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Timothy E. Moffitt

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  • 10% of What?

    Quite regularly, I receive an inquiry regarding the application of the tithe to life today as an American Christian. Some of the questions include:

    • Should I tithe 10% of my gross pay or just the amount of my take-home pay?

    • Should capital gains of stocks and bonds be included in my calculation of the tithe? Should I net out the losses I incur when I sell stocks and bonds that have declined in value?

    • Should I consider “paper” profits and losses in my tithe calculation?

    • Should I tithe 10% of monetary gifts and inheritances?

    • Should I tithe 10% of just the “interest” portion of my IRA withdrawals or both the interest and principal portion? Note that I have already tithed 10% of the original contribution to the IRA account.

    • Should I tithe 10% of the entire withdrawal from my Roth IRA? I didn’t tithe on the monthly deductions from my paycheck when I was funding the Roth.

    • Should I tithe 10% of the value of the benefits my employer pays on my behalf (for example health and dental insurance)?

    • Should I tithe 10% of my tax refunds? If I pay a tithe on only my take-home pay, I have not tithed on this portion of my remuneration.

    • Should I tithe 10% of the value of non-monetary gifts or payments?

    • Should I tithe 10% of the value of the goods and services I receive through my barter club?

    • I just sold my house for a $100,000 profit. Should I tithe 10% of the profit?

    • I just sold my house for a $100,000 loss. Should I carry that loss forward and apply it against future profits when calculating my tithe?

    …and the list goes on and on…and the biblical answer to these questions…there isn’t one.

  • Same Kind of Different as Me

    A fellow Delta Dental board member and friend, Terri Miller, recommeded I read "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  It is a quick read, describing the development of a friendship between a modern day slave and an international art dearler. 

    The emerging themes within their dialogue are great fodder for pause and reflection on a Christian response to screaming gaps in American social and economic justice.  This is a must read for all Christians, let alone comfortable white Christians, who believe social and economic equality was achieved through the civil rights movement of the 60's and 70's.  Hall and Moore make it abundantly clear that much work remains for the church and its people.

  • Dancing with the Devil?

    I was told some time ago that parishioners do not tithe because they are “dancing with the devil”. Upon hearing this, I was intrigued by two things: 1) the devil is a dancer, and 2) the connection between a relationship with the devil and one’s tithing to the church.

    This person suggested that if one does not tithe it is because of a proactive relationship with satan. My first thought was what if the person just doesn’t have any money.

    And then I had another thought: the reason that some congregants do not give ten percent (the “tithe”) to the church is because of disintermediation. Yep, when I was a pup at Kalamazoo College in the 70’s, Dr. Fred Strobel introduced me to the concept of disintermediation in a macroeconomics course. Back in the day, financial disintermediation was used to describe the behavior of investors who no longer put their money in savings accounts at the local bank. Rather, they invested directly with corporate or government borrowers, bypassing the middleman bank. So, the bank intermediary was “dissed”. Hence, disintermediation (just kidding).

    More recently, we have witnessed disintermediation in the retail sector for which the typical supply chain (supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to customer) is collapsed when the customer purchases directly from the manufacturer. Think of buying a computer online directly from Dell.

    So, I posit, without reference to motivation, that parishioners bypass the church intermediary to achieve, for example, social welfare objectives. This, in part, explains the gap between the suggested tithe (10%) and the actual tithe (2%). For example, a church member in Kalamazoo, Michigan might donate directly to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission to satisfy their desire to impact efficiently and effectively poverty and basic life needs in this community. This parishioner might allocate 2% of his or her income to this cause, thereby leaving 8% for the church.

    The internet has certainly made donations directly to para-church ministries much easier and more efficient, and the implications to church budgeting is worthy of further discussion. By the way, I am seeing a few churches reintermediate. Stay tuned.

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