I've long felt that I needed to post something about Tithing. It started way back in the day when I was chatting with a few college buddies about tithing and taking a Sabbath (both of which seemed completely foreign to them). It happened again when one of the snot-nosed kids we were teaching belligerently told me that he wasn't going to give his nickel because he didn't want to "waste it". Okay, time to set things straight.
Even if you're not religious this still holds true: Take a freaking day off every week and give at least 10% of your income to some good cause. For the Christians out there there is no excuse. So why do we take a day off? At the most basic level, life gets all out of whack if you don't take time to relax. A "go-go-go" mentality is one of the biggest causes of people's personal lives falling apart, and I'm not just talking about workaholicism here. I talk with some new kid every couple months who tells me that his or her life is horrible or out of sorts. The solution? Take a day off where you don't do anything to try to get stuff done or get ahead. That's good advice for everyone, and God commanded it first.
For the skeptics, the burned, the mistreated out there: God's commands are good for us. I think this truth is often overlooked in many people's attempts to demonstrate how serious God is about what He wants: Don't sleep around, don't do drugs, don't cuss. Why? Because God says not to. Anyone out there willing to demonstrate clearly how each of those things makes life worse? I will gladly if you come ask me.
So what about "wasting" money giving it away? Isn't that a clear example of how God is just "putting it to us"?
Not at all.
Being willing to gladly give up 10% (or more) of your money to something good other than you is great. From a purely selfish side of things, you get a tax break. But much more than that you get to discover that you are not a slave to your money. That is a message that everyone needs to learn. And that's not to mention the fact that your few dollars will help someone else.
So Sunday, sitting in church, waiting to drop my meager check into the plate as it goes by, I noticed something. In front of me were two couples, nicely dressed, fairly regular attenders who seem like very good Christians who "have their acts together". Not that it bothers me exactly, but one of them dropped in $5 and the other one.
Come now. Why the crap would you put $1 into the plate if you work at all?
If you don't have a job but want to give what you can to a cause you believe in you put in one dollar. If you're 12 and have your soda money you want to give to a missionary you give a dollar. If you're an adult who lives in an expensive house with three cars and throws expensive parties and you give one dollar, something is wrong with you.
Don't get me wrong: God does not need your money. It's not even the amount. It's the statement: Tithing is a fad. I put money in the plate because that's what you do in church.
If you're not at a place where you "get" tithing as an act of faith/self-betterment, then don't give anything. Don't do it because it's expected of you. Get your head on right and start actually giving money. A dollar as an "offering" is like a one cent tip... insulting.
On the other side of this whole deal is the question of purposeful giving. My parents just got back from a seminar where they met with a fantastic organization that is doing wonders in improving the lives of the people of India. After seeing what they do, realizing that 1/12th of the world's entire population for all of time is alive in India right now, they concluded that giving money to change lives in India makes way more sense than giving money to encouraging "rebellious youth" here in the States.
I understand that, but it reminded me of something I learned in Film School: Use the resources given to you wisely for what you are supposed to use them.
The dilemma started at Missions Conference where we were told that for $200,000 we could feed an entire country, give them all Bibles and fund missionaries. Or, I realized, I could try to shoot a low-budget film that people may or may not watch, like, or "get anything" from. Time to drop out of film school, stop eating Taco Bell, and get my butt over to India.
I felt that way for a couple of days, convinced I was wasting resources. Then someone--my mom, I think--reminded me that God doesn't need my money and I need to use what He's given to me for what He's called me to do. If He gives me millions of dollars to make movies, I'd better use those millions well in making a great movie.
I guess it all comes down to a more simple point: This life is about finding joy. Taking a day off, giving your money away, and using the many blessings you have where you should will bring you true happiness. Not doing so, buying into a fad, will make you look okay at best.
May you find your place in this world.