The Evangelical community is split on the issue of the “tithe” being an appropriate approach for Christians today. I’ve read solid support for all positions on that, and being a black and white kind of guy and one who feels the “flat tax” idea is probably the most equitable approach to community support, I have always argued that the tithe is always the best place to start. We know that is acceptable giving because Jesus, who rebuked the Pharisee for their neglect of love, mercy and compassion, commended them for their tithing (See Matthew 23:23). Yet, there is more biblical support for “Ability Giving” (as Jeff Anderson calls it – see his little book “Plastic Donuts – a fresh perspective on gifts.”) We find this principle in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

When taking the collection from the disciples, Luke tells us in Acts 11:29 that everyone would give “according to his ability.” When Paul was addressing the issuing of giving to the ministry in 2 Corinthians 8:12, he said that each one’s gift is “acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” In Moses’ building campaign for the Tabernacle in Exodus 35:5, he told the children of Israel, “from what you have, make an offering to the Lord.” David also said upon raising the resources to build the temple, “now, with all my ability, I have provided for the house of my God the gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood…” (1 Chronicles 29:2). In the rebuilding of the temple Ezra told the people to bring their offerings according to their ability, (Ezra 2:69). When Moses was instructing the Israelites regarding the observation of the holiday festivals, he said to them, “no one should appear before the Lord empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

I’m frequently asked if I should tithe my gross or net income. If I’m in debt should I still give? Do I still give from my social security? What about reimbursed expenses? I’ve struggled with all these questions over the past 30+ years and now I’m struggling with is 10% really enough. We are truly able to give more. I like what Jeff Anderson said about this. “When you approach these questions with an open heart, God’s promptings begin to work. This process is not without some tension. For us, the decision to give more would involve trade-offs with other amounts that mattered to us. But as we found ourselves looking up (to God) with our gifts – these amounts began to matter too. Ultimately, we determined to give the greater amount for one simple reason: because we could. We had the ability.”