Question: “I was raised on tithing and believe in giving 10% of my income to help support church. Why is there not a tradition of tithing in Christian Science churches? It seems like it would help many of the branch churches facing financial difficulties.”
Response 1: Mark Swinney
I don’t really think of tithing as “giving”. I think of it more as investing or capitalizing. Why? Because the church that I attend and give money to is my church! It’s not just some organization out in the distance that I’m helping to fund. My church holds such a dear place in my heart that it relates in many ways to who I am, and I find that in practice I receive much more than I give to this organization. Rather than giving money away to it, I see tithing as investing in an organization that I love and help maintain not only as a gift to the community but also (or maybe even more so) because it deeply enriches me.
Churches are organizations in which people may work together as a team, accomplishing much more than an individual might alone. A component of effective teamwork is funding church activities, such as services and other things. I know that, in an entire year, if I gained just one inspired idea that healed me, my contribution—my investment in my church—has paid me back tenfold!
In the Bible, it says, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
“The storehouse” is everything that I embrace and possess in consciousness, including both my family home and my church home.
The end of that Bible verse certainly has proven true for me. What I have learned as a result of my association with my church is truly a boundless treasure. Year after year, I receive blessings poured out beyond what I ever could have hoped. When my parents first took me to church, I could feel the substance and power in the ideas that I heard. I still have those valuable treasures and carry them with me everywhere I travel.
The percentage of my monetary income that I contribute to church is as personal as my spiritual growth. Like many things, it’s just between me and God. Admittedly, when I first attended church, I never suspected that I would end up giving so much to the church organization, yet, also, I never suspected that I would be given so much in return! Jesus’ words certainly apply to my experience: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).
Response 2: Christie Hanzlik
A prescribed policy for tithing in Christian Science churches doesn't exist except for the brief mention of when to take collection during the Sunday Service, meaning that individuals in branch churches can prayerfully determine how to approach this issue as new needs arise. As an example of one approach to tithing, my branch church periodically informs members how much the church needs monthly from each member, assuming costs are divided up equally, to meet expenses. The church is merely letting members know what is needed and does not tally up how much each member offers. Other churches may choose not to make such an announcement and instead rely on each person to “give as he has decided in his heart” (II Corinthians 9:7). While each church decides what steps to take, we all have the opportunity to spiritualize our understanding of tithing.
The word “tithe” actually means a tenth part of one’s income, so we have a general starting point—with Biblical roots—for what we should consider giving (Genesis 28:20-22). In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy defines tithe as “Contribution; tenth part; homage; gratitude” (p. 595). If we sometimes feel that our church friends are not tithing to the degree that we would like to see, we may consider the spiritual definition of tithing in our prayers. There is no shortage of gratitude, and our church cannot lack homage and reverence. We cannot lack from giving. Where the material senses—and even the material account books—might suggest dearth, Love's abundance is actually pouring out. Instead of being concerned about what appears to be a lack of resources, we can actively acknowledge our fellow contributors' inherent gifts as radiant expressions of Love, full of light and goodness. As we spiritualize our concept of tithing and stand firm on our church’s freedom from limitation, we can expect to witness great fruit both inside and outside our church buildings.