenth of a person’s goods, whether agricultural or monetary, dedicated to God. The practice of tithing has changed since the Old Testament period, but the concept of setting aside one-tenth of one’s income or goods for religious use has remained the same. Source: The Lexham Bible Dictionary
On most Sunday morning drives to church throughout my early childhood, Dad would have two prepared envelopes sitting on the dashboard with his Bible.
The first envelope held a paycheck to drop in the bank’s deposit drawer on our way through town. We’d take a tight turn around the intersection and park against the curb so Dad could walk over to the deposit drawer. The next morning the bank tellers would process the deposit.
The second envelope was a numbered tithing envelope from our church and it contained that week’s tithe. We didn’t talk about it and of course us kids never knew the value of the check, but we did know Dad would be putting money in the offering plate. That much was a given. He was consistent.
It didn’t matter if it was a good week of sales or a bad week of sales – God would receive his portion.
Now to my real world lesson. Like most lessons in life it happened after a mistake.
Youth Group Car Wash Fundraiser
My first job was at our local grocery store, Tom’s Riverside. Actually the same grocery store Dad worked at as a teenager. I really enjoyed those days. I learned a lot about business and customer service and how lazy some hourly employees can be.
My first official paycheck from working for someone other than my dad or my grandpa was $67. At 15 years old that was big money. I was ecstatic!
As I worked more and got raises the paychecks got bigger too. A couple years later I was now earning around $200 per pay period. Saving money and buying the new Madden Football for Playstation every year. Life was good.
If you’re quick with your tithing math – and I’m sure you are – 10% on $200 is $20.
At age 15-18 those felt like big checks too. Especially the months I’d forget to tithe and find myself writing $100 checks to the church. Ouch. As a teenager that was my biggest check of the month. My heart has come a long way since then, but that’s a story for later.
One day I was driving through town in my paid for ten year old 1993 Chevrolet Beretta. It was black and it was dirty and I was driving up on another church’s youth group car wash fundraiser.
I thought, “Hey, I need to tithe $20 this weekend, I’ll just give it to them for a car wash!”
After having my car washed I turned to the pastor’s kid (who I knew) and handed him a twenty. He quickly said, “You don’t need to give us that much.”
“Oh, no, I want to.”
Later that day I told Dad I no longer needed to tithe to the church on Sunday.
You Tithed Where?
He was quick to give me a surprised look and a lesson on the difference between tithes and offerings.
I came to find out if I wanted to be a tither – and I did – that I stilled owed the church $20, and that what I gave at the car wash was more like a donation. That led to a moment of disappointment, but at least the money went to a cause I believed in.
That Sunday morning I drove my shiny sparkling black Beretta to church and dropped another $20 in the offering plate.
The lesson was branded in my brain for life.
Isn’t it funny how we learn certain things? Maybe it impacted me because I felt dumb? Maybe it was because I feared I let my dad down? Or maybe it’s just because I learn best by doing…or failing to do.
Either way, lesson learned: Don’t tithe to the youth group car wash fundraiser.
So next time a local group is having a bake sale or a hoagie sale or something of that sort, try your best to not buy them with your tithe.
Tithes are for Your Church
Tithes are meant for your local church and an offering is any and all generosity above the tithe.
When you tithe you are giving back to God what is already his to support his ministry. In the church that includes expenses ranging from the electric bill to the pastor’s salary. None of those things are possible without believers who willfully and generously give tithes and offerings to support the ministry.
God makes it clear throughout Scripture that our first fruits are to be given to the church. It’s both an old and new testament command.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! – Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. – Galatians 6:6 (NLT)
Jesus affirms tithing, but wants so much more than your money.
42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. – Luke 11:42 (NLT)
We have to remember, me especially as I write on this topic, that when Jesus talks about money it’s not necessarily about money – it’s about how dangerous money is when it becomes tied to our hearts.