Can you believe it? This month marks the 5th Anniversary of the publication of Giving Thanks: The Art of Tithing! And in honor of the date, I’m answering a tithing question every day for the entire month…so if something’s been weighing on your mind regarding tithing, send your question to paula@paulalangguthryan.com and I’ll add it to the queue!

Dear Paula,

Is it fair and just in God’s eye to consider an increase in taxes to healthcare for the needy & uninsured children as a tithe? I feel that this is a contribution to God’s love & work even though not traditional. I feel it is wrong to assume that writing a check out to my church every week meets God’s standard for honest tithing…my church spends the money on plush carpet, pews of oak with comfortable pads, expensive stained glass windows and all the self-serving, greedy things. I hope tithing can be to certain taxes, gifts to United Way, or financial support to dying friends and relatives that are in need. Or to anybody that is hungry, sick and in need of God’s love. Am I wrong?

Phil I.

Dear Phil,

I can see there’s a question behind the question here! First, remember in the Bible where it says “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”? Taxes are what is paid to the government, for the services we receive. (Yes, some of the money we pay in taxes goes to things we don’t use, just as some of the taxes other people pay go to things they don’t use. It all balances out in the end, my friend.)

Tithing is a way of saying thank you to God for what you’ve already received, and for giving thanks in advance for what you are about to receive. It’s like saying grace – we say it before the meal, in advance, of what we’re about to eat, yes? When you’re giving to feed a need, it’s a charitable contribution. It also tells people that you think they are “needy.” Contrast that to giving to people because they feed your spirit in some way. Have the folks at United Way or the dying friends and relatives have fed your spirit? Perhaps you know what it feels like to go hungry, and so you are grateful for the food you have, and so you give to United Way as a way of saying thank you to God for all that you have and for all that they do. Maybe your dying friends or relatives have given to you in ways that fed your spirit and so you are giving back to them in kind. Giving because your spirit is grateful, is a tithe. Giving because you feel like they need and you have, is charity. Both are wonderful. But the second intent isn’t a tithe, per se. Hope that helps!

Now…that brings us to the question behind the question. What a person or organization does with our tithes is none of our business. If we feel ungrateful about how our spiritual home uses the funds we give, then we are giving with resentment, or giving with an attachment to the outcome and use of that money. So it may be time to look at where you are being spiritually fed AND to look at your beliefs about money. A church that spends its money making its buildings beautiful is simply responding to the desire of the congregation to see and feel beauty around them. Maybe it helps them feel their own beauty. Take time this week to look at where you don’t allow yourself to honor yourself or “beautify” your life. And then give yourself permission, even in some small way, to bring more beauty into your life. When we resent what someone else is doing, it’s usually because we’re upset that we’re not doing the same for ourselves. Take a bold step toward being just a little bit “self-serving” and allow yourself to have something you’ve been withholding from yourself. You’ll be amazed at the lift it will give you!

Peace and prosperity,

Paula