Today my mom and I were talking about finances and I’ve been in a sort of bind recently because I’ve had to pay off credit cards, one of which I used to pay for repairs to my car & another person’s car when I got into an accident over the summer, plus I still have my biweekly car payments to worry about. I’ve been managing, but I dont really have much money to myself, and because everyone’s out at either work or school, I normally buy food for myself because no one is home to cook. (2)
My mom straight up told me that the reason why I have been broke is b/c I’m not paying tithes, which kind of took me off guard bc I thought it was because I wasnt putting in as much hours for school (I have a two day break on Monday-Tuesday but decided not to put in any extra hours because I didn’t want to overwork myself like last semester + my mental health has been extremely poor). (3)
Since she said that I’ve been in a sort of panic mode, that maybe I won’t be able to be myself in the future and get surgery/HRT and find a suitable partner (I’m an aro/ace trans guy and I desire to be in a qpp with another guy), which has been debilitating because I’ve been seriously struggling with my social skills, and have literally only two friends that I’ve been keeping contact with occasionally, though its difficult because we have all gone on separate paths due to life basically (4)
Anyways this is a super long ask but I felt like it needed context because the fact that I suck as socializing & making friends has affected my self-esteem and mental health to the point where I have thoughts of s*icide, among other things, including flashbacks of traumatic events that I wouldnt have otherwise remembered. Basically I wanted to ask- am I wrong for not paying tithes to this church? Will God punish me for not paying tithes to this church? (5)
Hey there, anon. I’m so sorry for the delay in answering this, I’ve been having some mental health issues of my own so I’ve been taking a little break from this blog. I hope that you are hanging in there, and that things might even be looking up for you since you sent this in.
I’m sorry that you are experiencing so much distress right now; and that your mom’s comments have added to it. I know that money is tight for you right now, but if at all possible, I recommend seeking professional help to guide you through dealing with the flashbacks of traumatic events and all that; some therapists offer sliding scale payment options for patients who need it. I know that’s not what you’re asking about though, so on to tithes.
I 100% think you’re making the right decision not offering your money to this church. You disagree with their ministry and do not see God’s will in it; giving them money would be contributing to those ministries.
People offer tithes (or a smaller fraction of their financial income) to their faith community as an expression of gratitude to God, a willing response to God’s activity in that faith community. You see God’s movement in a community, and you want to be a part of that movement; so you offer financial gifts to keep the movement going. Generosity should never be pressured out of a person, it should never feel like an obligation; if the Holy Spirit is moving you to give, you’ll feel a real desire to give.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:11-13 about our financial offerings coming from a place of desire, not obligation:
- “And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has — not according to what one does not have.“
That above quote teaches us several things about offerings made to our faith communities, the first of which applies directly to your current situation, while the other two apply to giving in general:
- It assures us that we should give what we desire to give – that desire and eagerness will come to us naturally when we truly hear God’s Word read, proclaimed, and acted out.
- The quote also assures us that one only has to give “according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” – so even if you one day find a faith community wherein the Spirit moves you to desire to give, 10% of your current income is probably more than you have to give at the moment, and that’s okay.
- Finally, Paul doesn’t specify finances in this quote – what you give to a church whose mission you believe God approves of doesn’t have to be money, especially if money isn’t something you have at the moment. It might be your time or your skills, your voice or your strength, your art or your presence – whatever unique gifts God has given you that you can use for the good of God’s world.
If you don’t see God’s activity at this church, and thus are not moved to a genuine desire to offer what money you can, don’t do it. God does not oblige us to give money just for the sake of giving it; it’s not a task to check off the list of things you need to do in order to “earn” God’s love or blessing in your life. You don’t have to do a single thing to “earn” God’s love and blessing; God gives these things freely to each of us.
Sometimes we don’t recognize that love and blessing clearly, because for better or worse God isn’t a micro-manager who swoops in and makes everything work out perfectly in our lives. Instead, humanity’s free will has built up systems that keep many of us poor, many of us oppressed; people who don’t “deserve” to suffer…suffer. Not from any fault of theirs, not because they failed to “earn” God’s help or because they did something to bring God’s punishment on them – but because that’s just the way this world is right now. It hurts people who should be protected. Even so, we trust that God is there – God is there with you in the midst of your distress, your struggles to make ends meet, your pain at the trauma you’re reliving.
You aren’t broke because you’re not paying tithes; you’re broke because our world is broken and forces students to work long hours on top of keeping up with schoolwork and mental health stuff. I’m so sad and mad on your behalf that you’re stuck in this situation, and I hope things improve really soon.
Friend, I promise you, there will be a future where you’re able to go on hrt, where you are able to live as your full self, where you have friends and a qp partner and where you are happy and loved. There will be a future where you find a faith community that you’re thrilled to give back to, whether that’s your time and talent or your money or all of the above, because you truly see God’s activity in the work they do. It sucks that these things aren’t all true for you here and now, but I believe in that future for you. In the meantime, I promise you: God’s with you, unconditionally.