Charity, part 1

I think a lot about charity.

Today I’m not thinking about charity as a synonym for love, as in : “And now abideth faith, hope, charity…” (King James); “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love…” (NIV).

Rather I’m wondering how much of the money that I have (or don’t have but can borrow) should I give away, and to whom.

My church, in both subtle and bolder ways, asks us to tithe. Though I understand the need for funds and appreciate what I see the church doing with the money, still I wonder.

I’m not concerned about whether God expects Christians to tithe or whether we should consider the practice an Old Testament anachronism, because I believe that giving is good and 10% is a reasonable number. Whether the 10% should be of our gross income, our adjusted gross income, our net income, our net income after college tuition or whatever, all that feels secondary, at least for now.

Today, all I can handle is this question: given that we should attempt to give 10% (or at least 10%), should it all go to our local church, or should we have the discretion to parcel it out according to our judgment.

Unless I’m severely mistaken, the position of most churches, including the one I call my church as I have attended for about six years, is that the tithe needs to go to the local church of one’s attendance. Now, I have a hard time believing that this position is strictly based upon Biblical wisdom or prayer. It’s my suspicion that these churches are influenced by their agendas to survive and perhaps prosper enough to support missionary work and benevolence.

I certainly won’t criticize such worthy agendas. But I’ll point out that my friend Steve, who directs a charity that assists the homeless, another worthy agenda, believes that directing tithes elsewhere than the local church is not only fine, it’s smart and admirable. And as the representative of a college whose mission involves promoting honest Christian art, I could easily argue in accord with my agenda. But I won’t. At least not today.

And rather than contend that us writers of modest means should or shouldn’t devote all of our hard earned 10% to the local church, I’ll only offer my opinion that, especially for us writers, the quest for truth should override every other agenda.


This post also appears in The Scoop, our monthly e-magazine, in the section called stuff you probably won’t hear in church, the point of which isn’t to criticize or expose but to offer a Christian perspective from outside the System. Please visit us. Subscribe and get The Scoop.

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