You were born generous, because you were created in the absolute and unchanging image of Christ. Your smile and laugh as an infant was full of the radiance of God. You cried when you were hungry or needed changing, and this expressed such freedom from shame and an inborn trust that love would reach for you. You never lost this true self, this original blessing. You only got lost, wandered, ran away from this “home.” This you lives! The goal of religion, and tithing, is to help you, as Richard Rohr says, “recognize and recover the divine image in everything”—including in you.
There are no shortcuts on this homecoming journey. Or truly, tithing is the shortcut. Or part of it. All the other ways are much longer and more painful!
You gotta learn your ABCs first. Skip them and nothing else makes sense. But as you make the effort, reading opens the whole cosmos to you! In sports, endless drills, conditioning, and strength training pay off on game day and beyond. Same with music. Discipline in “the fundamentals” unlocks a lifetime of “playing” as if it is “second nature.”
That’s the goal of tithing: play, generosity, and love as second nature. Then, the math and percentages fall away like used scaffolding. Then, we give as God gives: freely, endlessly, without counting, competing, or excluding. Then, we cannot not give; it’s become as natural as breath.
Until then, resist the temptation to play fast and loose—or rigidly, gracelessly! —with the time- and soul-tested lessons of our great spiritual tradition. To rediscover the generosity our Most Gracious and Self-Emptying Giver gave you, we wrestle deeply with the first and most basic teachings and let ourselves fall into God’s grace upon grace upon grace.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith
Saint Paul Lutheran Church
715 South Third Street
Clinton, IA 52732
(at the foot of the south bridge)