The fall months are when most churches are putting their budgets together for presentation to their congregants. I had a really amazing conversation with a pastor recently about how many people now not only don’t know the definition of tithing but have interesting ideas about what constitutes a tithe. Most pastors are pretty good at citing Malachi 3:9-10: “You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are [still] robbing Me. Bring the full ten percent into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.”
Obviously there is more to understanding that passage than merely equating the local church with the storehouse, but in our area, there is a habit that I think is more prevalent than most folks think: considering some items “tithe-deductible.” Kids in a private Christian school? That’s kingdom work, so we can take that off the tithe. Supporting a Christian candidate for office? That’s kingdom work, so we can count that toward our 10% as well. Ate at Chick-fil-A? Yes, another tithe-deductible expense. Buying a copy of “Fireproof” on DVD? That counts too since a church made the film. Bought some Ethos bottled water at Starbucks, part of that goes to poverty relief, so it counts too.
I doubt that most of these folks would do these substitutions on their taxes, but in the case of the local congregation, it means the difference between supporting ministry and not supporting ministry.
For all of our talk about politicians and debt and spending, I have a feeling that most of us have our own housecleaning we need to do in the area of God’s money.