Tithing as a Way of Living in the Gift

The following is from my work-in-progress, The Love Revival Guide to Hustling-to-End-Babylon Tithing is an ancient spiritual discipline that fosters gift culture.  It invites the divine to be present in your life in a way that connects you to others and ultimately supports your prosperity in such deep ways that it’s almost difficult to fathom.

To tithe is to regularly give ten percent of the money that comes in to your life to an organization or person or community who spiritually nurtures you.  I’ve tithed to the Evolver Network, the Hare Krishna Kirtan Center in my town, the Unity Church, and people and authors who inspired me.

Tithing is a way of beginning to live in the gift and gradually expanding our consciousness of our oneness with others.  It’s a concrete, disciplined action that helps us surrender our attachment to the fruits of our labor (a main suggestion of the Bhagavad Gita, for those of you keeping track) – and to rest in trusting Source rather than trusting in our own highly fallible powers and in the power of money itself.

I love to tithe because it opens me up to the awareness that I do indeed have so much to give, and that my gifts can make a dramatic impact to uplift and improve organizations and people that I already love, who are already making my life better and giving me strength to face the work of ending Babylon both in the world and in my own soul.

When I started tithing, I not only had a tiny income, I had minimal faith in myself to succeed at anything outside academia (which I was starting to realize I didn’t like). I had little connection to spiritual community, and no sense of myself as a leader.

It was terrifying to begin tithing, since I was like – hey – I already have just enough money to cover my bills and very simple pleasures like French fries at Eat’n’Park on Saturday night – what the hell is going to happen to me if I just give away ten percent of it as it comes in?

What happened to me was that I gained the increase of the gift that we talked about earlier.  The sacred, intangible-yet-powerful uplift of goodwill, hope and faith that comes from deeply receiving from organizations and from people to whom I had deeply given.

I began to experience myself as a member of spiritual community in a much more visceral way than I previously had.  I became more committed to the organizations I tithed to, I spent more energy in applying their resources or spiritual teachings to my life (I wanted to get my money’s worth!).  I leaned on them heavily when I felt down.  And what happened was that they gave me much: healing, love, deep recognition of my spirit and talents – the courage to leave academia and go out into the world and make things happen.  I gained optimism and energy to create true wealth for myself and those around me: vital health, harmonic relationships, material bounty.

The increase of the gift doesn’t happen if you just give to some organization and some person and don’t also receive from them.  Thus, giving to charity is a joy and a recognition of universal sister- and brotherhood, but unless you’re humble enough to stick around and also receive from the person you’ve blessed with your charity, it’s also not a sacred gift relationship in which you can experience the healing effect of the increase.

The increase of the gift is experienced on the return movement of the gift.  In other words, the most potent magic of gifting happens not in the moment that I let go and give, but in the moment that the benefit of the gift comes back to me through relationship – expanded into something  transformative that I couldn’t foresee, predict or control.

I think of tithing as a way to actively counteract the temptation to hoarding and isolating that debt-based currency inherently carries.   Tithing doesn’t detract from the need for us to come up with a different fundamental economic system than the one we presently have, but it does go a ways towards neutralizing some of the deleterious effects of debt money on our experience.

Posted on August 30, 2012 and filed under Generosity.