Saturday, February 15

Ask Father: The Orthodox Perspective on Tithing...

Question: I am wondering about the subject of "tithing" spoken about in the Old Testament. What is the Orthodox view on this? How much should we be giving to the Church?

Answer:  A lot can be said on this important subject of Christian stewardship, but I will try to be as concise as possible.  The following is adapted from a stewardship presentation recently given at our mission.

False Stewardship Models

Equal Giving:  1) Each person gives the same dollar amount, dividing the sum needed by the number of people. 2) Each person offers the same percentage amount, such as the 10% tithe.

Explanation:  Every person differs according to financial resources and spiritual maturity. Equal dollar amounts unfairly burden the poor, not even meeting the Old Testament standard, which used a 10% scale (the tithe) as small step toward equity. The tithe, equal percentage, is also unfit for Christians for a series of reasons. The tithe:  1) only considers income not assets and liabilities, as does, for instance, the secular US tax system, 2) doesn’t address how to properly manage the other 90% of one’s income, nor teach the proper use of existing wealth, 3) doesn’t develop the necessary discernment between needs and wants, which allows the Christian to properly see the connection between one’s treasure and one’s heart, and 4) is not taught by the Lord nor the Fathers, except being referenced as something below Christian stewardship.

Orthodox Christian Stewardship

Equal Sacrifice:  New Testament stewardship is the only model that is equitable, faithful to the Gospel, and spiritually sound. Each person is equally free, yet equally accountable, for 100% of everything God has entrusted to his or her temporary care.

Explanation:  Of course, this does not mean that 100% of what we possess or obtain must be given to the Church and the poor (although some have done this), but it does mean that 100% of our financial re-sources should be acquired, stored, and used in a godly manner.  As Christians we should be working hard and honorably, saving prudently to provide for those entrusted to our care, supporting the work of the Church, helping the poor, rendering taxes to Caesar, living within our means, curbing unnecessary wants, and in all things using our treasure to redirect our hearts to God and our fellow man.  If truly practiced, this means that the stronger will help the weaker, yet no one will excuse himself or herself from stewardship as each person has been entrusted with time, talent and treasurer by God.

This model of 100% stewardship: 1) applies to each and every person equally, 2) burdens no one unfairly, 3) offers everyone, whether rich or poor, married, single, or monastic an equal opportunity to offer his or her own self completely to God’s service, 4) educates us to see the connection between our treasure and our heart, as well as the difference between our needs and wants, and most importantly, 5) is the teaching and example given by the Lord, who not only gave His whole life for us but also asks us to give our whole life back to Him.  Understood in this manner, stewardship is an integral part of our common struggle and shared path, leading to a loving, self-sacrificial and full union with God and our fellow man.


New Mom said...

Hi Emily, I enjoyed this post. Although I sometimes disagree theologically with the Orthodox Church, (mainly on issues such as invocation of the saints and some holy days), this post on giving gave me much to think and pray about. I have always been taught the 10% or "tithe" as being the Christian standard. Though additional giving is encouraged (being taught ultimately, "it all belongs to God"), it is often easy for me to fall back into the "well I gave what I was supposed to" line of thinking. But it really does all belong to God, doesn't it? Our finances, desires, lives... I can see how limiting stewardship to just simply a "tithe" could result in limiting God's influence on every part of our lives. So thank you for giving me something to chew on!

Joey and Caren's Crazy Fam! said...

This is a beautiful explanation. Thank you so much for the manner in which you shared it. What a blessing to share in distributing God's gifts to one another. Thank you.

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