Week 93: “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?"

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.

  1. I reallly enjoyed both of these comments. They opened up the importance of giving back, no matter if it i one'ss time, service in some form, or money. The deep and heartfelt investment in what fills our cup to overflowing is what counts. And, we can do this in many ways throughghout many phases of our lives. Giving is the prayers, the love, the embracing others in our spiritual practice , feeding the birds, rescuing the animals in the cold. All relate surely tothat burgeoning idea and holy concept of CHURCH, and willingness to share the storehouse of thought and consciousness so that we reflect that abundance all the time, no matter what ,and of course invest in our church monetarily as well. Freely giving.and being selfless with no attachment of it at all, I feel is the key to really receiving the blessings that do pour out on each for each of us and from each of us as we embrace this loving nourishing concept.

  2. Oh, but there was tithing in the early days! When I was a member of First Church , San Francisco, CA and was on the Centennial Committee, we went through the church's file cabinets in the walk-in vault and discovered 3x5 cards with the amount the person had pledged and each week neatly marked as they contributed. At that early time the weekly amounts were 25, 35, 50 cents and even a few $2. I don't know if that was to put up the church or for a specific project but one of our CSBs said that people even mortgaged their homes to have money to put up the church.

    Liked the spiritual definitions contributed above. :)

  3. I've never had a lot of extra money to give to church, so I'm so grateful a more experienced member took me aside when I was young and said, "Never fear about your contribution being inadequate because people like me can write a check large enough to keep this church going. What we really need are people like yourself willing to serve as Reader, Clerk, Board member, prison chaplain, etc." Then she had me look up in the Message for 1900 where Mrs. Eddy told us that a Christian Scientist's TIME is his or her CURRENCY. So I took this to heart and joined the staff at headquarters in Boston, giving several years service at the Publishing Society. Over the years, I've never regretted putting my career on hold so-to-speak in order to make that sacrifice. God has provided wonderful adventures and rewards for following that early guidance of spending my time in serving church. I'm living proof that giving generously never impoverishes us.

  4. Thanks. Years ago my Sunday school teacher mentioned that he considered tithing as giving 10% of his time to church activities. I have often considered his advice and have tried to do the same. And, it is true that we get so many blessings in return for our efforts.

  5. Our work for the idea of church, " the structure of Truth and Love, whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" is witness to the sum total of that which is given gratefully and willingly by each and by all. That is our tithe regardless of its percentage of income from God, good, which is without measure. Our treasure within our hearts will lead, make known, and direct our proper tithing for the blessings already received, and for those waiting for our acceptance.

  6. I think there is a tradition of tithing in Christian Science churches, but like everything else about Christian Science, it's measured spiritually, not materially. Tithing represents to me not so much a numerical percentage, as a sacred willingness to give "the first and best" of whatever my labors produce, to benefit mankind through the church I cherish. But the first thing my labors produce is the deeper insights and understanding of God's nature and love. So I'm ready each week, each day, to share with others, as appropriate, the confidence, courage, cheer, wisdom, insights, my prayers have given me. It's all "church" to me - whether I'm getting milk from a clerk at the gas station, chatting in the lobby after a service, serving on a committee, or writing a check. How can I "give of my heart's rich overflow" (Hymn 139)? How can I give the substance I've been given? From this standpoint, it's easy and effortless to share ideas, to give financially (as guided by divine Principle, Love, not percentages), and to recognize gifts of value others are giving.

    When our Society had a long stretch with no organist, relying on lovely CDs but a less than proficient CD operator (me!), a relative newcomer offered us the name of an organist. We'd been unable to find one at any price, but were eager to honor the place of music in the service. This individual became our organist, and brought warmth, joy, and love to the whole service. At first she was reluctant to be paid! But our treasurer insisted, saying, "There's a first time for everything - Try it, you'll like it!" This just expressed our Society's pure love and gratitude, our "hearts rich overflow."

    And it was that attendee's love that brought us the organist in the first place. The man who gave us her name drives many miles, past other churches, to ours. And let's face it, when I ran the CD player, it was often awkward. He could have shrugged and thought, these people are a bunch of pathetic losers, why bother? But he didn't! He didn't criticize. He didn't leave. He gave us a name. That's "Love being reflected in love." That's church in action in my book, regardless of whether the name is in the members' book.

    That act itself "opened the windows of heaven to me" to understand better the blessing that Church really is - that IT "rouses the dormant understanding" - IT arouses a heart to give instead of complain or withhold, whether the giving is money, ideas, time, or a name! My job is to notice what Church is doing in the hearts I encounter, both within and without our walls, and to remember to "magnify His work, which men behold." (Job 36:24). In such ways, even a "tenth part" becomes a whole, in the infinity of Love.

  7. Thank you, Mark and Christie, for this inspired thought on tithing. I too grew up in a church that suggested a tithe and never had a sense of it being homage and gratitude. Mrs. Eddy gave us so much and you as practitioners do too. We are grateful for your work.

  8. Awesome! I was raised in CS and was never made to feel like it was a bad thing if I didn't tithe. Then, it became a compulsion, becasue I wanted to give back. In the end, everything I learn in Christian Science is about love and giving.

  9. For many years I held on to the meaning of "TITHING." To me it meant giving at least 10% of time to thinking! praying to God. It has nothing to do with how much money to give to Church. Only to God. At least 3hours per day which is 10% of a 24 hour day. By doing this, the side effect would show in the success of a C/S Church or any Church for that matter. "Pray without ceasing" is what the Bible says for us to do.

  10. I have always felt since I was a young child, even though no one taught me, that tithing was a way to say thank you to God, like not picking all the berries from the bush and leaving some for the birds, leaving corn and hay for the wildlife to thrive on instead of gleaning the fields. As an adult it has always been my pleasure to reflect where I receive my spiritual nourishment from and since I adopted Christian Science it has been the gifts from The Mother Church, the practitioners,branch churches and the periodicals that nourish me daily . Knowing that others can be fed via our reading rooms and on line services makes it a good pleasure to share in this way of giving thanks to God.

  11. I so much agree with all the ideas above. It seems to me that sometimes the most valuable thing to give to church is time etc, but on other occasions it is good to give money.

    The last time I attended Annual Meeting in Boston several people asked where I came from, when I said England they asked if I came each year, I said "No, but when I don't come I try to donate the cost of the visit to The Mother Church, but this year I am here so what should I do?" They smiled and so did I! On my return to England the very next day I received a check for exactly twice what it had cost me for the few days in Boston, the return flight, and even gifts to take home for grandchildren! So I had all my expenses paid and was able to send the same amount to Boston, all from a very unexpected source. So much gratitude.

  12. Our church has active generous members, but when it comes time to ask them to donate more, I have suggested that we don't tell each one how much to give to pay their equal share, because all incomes are not equal, but if the expenses were 8% over the prior year's donations, we could ask for 8% more from each one. Thus if they gave $20.00 a week, they could give $21.60, not such a big deal.

  13. Thank you: questioner, Mark, Christie and all the commenters.

  14. Grateful thanks for the healing ideas shared by all contributors.

  15. Thank you so much for ideas shared, they help see the donation in new ways.