I have a long history of both tithing and not tithing, of being under first this teaching, then that teaching. It was all very confusing.
And of course, having a heart that is dedicated to God, I had to deal with never quite feeling like I had it going on in the giving department.
So I had to be blunt with myself. This was not so much about my reasoning when it came to this specific type of giving (10% of my income, in case you're wondering). It was about how I felt about doing it. So fasten your seat belts because here, out of my as yet unpublished manuscript, is a guided tour of the Tithe Guilt Trips I've dealt with.
1) The most potent form was the guilt I felt because I was NOT tithing. Never mind I wasn’t even putting food in the refrigerator at the time. "Quite obviously, Valerie," the scolding little voice in my head would say, "if you went back to regular tithing as you had been taught, God would see that all our needs were met. So it's your own fault you're in a situation."
2) Then there was the, "I'm tithing but not giving the whole tithe" thing. (For those who haven't heard, there's a whole argument out there about what you should be tithing on.) I had been taught back in the 1980s that 10% of the gross of whatever I was bringing home in my paychecks went to God.
Okay, so fastforward about 20 years. What about the child support I was now getting? Is it bad that I wasn’t giving the church any of that? It was covering most (but not all) of the rent every month. Maybe God wasn’t blessing me because I didn’t include that, too. Perhaps there were other funds I was holding back on somewhere and didn’t realize it. Like birthday presents. Or tax refunds.
3) There was also the “Yes, I’m tithing but my kids' clothes are raggedy and we’re eating cheap food and maybe if I wasn’t tithing I could take better care of my family” sort of guilt. sigh. I'm a bad mother...
4) Here's a fun one for all you married ladies. The, “I’m trying to tithe but my husband doesn’t want us to tithe and most of the tithe comes from his paycheck, not mine” guilt. Do I obey God? Or keep my husband happy? I went through this one in the early 2000s when the marriage was struggling.
5) There was also the “our Sunday School is having a lively discussion about how we all need to tithe,” and I’m going to sit quietly and nod like I’m tithing too. But I’m not. Because I’m not a good steward of my money.
Or because the household keeps needing stuff and I'm not covering all our expenses now. Or maybe just because (gasp!) I just don’t want to give that much of my money away!
Maybe it's just me. (sob. i'm such a horrible person...)
6) And then there’s the good old testimonial-guilt. Apparently everyone but myself had a story about how they didn’t used to tithe, but then they decided to start giving God 10% of their gross income, and within a week they were promoted and given a raise. Or given a new (free!) car. Or received an unexpected refund in the mail.
From my own experience, whether I tithed or not, stuff like that just didn’t happen to me. Am I doing something wrong? Is God punishing me for not putting enough money in the plate at church by letting me remain poor?
(Here you just need to picture the dark stormcloud of guilt lurking over my head.)
No matter what I chose to do, there was always a well-respected Bible scholar, or a prophet, or a famous preacher out there telling me I was going about it the wrong way.
I wanted that generous, cheerful sort of giving to be happening in my life. And it just wasn't. So I studied the Word. And studied the Word. And studied it yet again. And what I found out surprised me.