It’s time to discern one’s gift to God and God’s Church. My favorite stewardship message is found in the words of Morning Song, Hymn #9:
“So let the joy of Jesus come and set thy soul ablaze, to give and give
and to give again what God hath given thee, to spend thyself nor
count the cost to serve right gloriously the God who gave all worlds
that are, and all that are to be.”
It is sad that sometimes people base their giving upon the programs and ministries of the church. Sometimes, it is the likeability of the bishop, priest, or deacon; sometimes, our giving is influenced by how well we feel we are received within the congregation or certain cliques; and sometimes, it is based upon some perceived slight, certain personalities, and of course, the politics and polity of a congregation. Unfortunately, these are not very good reasons to give or not to give. The reason we give tithes and offerings is to render thanks unto God “for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life, but above all for [God’s] immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ” (Book of Common Prayer, page 58).
So, how much should one pledge? It’s a question I am often asked. In 1982, The 67th General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution affirming the tithe to be the "minimum standard" of giving for Episcopalians, with the deputies and bishops pledging themselves to tithe, or work toward it, and urging all Episcopalians to follow them.
The Convention action is not a mandate or rule, and it is not meant to send anyone on guilt trips. It simply recognizes the tithe as the biblical standard for giving and upholds this as a standard for all Episcopalians to work towards.
What the Bible does teach clearly is that giving should be of the "first-fruits" of one's labors. Translated into today's terms, it means the check for giving, whatever the amount, should be written before the other bills are paid, and not after. The concept of giving of the "first-fruits" of one's work is mentioned in roughly 20 passages of scripture.
Christian stewardship leaders generally urge that those who wish to begin tithing, begin with a lower percentage of net or gross income, and work towards the tithe over a defined period. Thus, one might say, "I will give 3% now, but work towards 10% by the end of 2024." The practice and discipline of regular giving is more important than the amount itself.
Some have asked, “Must all of one's giving go to the local church or can some go to other Christian ministries?” Again, this is a matter of discretion or conscience. The majority of those who tithe probably give some to other Christian concerns. For those who give the entire tithe to a local church, it is again generally a matter of discipline and dedication and not a recognized standard. I tithe to the Church but also give to numerous charities.
Remember, Jesus never commanded tithing, though he repeatedly upheld the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures. His specific words on the matter were harsh ones directed towards the Pharisees and hypocrites who saw it only as an external matter and not a spiritual one. This suggests it is not to be taken as a "rule" to be obeyed, but as a voluntary response of love and gratitude towards God.
Over the past four decades, a growing number of Episcopalians have begun tithing and have experienced new spiritual joy in their lives. It is my prayer that you will join with a growing number of our parishioners experiencing this new joy. The Vestry of our parish has already made their pledges, and so have I. The Vestry and the Rector certainly commend the tithe to you as a way in which we may each give sacrificially, meaningfully, and joyfully.
We hope that every member of the parish will become a passionate and proportionate giver; determining the amount they give, to give thanks to God and to support the mission of Trinity, Apalachicola. We believe that the practice of proportionate giving and moving toward and beyond the tithe, will provide each of us with a new spiritual richness, and our offerings will provide new and exciting opportunities to carry out our mission and ministry which will enable us to joyfully proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On behalf of this congregation, I ask that you prayerfully discern what you’re giving to the Church and what percentage of your household income it reflects.
We are hopeful that, after determining the percentage your current pledge represents, and, if you find you are not tithing now, you will consider increasing the percentage so that your new pledge more fully represents your thankfulness to God for all that God gives you and your family, friends, and neighbors. On November 14, we will gather for worship and receive your pledges as we, “give thanks to the Lord, for all his love” (Hymn 291). Once again: