Cashing in on Jesus

Glen Guyton is director of finance and convention planning for Mennonite Church USA.
Glen Guyton is chief operating officer for Mennonite Church USA.

By Glen Guyton

“You give your tithe as a spiritual duty, the same way you breathe. When you give without looking for results, you are giving openly. That giving is rewarded secretly. That secret rewarding may come as a flash of insight into the heart of God.”
— John-Roger, DSS

I must confess that views on tithing and church stewardship have changed. For years when people asked me, “Why should I tithe?” My reply was, “Because God said so.”  If you are reading this blog I am sure you have very strong opinions about tithing and stewardship.

The lead-off quote has probably made you furiously sort through the file cabinet of your theological knowledge to come up with arguments against mandatory tithing. Is tithing really a spiritual duty?  Does paying 10% of income to a church guarantee that God lets me behind the velvet rope to His secret blessing room? Does the church teach tithing to scam us into overpaying staff and constructing lofty cathedrals?

While writing this blog I came across two tithing websites that approach the issue from two very different angles.  Tithing.org approaches tithing from the viewpoint that God’s is our partner and we need to “cash-in” on that relationship. The tithe, or 10% of your income, is the magical key into unlocking those benefits.

Tithing.com says that their goal is to “help inform and encourage Christian believers about following biblical giving that is not bound by tithing, but is sacrificial and cheerful… [breaking] from the bondage to legalism and encourage[ing] everyone to embrace sacrificial giving led by the Spirit of God.” Who knew tithing was so controversial?

In Mennonite Church USA we don’t use the “T-Word” much. We talk more about stewardship and as an Anabaptist I like how that feels. Stewardship is about the 100% of who we are.  C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”

We don’t owe God 10% we owe God 100%. As good stewards we are called to manage all resources responsibly, not just our money, but our health, time, and talents as well. We unlock the power of God by giving Him our best, not a tenth of it.

My old football coach used to ask for 110%, but I don’t think that was even possible. In some sense stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service.

If you want to learn more about stewardship check out the resources provided by Everence, the stewardship agency of Mennonite Church USA.  Your congregation might be interested in hosting a Stewardship University facilitated by Everence.

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20 thoughts on “Cashing in on Jesus

  1. Thank you Ervin for your thoughtful and pastoral approach to this discussion. One thing is bothering me though. In all of the discussion regarding same-sex marriage we appear to be deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room. I refer to divorce, which is specifically referenced in the same MCUSA teaching position statement often mentioned in the context of same-sex marriage. It seems to me that divorce is a greater threat to marriages and to the spiritual health of our congregations than same-sex marriage. When are we going to begin to have “really good discussions” about how to strengthen marriages within MCUSA and better minister to those whose marriages are in trouble or have ended in divorce?

  2. I am relieved to learn that rethinking our current organization and polity is one option being identified as a way through this. Having traveled around the church leading discussions that often involve human sexuality, I fear there is no possibility of consensus–no matter how well we listen to each other. Rather than spend the next decades discussing our varied understandings of what the Bible really says and how we should apply Scriptural understandings to today’s situations, I pray our leaders will help us find a way for us to bless each other and then challenge us to get on with our missional call of bringing healing and hope to our hurting sisters and brothers, our communities and our world.

  3. a federation, alliance, or association… a loose affiliation of independent national bodies with a small core of common convictions…some warned that we might too easily cluster into homogeneous groupings with less cross-cultural capacity, or lose the ability to hold each other accountable to our Anabaptist ideals. Some worried that we might lose the capacity to learn from each other’s differences in a less diverse body.

    I recently made two posts at rruuaacchh.org that argue for splitting and, at the same time, on another level, not splitting. That we go our separate ways in some respects, but we commit to a regular engagement to continue calling each other to account and learning from each other, in a sustainable rhythm. This commitment is not based on our common opinions, but on our need for each other despite both sides considering that the other side is immoral. I’ve written a ton about this issue, on that blog. I’m loathe to copy both posts (Split 1, and Split 2) here, but I’d appreciate your critique on rruuaacchh.org.

  4. Wisdom words. This site is inspiration for my new day that began at 4 am. (Since grade 9 I’ve loved the early morning and this day I’m preparing to teach today’s Heritage Watchers.) Script below: May our people groups know new life, new hope, and new commitment to God’s ways which are higher than our own. Special Note: We may associate without being married to one another. Peace and great blessings to all readers!

  5. I have to admit a great deal of frustration that such a simple, beautiful church is so ensnared in this debate. It has all the inanity of arguing whether the color blue is actually blue. The Bible, both New and Old Testaments, are clear on this issue; homosexual practice is a sin. Those with homosexual dispositions should be loved, valued, helped, and challenged alongside the rest to live holy lives. They are no worse and no better than any other sinner, of whom we each can say, I am chief.

    My husband and I recently left our beloved congregation over a refusal to take a Biblical stand on this issue. We hoped to stay within the Mennonite Church, but as we see this issue come up over and over, we feel a keen sense of hopelessness. We served for six years with EMM in Chile and know the wild blessing it is to be busy about God’s business; reaching out and discipling new believers. Here in the States it seems we are too busy trying to skirt scripture so that we can be culturally palatable.

    I know those who would disagree with me are operating from a place of deep love; I see that, I do. Many have children who have come out as gay or close friends who have confided their struggles and they wish to minister to them. They interpret the Bible differently than the preceding thousands of years of Christians. They believe God is doing something new; lowering a sheet from Heaven where unclean are made clean.

    My challenge to them is this: Where is your point of reference for your beliefs? Your own empathy? Pervading culture? The scriptures? If it is the latter, please share from that point of reference, because as I see it, that is our only common ground, that we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. If you don’t believe even that, why are you Mennonite in the first place?

    Respectfully,
    Sarah Gingrich

  6. The issue seems simple to me. We are moving in the direction of becoming Unitarian. Does the world really need another Unitarian church? I personally think the third way of historic anabaptist theology has much to offer and I am feeling like we are giving it up for something that has no substance.

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