Tithing: Painless Ways to Start Giving

There are many ways to incorporate the practice of tithing into your life. If you’re resistant to try it, start small. If you like the results, you can build up to more elaborate giving. While some religious traditions or money gurus teach that giving has to be done within strict limits and rules, you’re more likely to succeed and continue giving if you start in a way that makes you comfortable.

Create a savings account dedicated to your tithe money.

Choose one that has no debit cards or checks to access the money. Technically, the money isn’t gone yet, so you can feel secure knowing that it would be there in a true emergency. But make a commitment to yourself not to touch this money. I recommend a high-yield savings account with an online bank like ING Direct. It takes two business days for a transfer of the funds to be completed, so you have time to think before you make a withdrawal. Put just a little money into the account from each paycheck, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it grows.

Think of it as another bill.

Catherine Ponder, author of Open Your Mind to Prosperity, advises tithing where you find spiritual help and inspiration, whether that’s a church, nature preserve, or twelve-step program. Think of it as your higher power’s bill: for the air you breathe, the sunshine you enjoy, the gravity that holds the solar system together. Think of it as your way of giving back to the universe for an inspiration you received or some good that came into your life.

Start with one percent.

Again, the traditional tithe is ten percent (before taxes) of everything you earn. Catherine Ponder says it needs to be done this way to reap the real benefits of tithing, that ten percent is the magic number. But others have less stringent views. Suze Orman says we should give an amount that feels respectful to us. If you’re just starting out, you may find it easier to give five percent or even one. Once you get comfortable with that level and see the positive impact giving has on your life, you can increase the amount gradually or all at once.

Is ten percent a magic number? I tend to think it is. I know in my own life, I seemed to experience much greater rewards when I began giving a full ten percent. But you have to start somewhere, and it’s far better to start with one percent than not to give at all.

Give a thank-offering.

In the Lutheran church, there is a tradition called a thank-offering. Whenever a good thing happens or a person feels gratitude for some good in their life, they put a small offering into a jar. It could be the spare change from your pocket or a dollar from your wallet. When the money builds up, you can then give it to charity. This is a simple way to become more aware of the abundance in your life and share it with others.

Try it for six months.

Think about all the things you’ve bought on credit that took you six months or longer to pay off. The amount of tithe you would pay in six months would most likely have little impact on your finances for the year. But it may have huge effects on your self-esteem and outlook on life. Isn’t it worth a try? Give it six months, and notice what happens. Keep a journal every day, noting every positive synchronicity. Treat it like an experiment and see if you can discern a difference in your life.

Make giving part of your mission.

Look for charities that have meaning for you personally. You might support the search for a cure to an illness that has affected someone you know. Or if you adore your pets, give to an organization that helps animals. Make your giving a way to let your deepest values find expression in your life. Having this kind of outlet for your passions has great benefits for your health and sense of well-being.

Give on your birthday and holidays.

Tithing is a way of honoring yourself. It’s saying: I’m a responsible human being on this planet. I’m doing my part for humanity. Donating to charities that matter to you is a great way mark your special occasions. It’s a gift you give to yourself as well as others. Also, giving is easy around major holidays as food, toy, and clothing drives spring up in every community.

If giving money is hard for you, start with things.

Give food to the local soup kitchen. Give blankets to the animal shelter. You can either donate gently used items, or for even more fun, go shopping for a charity. Even a small amount of money at a discount store can buy a large quantity of goods that charities need every day. Make it a game to see how much you can get for your money to make the biggest donation possible. See what a joy it is to shop for people who truly need the items you’re buying.

Give whenever you’re asked. Make it your policy to always say yes.

Another painless way to start giving is to simply say yes whenever someone requests a donation. Give to the Salvation Army when you pass the kettle at the holidays. Give to the charity fund-raising campaign at work. You might expand this to include broader requests as well, like the membership drive of your local public television station. The immediate gratification you get from saying yes will be a concrete reminder of your power to make a positive difference, in your own life and others.

One caution: Don’t give money to individuals. It’s almost universally agreed upon that tithe money can’t be given to an individual, even in thanks for spiritual encouragement. But if you want to give back to a specific person, you can give spiritual literature. This is believed to bring many blessings on both the giver and the recipient.

So the next time you’re feeling down, try giving. See how it turns your mood around.

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