My tithing fight is one more thing that is healthy and yet I don’t do it. One thing I do that isn’t healthy is fritter away cash on trivial things I could do without. My typical spend at Starbucks or Wawa is about $15.00. If I eat breakfast and lunch in a restaurant the daily tab can easily exceed $30.00. Multiply that out over a year and my spend on eating out is nearly $8,000.00. But I say, have said for over forty years that I can’t afford to tithe. My tithing fight is at least forty years old.
I don’t think I’m alone in this–being pissed off at the church for its legion of sins. An early reason I didn’t go to church much less tithe to it is that those people are hypocrites. They are. I accused others of things I was guilty of in a fit of youthful blindness to my own hypocrisy. I was right and it was all that external third that was fucked up. My tithing fight was righteous.
It’s been forty years. I am the old man my youthful self thought was wrong. Have I repented? Kind of. It’s been iterative. I find myself in jeopardy and then find my way out. While in jeopardy I make lots of sincere promises to never make the same mistakes again. And I don’t. I make new ones. Then there is that constant impulse to buy more new shiny things. I have lots of new(ish) shiny(ish) things that I thought I needed when I bought them. Meanwhile, I spend very little on the church.
Church Isn’t Free
Fun fact: my church, on any given Sunday, has enough cash on hand for the next two weeks. This means they are two weeks away from financial collapse on most Sundays—for over 80 years. There is your definition of relying on God.
What does a church offer? Is it all just a bunch of deluded hypocrites insisting that everyone else come correct while living la vida maligna? Some say that. The goal is to live la vida temerosa de dios.
It’s not uniform. Each church chooses the services they offer in addition to education and worship. Let’s look at the cost to an individual for some popular services:
|High School Education||$16,000.00|
|Adult Education||$5,000.00 estimated|
|Therapy and Counseling||$3,200.00|
Yes, the costs I’ve given are arbitrary and a bit inflated. Work with me. Using my estimates, you could pay as much as $4,300.00 per month for the services I list. Let’s say that the average middle-class family earns $46,000.00/year. Ten percent of that is $4,600.00. Your benefit from services received can be as much as four million dollars over a lifetime of church membership. I piss and moan over tithing at all and grudgingly give about a grand a year. But you are the hypocrite.
You Can’t Prove Anything
What evidence is there for this? That charitable giving could be the way out of a perpetual grind with peril ever at our door? None. Anecdotal evidence, yes. Plenty of Christians have testimonials where they committed to tithing while facing fiscal peril and yet instead of landing on a street corner with a sign begging for money they thrive. But nicely documented provable evidence? Nope.
Hang in there. This next is connected. Christians live an absurd life. Their testimonials are anecdotes where coincidence is claimed as causality. Someone is prayed over and their bursitis is healed. Can anyone prove it was the prayer that fixed it? Probably not. Also, testimonials where someone filled out a pledge card for more than they can afford and yet, a year later, find that they could have given more. One more. Their model for leadership is upside down. Leaders are to be servants.
And here is where I write a heartfelt self-criticism and promise to give what I pledge in 2022. Whatever. The measure of me isn’t what I say. It’s what I do. Pledge week came and went this month. On two different Sundays, we were to fill out a pledge card and walk it to the altar. I didn’t fill out a pledge card. So am I going to tithe in 2022? That’s the plan. But I’m overflowing with plans. We won’t know if I fought the fight with myself and gave a tenth of my first fruits until 12/2022.
Walk the Talk
Also here, near the end, is where I try to persuade you to tithe. Running a church costs money. The budget for St. Giles is several million dollars. All of that money comes from donations. Some of us donate to NPR. But tithing is evil? Listen, here is where I am with this. It’s fashionable to complain about current events. Our world is a shitshow, blah, blah, blah. Also to protest, riot, loot, burn businesses, and other such civil disobedience because clearly, tantrums are how we will create the utopia we seek. What if? what if the old and slow way of volunteering and charitable giving worked better than a BLM protest where black-owned businesses are destroyed?
Do you, boo. I’ll do me. Volunteering and tithing are annoying and feel nuts. The church has plenty of sins to answer for. It’s crazy to give money to an organization responsible for so much misery, right? Well . . . no, no crazier than a weekly tab at Wawa or Starbucks for $50.00 or so. Plus, yes, the church has done some fucked up shit. That’s not all, though. Christians also do some beautiful shit. It’s worth supporting the beautiful shit while working to accomplish justice on the fucked up shit. And achieving justice takes money and volunteers. So there is that.