The Couch Event and Tithing Edition
USA! USA! USA! Oh sorry, I was just getting carried away with my Couch Event. It’s a little known thing and happens once every four years with athletes from around the world. I’m sure to win gold. The Couch Event is easy – um, I mean it’s got a high degree of difficulty. You sit, some may even stretch, on a couch and scream loudly for Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky. The trick is NOT to get off the couch for at least two hours. For any reason. That shows true skill.
The other aspect of the Couch Event is watching people like the “Final Five” in women’s gymnastics. This requires screaming (again) and saying, “How did they do that?” “Maybe I should have started my kid in gymnastics a little sooner.” Or “Please, God, let me get off this couch without a stress fracture.” It’s the complexity of the sentences that make you stand out. Good luck, everyone. Couch Event 2020! USA!
The Couch Event may not be in your future (you should leave it to the pros, like me) but your willingness to be fearless in assisting others to become good stewards of their money – for great causes and ministries – is definitely something you can excel at.
A few weeks ago, I asked for some responses to questions around “tithing.” While not a lot of you took the bait – I was appreciative of the two (two!) of you who did. God bless you. Thankfully, these folks had some really good insights. So here goes:
The first person that responded wished to remain anonymous – which may illustrate the difficulty in talking about the topic of tithing. This layperson was from the wild state of Alaska and here’s his/her unequivocal answer to “Should we talk about tithing?”: Yes, we should talk about tithing…Yes, it is relevant to the health and work of the church and of individuals. Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
There’s more nuance in Anonymous’ response to the question of “tithing gross versus net”: [It] depends. If you are a farmer, fisherman, or other producer/worker who has expenses that may sometimes exceed your gross, the tithe should be based on your net. I believe that God asked for a tithe of a person's increase! If Abraham or Jacob didn't have an increase of sheep, he'd have no responsibility to tithe those that he did have. I think that God does not want to put a person out of business.
The always-thoughtful Rev. Karen Hernandez (Kuna, ID) provides a pastor’s view. Here are her responses, with some minor edits:
Should you even talk about the tithe? Is it relevant?
Yes and yes! Those who are new to church may truly not know where to begin with giving… I've personally benefitted greatly by stretching myself to increase my giving annually, and I want others to know that there is much to be gained by the giver from such a practice.
If you talk about the tithe do you mention giving 10% or do you leave it up to the giver?
Yes, I mention the literal translation of tithe. And in Idaho I point out that tithing isn't an LDS (Latter Day Saints) practice but rather a biblical one! "They give [a whopping] 10% because they have to!" is one of the things every Idahoan seems to know about LDS folks. The assumption has become that tithing is a Mormon practice unrelated to other Christians.
Is the tithe on gross or net income? Or does it matter?
Giver's choice, but I emphasize proportional giving.
Is tithing only to the church or can it include donations to non-profits?
I don't think I've specifically addressed this in a sermon, but my personal practice is to tithe to the church first. Beyond that, giving elsewhere is wonderful, too. I'm not sure if I would feel differently about this if I was not a church employee.
So thank you, Anonymous and Rev. Hernandez for being brave (just like the athletes we're seeing on the telly) and sending in your tithing responses. As Rev. Brian Shimer (Beaverton, OR) is planning, you too may consider using these tithing questions with your Finance or Stewardship Committees to get the conversation going. Think of what Martha Karolyi would say to her protégés, “Get off the couch! Practice! Go for the Gold! Talk about tithing!” Go! Go! Go!
You can download the tithing questions right here.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is looking for a synchronized diving partner. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at email@example.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.