by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Over the years, I’ve occasionally been asked about my feelings about tithing. When I hear that word, I immediately think of my early church experiences in which I was told to give 10% of my income to my church. I don’t think God created that equation or holds anyone to it. I don’t think our entrance fee into Heaven is calculated by the percentage of the money we give on Earth. But I do believe that “tithing” or giving is important. Now, I don’t think tithing or giving has anything to do with money. You can give money, of course, and certainly, we all need money to pay our bills, but what really heals us is not what we give but why and how we give it.
If we give anything with our hearts, we immediately reap the benefit of a sense of joy and contentment. But if we “give” something out of obligation, we really haven’t given, and we reap that experience. What do we reap? We cut ourselves off from the experience of Who we really are. A Course in Miracles tells us that God extended Himself, and in doing so, He created us. It also tells us we do not know who we are unless we extend ourselves. I believe we do that through our extensions of love. This can involve financial donations or not, but the important experience is the love that is behind every activity and action in our lives. As the Course says,
“To give and to receive are one in truth.
I will receive what I am giving now.” (W-108)
We have many loyal supporters of the Center who are not in a position to give financially, but they give through their prayerful support, and we all have certainly benefitted from that. Others are able to support the Center and even provide a little extra for those who cannot. The heartfelt action behind their gifts has shown us their extension of love, and again all were blessed.
The issue is never how much to give or tithe, but my willingness to give of my heart, for that is the only gift worth giving and receiving.
I read the following story in 1983 when Dr. Gerald Jampolsky’s book, Teach Only Love, was first published. For years I have been impacted by this story. The story is not about giving money but about giving from the heart. I hope you will find it as helpful as I have.
“I was one of a congregation that overflowed the church. We were to hear Jerry Jampolsky and others, all very special speakers. The music was beautiful, the feeling vibrant, and I was serenely happy to be there.
The contribution basket was passed around, and I thought, ‘How much should I put in?’ I had received much; now, how much should I contribute? As I usually do when I’m not certain of the answer — and often when I am — I referred the matter to the Holy Spirit. ‘Holy Friend, how much should I give?’
‘Everything,’ came the quiet answer in my mind. I was startled. ‘You’re kidding,’ I had just cashed a fair-sized check, and the money was in my wallet. ‘Look, I was thinking in terms of two to five dollars.’
‘Everything,’ said the quiet Voice.
I opened my wallet and looked. Twenties, tens, fives–my walking around money for the next two weeks.
‘You’re sure? All of it?’ After all, how could I be sure this was the Voice of the Holy Spirit? It could be the voice of ego, of past guilt, of group vibrations, anything.
And I knew I had to go with it. I had always trusted the Voice completely. Not to trust it now meant that I might not trust it for a very long time. There is no such thing as trusting kind of. You trust, or you don’t.
So, I swallowed hard and reached into my wallet, took out the whole wad, and dropped it in the basket. ‘After all,’ I thought wryly, ‘There are still a few coins in the coin purse if I need to feed a parking meter.’
‘I said everything.’
‘You really don’t let up,’ I thought as I emptied the few small coins into the basket.
And the most incredible feeling of inner peace and love flooded my heart as the basket passed on. Now I understood that the twenties, the tens, would have been meaningless without the last few coins and that the lesson had nothing at all to do with money.
It was commitment. Total commitment. I could travel light years toward my goal, but if I stopped an inch short of it, all the miles would be useless.
That is the gift that was given me. To give all is to receive all. It may seem, on the face of it, that the exchange was totally unequal — spiritual awareness in exchange for some dollars — but I think otherwise. To give the Holy Spirit an instant — The Holy Instant — of absolute trust and commitment is the gift He asks for. It is a great and worthy gift, and it is what I had to give. That His gifts to me are so much greater doesn’t matter. They are what He has to give.”
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