Something has been on my mind for a long time, but I've never been able to come to any decision about it and the end of the year is quickly approaching.
Let me just start off by saying that even though I can be very frugal, I've always paid a full tithe and have never done so begrudgingly. I'm incredibly fortunate and I have no qualms about giving 10% of my income to helping others in need. So I'm not really questioning whether I should or shouldn't give 10% of my income to others at the end of this year, as I always have. Where I remain undecided, however, is where my 10% should go.
I think that many of us assume that our tithing goes to help the needy. But, if I understand it correctly, it doesn't. That's what fast offerings are for, which most of us probably comes secondary to tithing.
We don't have tithing slips (as pictured) in Europe, which makes it much more efficient. There are no cheques, no way to donate cash, and so there is nothing to count after church. I simply transfer my tithing at the end of each year directly into a Church bank account and then I get a statement that I use when I file my income tax in the spring. The drawback of this system, however, is that because no one ever sees a tithing slip, I don't think that members think very much about the other categories. I was a bit disheartened (and concerned) when in the past couple years after I specified in the transfer a certain amount going to the Humanitarian Fund, the clerk would approach me at church, confused about what I meant. This has happened twice. It seemed rather sad to me that I was apparently the other only donating to the Humanitarian Fund. I assume the money got to where it was intended, but I'm not sure it did. Perhaps it just got lumped in with my tithing.
There seems to be a lot of confusion over what tithing money goes towards. Many accused the Church of using some tithing funds to fund Prop 8 on some technicality. There are similar accusations regarding the Church's involvement with Evergreen International. And then of course the Church is a big business in Utah, which most of us international members are pretty clueless about (you Utahns will have to educate me about this). I still have no idea how many of the accusations are true, partially-true, or completely false. I guess it depends on who you want to believe. There are always technicalities, just like in politics. It would be nice to have a Truth-o-Metre for this kind of stuff.
So, since I have some concerns about where my tithing it going to and what it's being used for, I've felt strongly about just giving my entire 10% lump sum directly to the cause that has always been closest to my heart: humanitarian aid. I came close to doing this last year, but chickened out at the prospect of not being able to call myself a "full tithe payer." I'm also perhaps a bit superstitious in fearing that to lose that title may result in my life spiraling out of control and God throwing financial hardships at us when we've worked hard and really penny-pinched in order to stay out of debt and save up a good downpayment when we bought our house. I realize that if I give my entire 10% to the Humanitarian Fund or as a Fast Offering, I'm not technically going to be able to call myself a "full tithe payer." But does it matter? Does the Lord care more about the 10% than what category it goes into? Or should all these things be secondary to tithing and building up the Church as an organization around the world? Some say that it's important to give without having any expectations or demands about how the money is used. But I feel torn about that.
What do you think?