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Changing Our Patterns of Giving: Exploring the Virtues and Wisdom of Tithing

By Ron Nicola, Chairman of the Department of Stewardship of the Antiochian Archdiocese

From The Word, October 2005

The concept and practice of tithing is being talked about more frequently throughout the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. To some, this is a positive and long overdue development. For others, discussion of tithing within the context of the Orthodox Church is both confusing and unfamiliar. It is true that the practice of tithing has not been common within most Orthodox communities in North America, but this does not mean that a discussion of tithing is out of place. In fact, just the opposite is true. There is nothing about tithing that places it out of the realm of the Orthodox Church, other than the fact that it has not been part of the tradition of our churches for the past few generations. There are countless individuals and some entire parishes within the Antiochian Archdiocese who currently tithe. Their example is a beacon for the rest of us to learn from and follow.

The Trail of the Tithe

by Fr. Thomas Zell
AGAIN Magazine, Fall 2005

One of my earliest childhood memories is of piling into the back of our family car on Sunday morning and heading off to our little Baptist church in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Along with ensuring that my brother and I were properly cleaned and dressed for the occasion, my father would always drop several coins into our hands, so that we in turn could drop them into the offering plate at church. Tithing was something Dad faithfully practiced all his life, and he wanted to make sure his sons followed suit. Having lived with this tradition for so long, and loving it so much, it is hard for me now to stop and look at it objectively. But since the concept has become somewhat an object of debate today, I would like to examine both the myth and the realities behind this practice, and to follow the trail of the tithe.

The King of Salem Blesses Abraham: Engraving by Julian Schnorr von Carolsfeld (c. 1851–60).The King of Salem Blesses Abraham: Engraving by Julian Schnorr von Carolsfeld (c. 1851–60).Tithing in the Old Testament

In English, Greek, and Hebrew, the word “tithe” comes from a derivative of the number “ten,” and means the setting aside of a tenth of one’s income for a specific, often religious purpose. Tithing is an ancient practice—very ancient.

Expectations for Giving in Christ’s Love

Giving is only truly giving if it is done in the love of Christ. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, to love our neighbor as ourself, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Giving for any lesser reason (to control others, to get glory for yourself, to escape false guilt) is a perversion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:7). These commands can be called Christ’s law of love. (Note that neither “law,” “rule”, “standard”, nor “precept” is a “dirty word” when rightly used and understood.)

St. Basil the Great said that this life is no accident, but is a training ground so that we rational beings may learn to know God. This is relevant to our stewardship of what we have, and to our giving, especially during the period from September through December, our annual “Giving in Stewardship Emphasis Season.” How shall we apply Christ’s law of love to our giving in Christian stewardship?

Let us review what we have considered together over the years. God’s word written, Holy Scripture, and Holy Patristics, our chief Orthodox sources, address three major topics in giving: motives, methods, and results. If we internalize what our sources have to say on these themes for our lives and our parishes, we will do well!

Before you roll your eyes, be glad that we have largely reviewed motives already. God loves us. For God so loved the world – us – that He gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is good news (gospel), and it is good news that motivates us to give!

Give and Be Glad

By Douglas Cramer

There is a fundamental mistake most of us make—the belief that our possessions are our own. But this is simply not true. Yes, most of us work for everything we have. But we wouldn’t have any of it if it were not given to us by God. If we believe in God, there is no denying the fact that without God we would have nothing, not even our own lives. He is the source of all, and everything returns to Him in the end.

To Tithe is To Love

By Carole Buleza

In late summer and early autumn we see the land resting after having yielded the grain and fruit of the season, if we live close enough to farmland. In our developed societies we are not as tied to the land as those in agrarian societies. We do not suffer for lack of food at the grocery store, and perhaps are not as apt to pray in thanksgiving to God for the bounty just harvested.

Our ancestors in the Bible knew that all they had came from God. What they had they held not as owners, but as stewards. Just as Adam was made steward, or caretaker, of creation, so they were merely stewards of their holdings. They also knew that God had decreed that a “tithe,” or 1/10, of all they harvested was to be returned to Him in thanksgiving and as appropriate worship.

“All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to him. . . The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal . . . (Leviticus: 27: 30, 32)

What were God’s people thankful for? Not only for the harvest, but primarily for the fact that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and was leading them to the Promised Land. They owed God their life.

Here we are a few thousand years later. Has anything changed? We are now God’s people. Jesus, our Lord, has rescued us from slavery, to sin and eternal death. He has opened to us the Gates of Heaven. We owe Him our life. Do we tithe? Did Jesus tell us to? If you answered “yes,” you have a very good memory. There is a passage in which Jesus uses the word “tithe.” In the passage He is calling the Pharisees to task. They have focused on keeping the law to the smallest detail, while missing the spirit they should be cultivating within.

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