Gross or Net?

The thought came to me the other day while I was jogging that I need to address the gross or net issue. It came right out of the blue since it was a clear “blue sky” day.

Many times people have asked me, “When it comes to giving to God and tithing, should our tithe be from our gross income (the total amount before taxes, payroll deductions, etc.) or the net amount (What is left after everything gets taken out)?” Here’s my thinking and I believe it captures the heart and intention of God.

1. God wants us to give willingly and cheerfully, whatever the amount. “God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7. “Cheerful” comes from the Greek word hillaros, from which we get our word hilarious. God wants us to give hilariously. It should be one of the most enjoyable things we do for God.

2. God wants us to bring ALL the tithe to Him. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” Mal 3:1 The storehouse then would have been the temple, now it is His church. Tithe literally means a tenth. He instructs us to bring a full tenth of our income to Him. Anything less than a tenth is not a tithe. Anything more than a tenth would be a tithe and an offering. He even goes so far as to classify those who fail to bring the full tithe to Him as robbers of God. “Will a man rob God? … “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” Mal 3:8-9 God expects a full tithe.

3. When the tithing principle was set down by God there were no taxes or payroll deductions taken out before a person was paid. They were paid by the individual on their own after receiving their pay. So, from the very beginning, the tithing expectation was based on the gross amount of a person’s income rather than the net amount.

4. This is a practical observation. What are our taxes based on? Are they not paid from our gross amount? To pay taxes to the government from our gross amount and then tithe from our net amount is to make a clear statement that the government has a higher priority in our use of money than God.

We live in a financial system that allows us to have almost anything we want deducted from our pay before it ever gets to our hand or bank amount. We can end up receiving a small fraction of our total income in our net pay. When the church receives a tithe from our net amount rather than our gross, I believe we not only disappoint and disobey God, we greatly limit the power and impact of the Body of Christ.

I have to make this same gross/net decision every week myself. The tax laws in America are set up in such a way that I don’t have to pay taxes on the amount of money I spend to provide housing for my family. It is called a “housing allowance”. It is a sizable portion of my total income. It does not appear on my W2 form as income. However, I make sure my giving to God includes a tithe of my housing allowance as well. My love for God and the work of the Kingdom is far greater than a housing allowance deduction and my giving confirms that love. I hope yours does as well.

Blessings and challenges of our new location

God has provided a new meeting place for New Venture. We have enjoyed the 7th day Adventist building at, 530 courthouse Road, for three weeks now. There have really been no major complications in the transition or in the services the last three weeks. The new facility brings with it several blessings. Here are the ones I can think of right off hand.

1. Individual class areas for all ages groups in KidVenture
2. A large group meeting area for KidVenture with built in audio/video equipment
3. Fully furnished classrooms for all ages
4. The capacity to store all KidVenture set up materials in the building
5. An adult worship area that will hold 150-175 adults with comfortable, stacking, movable chairs
6. Sound board and equipment that can stay set up all the time
7. A kitchen area to serve our refreshments from
8. The ability to hold fellowship meals
9. A staff and facilities committee at the Adventist church that is delighted to work with us.
10. The ability to start our services on time with everyone involved
11. A yard area for our kids to use when desired
12. A SIGN ON COURTHOUSE THAT IS SEEN BY THOUSANDS DAILY
13. Close proximity to our current ministry center
14. A storage area to keep all our set up equipment on site
15. A portable baptistery when we need it
16. Our own keys to the building and the ability to come and go as needed during the week
17. Same rent as our previous location
18. The ability to park our trailer on site for additional storage
19. The use of some of their projection equipment. And last, but not least
20. A baby cry room in the back of the auditorium

What a list of advantages. I am sure I could have come up with a few more if I tried a little longer. There are, however, a few disadvantages that we have to work to overcome in order to use the facility and worship setting to its maximum potential. My shorter list would include

1. The need to still set up the stage and speaker system each week
2. The need to set up several signs each week for information and directional purposes
3. A facility that we are renting but not really in control of
4. A smaller amount of space for information and sign up tables
5. A building that is traditional in style while we are quite contemporary in approach
6. A small entrance and welcome area. And perhaps the biggest challenge of all
7. A less than ideal set up to welcome visitors and guests. Let me expand on this last on briefly.

The building is set up in such a way that it is easy for us to congregate in our own little groups and enjoy talking and hanging out while visitors slip in and take their seat almost unnoticed or ignored. That is tragic to a guest. Guests decide in the first few minutes of their visit if they will return or not based on the kind of reception they receive. That means we are going to have to break out of our little holy huddles, constantly look around and go out of our way to greet and talk with new people. I’m talking everyone and not just the welcome people at the doors.

The major reason we moved from TCMS to this new location was to attract more traffic flow of friends, guests and visitors. Nothing would be more tragic than accomplishing our purpose and then squandering the opportunity. And once the opportunity is lost with a guest, we usually never get a second chance.

So I am appealing to everyone to make yourself a personal welcoming party to guests and visitors. The last thing we want them to do is leave feeling no one recognized their presence. Thanks for going out of your way. You will be glad you did.

I just want to stay home.

I can’t tell you how relieved and excited I am to be home with no prospects of another trip for quite awhile. The last three months have been in the extreme to ridiculous category when it comes to travels. We were involved in five major road trips that included a trip to Cincinnati for our third grand child’s first birthday, a false alarm trip to Lexington, KY for what we thought was our fourth grandchild’s birth, a return, two weeks later, for the actual birth, a trip to Delaware for the funeral of my mother and a trip to Indianapolis for the North American Christian Convention. We returned late Saturday, July 10, after having logged over 7000 road miles in the five trips. It is so good to be home for awhile.

On top of all the travels I had to maintain my regular responsibilities with the church, help move the church location from the Tomahawk Creek Middle school to 530 Courthouse Road, endure a house construction project that included living for two months with all our downstairs furniture in the garage and hold an open house at our place for the entire church. If I seem to be acting a little strange, I am. It’s OK. I will get back to “normal” soon. Sharon is experiencing her version of the same “strangeness.” She has been in the middle of it all with me.

It is so good to be home and into a regular schedule and routine. Since returning just four days ago I have been …

Reading more
Praying more
Exercising more
Watching TV less
Connecting with people more
Planning more
Listening to God more

So, I don’t want to go on any more trips for awhile. I acknowledge, there is so much value to getting away from it all and into a new environment but, there is also tremendous value in just faithfully and enthusiastically doing the day to day things that bring growth, enjoyment and value to others and self. No more road trips for now.

My next “scheduled” one is in August when I will be spending five days in a monastery where I can enjoy some uninterrupted time connecting with God, listening to God and planning the next year for New Venture.