Tithe - A Divine Insurance Payment


I am so excited. At work today I found a tithe envelope! Now, I have explained at length on this blog about how I wasn't raised in a religious atmosphere, so there's a lot of things about religion that I know next to nothing about. When I found out that tithe was supposed to be 10% of your income I was truly flabbergasted. 10% toward an imaginary friend? Cheese-sauce, that seems a bit steep. Now that I've been to a few churches and I see the expensive cars a lot of pastors have and the nice tailored suits, I understand why (the word of god doesn't come cheap, evidently) but I still didn't understand why someone would actually fork over 10% of their income to a church as if that's what Jesus wanted. Didn't he bust up a church at some point, calling the leaders out for being crooks and telling people they didn't have to go to any specific place to worship? Yeah yeah, I know, I just don't 'get' it, whatever.

I found this tithe envelope for Seventh-day Adventists. The image on the front of the envelope is thoroughly christian, it's two hand overlapped holding with bloody nails out as if in offering. Hello, would you like these bloody nails? Why no thank you, sir. The writing on the front of the envelope says "Tithe Love Offerings" in pretty quasi-cursive font. I appreciate when being swindled out of my money to have it done via nice fonts. No Comic Sans BS, that's for sure.

On the inside flap of the envelope there is quite a bit of writing. First in bold and prominent lettering you see a truncated bible verse. It reads:
A tenth...is holy to God. Lev. 27:32
The actual bible verse reads:
And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. Lev. 27:32 (KJV)
Ok, so that adds up. The text under the heading is bit more clear and references another bible verse to back up their logic:
Tithe, the first 10% of our income, serves as evidence of our covenant relationship with God and our desire to place Him first in our lives (Matt 6:33). Tithe is used for the benefit of the ministry of the church and support of gospel workers.
To give this verse a bit of context, Matt 6:31-33 reads:
(6:31)Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(6:32)(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(6:33)But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
So basically, they're referencing a part of the bible where people are being told not to worry about food or clothing - basic needs - as long as you believe in god, you'll be provided for. This pamphlet seems to indicate that belief in god is good, but you have to put your money where your mouth is and keep up with tithe. What if you need the tithe money to buy food and clothes for yourself?

It seems to me like tithe is the equivalent of an insurance payment. God is on your side, watching over you and caring for you as long as you believe in him with all your heart - and pay your bill. God takes 10% off the top. You know, like the mafia.

The envelope is not done! The envelope is asking if you can't afford just a little more. The next bold heading reads:
Responding to God's goodness. Ps. 116:12
Ps. 116:12 reads:
What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? Ps. 116:12 (KJV)
Wait, didn't I just give 10% of my paycheck to god? I'd say I already did my rendering. No, the envelope insists, you should give a bit more.
In response to God's blessings, He asks us to give an offering out of our heart as an extra measure of supporting church ministry in our community and around the world.

The percentage recommendation is: 4-7% for local church expenses; 2% for conference ministries - evangelism, Christain Education and Sunset Lake; and 2-3% for world missions such as television and radio ministry, disaster and famine relief, and higher education.
There are no biblical verses attached to justify this secondary request for funds. I have to wonder, if the additional 4-7% is for local church expenses, what the hell does the first 10% go to? In 2005 the average salary in the US was 31,410 and according to the website (see link) inflation hasn't affected that amount. 10% of 31,410 is 3,141. Divide that by 52 and you're supposed to give 60.40 to the church every Sunday? God is billing you three Jacksons a week for salvation insurance. 241.60 cents a month 'offering', even though offerings were no longer needed with the whole Jesus thing, but whatever. That seems like a lot to me. I know, I know, there is no price too high to pay for salvation, but has it ever occured to the religious people who go in for this scam that they might be getting one put over on them? It seems suspect, I guess that's my point.

They include a very handy and considerate recap of of all of the offerings requested - tithe and local church budget which includes evangelism and conference ministries including evangelism and world budget which...you get it. It looks pretty obviously similar to a bank deposit slip which strikes me as ballsy. This is a pull no punches request for cash.

On the back of the envelope there is a thank you in advance a bit about stewardship:
Stewardship is the personal acknowledgment on our part that God is owner and provider of all the basic goods of life - spiritual, physical and material. As Christians, we are called to be faithfully responsible with the resources entrusted to us by God. We are to manage God-given gifts of time, talents, money and the use of our spiritual strengths.
This entire paragraph is just a reminder that you've done nothing - the only thing that has brought you happiness or prosperity is your belief in god. This is the part where they remind you how comprehensive the God insurance that you're purchasing is. That's how it sounds to me. What's interesting is while a believer might find that kind of message to be uplifting and hopeful, I see it as entirely insulting and condescending. It's difficult for me not to see it as simple manipulation. Maybe I feel that way because they follow it up with this:
Planning for the Future. One practice of stewardship is arranging your estate plan and will. This allows biblical principles of stewardship to continue beyond your life. To talk with professionals and arrange your estate plan and other documents, call xxx.xxx.xxxx
Also...when you die we want your shit.