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Christians practice tithing by donating 10 percent of income
Money is symbolic offering to God
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Giving 10 percent of annual income, or tithing, is a principal rooted in the Christian faith. Grace Episcopal Church’s the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham noted 10 percent sounds like a lot of money, but by flipping the amount around it is an easier task to do. “It says ‘I’m going to live off of 90 percent.” - photo by Erin O. Smith

With the new year on the way, many people are looking forward to change and some find their change within themselves by tithing.

Tithing is giving 10 percent of your income to God, said the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham, rector at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville.

“It is a symbol, really, of offering our whole lives to God,” Higginbotham said.

But it is not just money in a plate. It is a way of entrusting faith to God as well.

“All things that we have (are) not actually ours,” Higginbotham said. “It’s actually been entrusted to us to use mindfully and faithfully.”

And when one gives, it shows how much he or she values God.

“Ten percent sounds like a lot,” Higginbotham said. “But when you flip it, it says, ‘I’m going to live off of 90 percent.’”

Tithing is discussed throughout the Bible with its first mention in the book of Genesis.

“And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee,” Genesis 28:22.

Rooted in the Old Testament, tithing long ago was about giving a piece of the crops and livestock to God; today, it is about giving a small slice of your income.

“There are times when tithing is very easy to do and there are times when it is hard to do,” said Pastor Jojo Thomas with Chattahoochee Baptist Association. “And the hard times when you tithe, it penetrates and you have to evaluate ‘what am I about?’ ‘What is my life about?’ And it becomes a discipline that can have a deep impact on a person.”

Tithing can also be a way of preventing people from becoming tied to material things and being more like Jesus.

“Jesus was not about material things and was more about the value of people and the truth of a relationship with God,” Thomas said.

To give reflects on Christians’ faith God will provide.

Pastor Phil Schroeder of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church recalls a woman giving 10 percent of what she had hoped to make the following year.

“It was a faith statement,” he said. “She gave, trusting that God would continue to be gracious to her.”

And while the concept of tithing has not changed since the beginning, the way Christians can give has.

“People don’t carry checks and we are having to innovate in the way we help people to give,” Schroeder said. “We have kiosks now where people can swipe their credit/debit card and we have QR codes that will take people to a website.”

Funds collected do not go only into the church’s coffers. When someone gives to the church, he or she is really giving much more, said Richard Chewning, district superintendent of the United Methodist church.

Funds provide for “food and clothing, taking care of the sick, oversea missions and ministries, youth ministries, and ministries to children,” he said.

However, each church is different. Spending the donations is special because each church has a different way of communicating the gospel to others, Thomas said.

But not everyone agrees with being encouraged to tithe.

“When churches talk about tithing, it is sometimes viewed as manipulative,” Thomas said. “Some people don’t like to be told that they should give.”

Giving is a way of showing how much one appreciates all he or she has been given.

“In Scripture the Bible makes a strong point that says that everything we have is a gift and when we give, it is a way of acknowledging that,” Thomas said. “It’s a way of worshipping and saying thank you.”