Few words in the Christian lexicon divide people more than the word ‘tithe’. Not sure how you feel about it? Try a quick word association game. Think of the first three words that come to mind when you hear that word. Did ’10 per cent’, ‘guilt’ or ‘should-go-to-the-church-I-think’ pop up? Great: you’re as conflicted as the average 20something Christian, then.
It’s one word I sort of wish would die (oh hey, controversy), just because for so many people it misses the point that I think God was intending to make with it. It turns it into (at worst) a guilty obligation, and (at almost worst) some kind of scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours deal between us and God.
I read an article the other day about Chris Martin – Coldplay’s lead singer, and famous conscious-uncoupler from Gwyneth Paltrow (I’m still gutted about that, by the way, I don’t know about you. Another article for another day…). The article spoke about how as a child he was encouraged to give 10 per cent of his pocket money back. The author of the article didn’t say what he was supposed to give it back to, but then she did an interesting thing: she called it a ‘tithe’.
After first assuring the reader that tithing was an ‘old-fashioned’ concept, she then went on to extol the benefits of giving, and at the end suggested ‘conscious tithing’ as part of a healthy lifestyle. Vitamins and conscious tithing, kids. That’s where it’s at.
But maybe she’s got a point. If tithing has become a dirty or confusing word to you, focus on the word ‘conscious’ for a moment. When was the last time you were fully conscious and present in your generosity? Or to rephrase that, when was the last time your generosity brought you unexplainable, total joy?
Today I propose to you that before giving was about percentages and should-be beneficiaries, it was meant to be about joy.
Before it was about making sure the church had enough money to keep the lights on, it was meant to be about joy.
Before it was about being seen as philanthropic or community-minded, it was (let’s say it all together now…)
God’s cool with you experiencing joy, you know. Some of us will need to read that line again. The Christian life isn’t all conviction and hardship. I think giving ultimately brings us happiness that we can’t find anywhere else, and (speculating a little here) Chris Martin’s childhood tradition probably stuck into adulthood because it made him happy. I doubt he counts percentages. I doubt God ever really wanted us to, either.
If your current giving situation is making you feel more guilt than joy, stop. Take a break. Rediscover it again, and remember what the point of it all was supposed to be. Become a conscious giver.
And take your vitamins.