Alternative Tithing Methods

My wife and I have been talking a lot about tithing, what God wants us to do with our money, where should it go, how much, how often, etc. The traditional Christian model is rooted in the Old Testament, where you give 10% of what you have to the temple and/or as a burnt offering. Interestingly enough, Jesus doesn’t mention the 10% anywhere in his teachings, and regarding taxes he says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. As for other ways of giving, he says to “sell all that you have and give to the poor”, to “follow me”, and “not to lay up treasure on earth”, all of which we as Americans are quite adamant about. For the early church,  they would sell all they had, pool their resources, and “there was not a single needy person among them” (Acts 4:32-35). So, what do we as followers of Christ do with these guidelines?

Certainly some money should go to the church, hopefully you are a part of a fellowship that is doing God’s work in the community along with the church. A problem with that, is until recently Morgan and I haven’t been members of a church, and honestly have bounced around a bit. So we felt funny about giving our money to the churches we were not a part of. That may not be right, but its what we decided.

Alternatively, we have been giving to organizations that we feel carries on God’s work in the world, especially with the poor, needy, widows, orphans, and outcasts of society. You know, exactly the kind of people Jesus was around on a daily basis, and I am not. Whether right or not, we have given to them and watched them do good work around the world. Not all have been Christian organizations, but I’m also of the thought that any good work has its roots in the Lord.

Here’s who we have donated to in the recent years

That’s a good amount, but please don’t think too highly of us. We haven’t given near the 10% the Old Testament asks, or even close to the everything that Jesus asks for. Jesus call is an interesting one, as is most of his message, because when we take it literally, it is probably the most challenging and compelling message in history, and something that I believe a lot of his followers have trouble actually following. But staying on task for the tithing aspect, finding a place where I feel open and full about giving what I have to help others, and relying on God to take care of me, is the place I am striving for. I far too often still treat the tithe as another line item in the budget, one that comes after bills and hopefully before entertainment.

As I started with though, I believe there are other ways to give of our time, money and possessions. Instead of simply giving money (if you’re good at that), let’s also go to the shelters, the streets, and see how the people there are living. Let’s take some of our old (or new) warm clothes to people on a cold night. Buy $20 worth of food and pass it out to the hungry. If we stick to 10%, what if you make it 10% of everything? Time, Money, Possessions, etc? The point I’m driving at is that our giving spirit that God bestows on us is not a static thing, something we should do from a distance. Let’s get in there with the kind of people that Jesus was with, remember he didn’t hang out much with the people in power that had it all together. He had dinner with tax collectors, criminals, prostitutes, and the like.

So what more can we do, how can we follow the teachings and actions of Jesus so that we bring bits of the Kingdom light to our corners of the world? I do know that if we light our communities, the whole world will be brighter.


11 thoughts on “Alternative Tithing Methods

  1. Good words! Jesus certainly demands more than 10% when he calls for your life. That’s easy theology, but not easy practice. In fact, it’s very difficult practice! Because I have not officially joined a local church either, my “tithe” (that’s a rather generous term to describe what I actually do…) has gone to support a school I worked with in Nicaragua a couple summers ago. But even that is falling behind.

    I think there is a lot of value in giving money to the church. As you mentioned, that was the Acts practice. Being a Christian was of necessity a communal thing. The difficult thing today, however, is that many churches do not use their funds as wisely as the Acts church. That can be frustrating and certainly discourages giving. People will say that it is better to just give on your own to Kiva, knowing that it will be used for Jesus-like work. That makes sense to me, but I am nonetheless called to identify with others who identify with Jesus, what the creed calls “the communion of saints.” I believe in it! We, as the church, just need a new lesson in spending! It would seem that more people would be motivated to give and more would be motivated to join if they saw how generous we were with our money. Isn’t that the attraction of things like Kiva and Heifer, anyway?!

  2. Pingback: We’re going to Haiti | The Journey

  3. I found this by clicking through under the ‘running’ topic on WordPress and I’m glad to have found it. My wife and I have walked a strikingly similar path. I’m praying, now, that God can help me to figure out the best way to direct/give/distribute his resources that he blessed me to be able to make use of. I look forward to checking out some of your other posts as well.

    • Thanks Mark! Yeah we have been working through this for a couple of years now. Our favorite is, and we sponsor a child through WorldVision too. God Bless!

      • Thanks. I’ll check out
        We sponsor one through World Vision and one through Compassion. One venture that I found to be the most rewarding was a period of about a year or two in which my dad and I made and served breakfast at the local homeless shelter every couple of weeks. We were partners. Unfortunately he passed away in February and its hard to find somebody willing to get up at 3:30 AM on a Saturday morning to do it. I need to investigate that more, though. Its been too long.

      • What has your experience with been like? It looks like something I might be interested in getting involved with, but, would like to hear a bit more, first, if you don’t mind sharing, with regards to your experience rather than just the official information posted on the organizations website. Thanks.


      • Mark,

        Kiva has been the empowerment tool I’ve used the most over the past few years. I really like the connection you receive from seeing the entrepreneurs, their work, and reading about them achieving their goals. Another cool part is is how they re-pay you as the lender, allowing you to continue to keep the money out and helping people. I wrote another post about how Kiva works, check out it and watch the video of Kiva’s founder, Jessica. I personally appreciate her story of how her faith helped jump-start Kiva’s mission. I hope I helped you out a little bit, but bottom line, Kiva is great.

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