By James H. Johnson, AIM
This is the sixth article is a series of six focusing on the theme: “The Joy of Giving: How the Practice of Giving Draws the Heart to God.” This series, based on the words of Jesus, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21), provides opportunity to hear the stories of hearts that are brought to that joyful place of being one with our generous God.
I first learned the word “tithe” from my mother, a high school teacher, when I was a senior in high school. We had just received my acceptance from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio where I would begin my church music studies in the fall of 1969, and in reviewing the financial aid package, the amount of money that would be expected of my parents was to my eyes staggering. Mom explained to me that the first check she wrote every month was 10% of salary to the church, and that she budgeted everything else after making that monthly commitment – and that somehow we would be able to pay the college bills.
That witness throughout my college years had a profound impact on my decision to tithe on gross income every year for my now 42 years in ministry. Tithing for me is not about legalism (many people would not be able to feed themselves or their children if they made a financial tithe). It is not about self- righteousness nor is it a means of being judgemental to anyone who chooses not to tithe. For me tithing is a huge expression of my faith and it has contributed substantially to my spiritual formation.
Theologically it is the understanding that all that I am, all that I have belongs to God, and my stewardship response in time, talent and treasure is my response to God for all I have been given in this life. Tithing has taught me to live with what I need rather than what I want. Through financial giving I have made connections to many meaningful local, synodical and church wide ministries. I have learned what is really important in life, and the words of St. Frances, “it is in giving that we receive” have taught me how rich I really am. Thanks be to God.
Originally printed in the May-June 2016 edition of the South Carolina Lutheran. Subscribe today for only $10 for six issues a year by calling the office at 803-765-0590.
Johnson is an ELCA Associate in Ministry who has served in Music Ministry for 42 years. He continues to serve LTSS as Seminary Musician and Special Assistant to the Provost.