Tithing is commonly understood as the giving of one-tenth of one’s income for God. This standard of giving comes from several passages in Scripture (e.g. Genesis 28:10-22).
The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, offered an even higher standard for giving, and for our entire approach to living. It’s found in Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money,” which is among the Standard Sermons included in our doctrinal standards.
Here is Wesley’s own brief summary which is the foundation of our teaching: “Gain all you can…. save all you can… give all you can.” As he develops each of these points in his sermon, his message is plain. We are to seek to earn all we can in ways that are helpful to ourselves and others, never harmful. We are to “save all we can” by being frugal in our expenses. And then having earned all we can and spent only what we must to care for our own basic needs and those of our family (which we are never to neglect!), we are to give everything else away.
Indeed, Wesley says, “Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s.” For some of us, after earning and saving all we can, while caring for our family’s basic needs, there may not be much left over. For others, there may be much, indeed. Whatever that is, we say, give it all!
The United Methodist Church, in its Book of Discipline, emphasizes tithing as a “minimum goal of giving” and encourages local churches to find creative ways to become “tithing congregations with an attitude of generosity.” The church asks all those being ordained to “teach and model generous Christian giving with a focus on tithing as God’s standard of giving.”
United Methodists value the tithe as a benchmark for giving, one we encourage our members to move toward and, once achieved, move beyond. We believe our giving should be both more challenging and more gracious to the whole world than simply trying to give a tithe of our income. We also believe that there is joy in giving, and the greater the generosity the deeper the joy.
Adaptation of an article by Rev. Ken Sloane, director of Stewardship & Generosity, Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.