Although the church is reluctant to lay down hard and fast rules about giving, all of us can do with some advice in this area. Otherwise some people feel guilty that they don’t give enough while others simply reach for loose change whenever they hear the word ‘collection’.
The Church of England suggests that church members give at least 5% of net income to their local church and 5% to charities they wish to support. This approach of giving a set percentage helps people to be disciplined and regular with their giving. It encourages good habits and really helps the local church to plan and budget better.
This is based on some Old Testament teaching which suggests setting aside a tenth of our earnings for the church and charities: other major world religions have similar guidance. Giving can transform the world – our lives as well as the lives of others, our community and beyond. Some people refer to this as “tithing”.
But…could there be another way? Isn’t generosity much more important than percentages of income? So maybe a better question to ask is “God, what is a generous amount? How much do I need? How much can I give to others? What feels right?”
This is a really personal decision and is between you and God. When generous giving is done prayerfully, it feels right. It doesn’t feel stingy or burdensome, too little or too much. Click here to read Bishop Mark Tanner’s advice on this.
In the New Testament there are lots of stories about generosity, offering different perspectives to “tithing”. And in fact if anything they’re much more challenging than “tithing”.
Zacchaeus gave “half [his] possessions to the poor”. The widow in the Temple gave “all she had to live on”. Jesus told the rich you man to sell all that he had, give it to the poor and “come follow me”. The woman at Simon the Leper’s house gave up something of incredible value, which she gave abundantly and extravagantly (perfumed oil), so much so, that it caused arguments among the disciples. The Good Samaritan, as well as providing first aid and transport to the injured stranger, gave money for his lodgings and offered to pay whatever extra it would take.
And then, of course, there’s Jesus, who gave everything so that we would live.
These New Testament examples of generous giving (and there are many, many more) help us to see what generosity looks like through the eyes of God. Obviously from these examples alone, following Jesus is very challenging. It takes great faith to step out and be more generous than we have ever been in the past. So we really mustn’t try to do it alone. We can really only do it in God’s strength, not our own. This is why prayer is so important.
Let us remind ourselves that God knows everything, and feel safe in that knowledge. He knows our troubles, our circumstances, our hearts. Give this question of generosity to God. Pray.