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Asking the clergy: Are there alternatives to tithing if money is tight?

People can get creative when they're looking to make ends meet. For some it is eating out less, for others it may be getting a second job. Sometimes the things most important seem a little harder to do. This week's clergy discuss possible alternatives for the faithful when money is tight.


Rabbi Alan Stein, Temple Shalom, which meets in The Historical Chapel, Woodbury:

As a general rule, Judaism doesn't have tithing the way Christianity requests of its congregants. There is no direct requirement that there be a tithing of 10 percent in the Jewish religion. That said, the ability for Judaism and organized Jewish religion to continue successfully is reliant on some type of dues or donation structure.

In our case, it is a pay-as-you-go structure. Without the congregation coming together monetarily, the synagogue would not be able to support itself. However, there are always families who have difficulties monetarily. In situations where someone has expressed that, we ask them if they'd like to volunteer in the temple office. Maybe they'd like to teach a class or work on a project. They have a feeling and a desire to belong. We are just offering them another way to afford the obligation for membership and Hebrew school. In cases where our need matches their talents, it is a beautiful match.

It is important to say that people are welcome at every synagogue throughout the year without paying. You can come every Friday night or Saturday morning and there will never be a request for money and nobody has to pay for anything. If you want to come for High Holiday services and cannot afford it, I am sure every congregation would accept volunteering in place of the money for the ticket. Your finances should never stop you from attending. The congregation will find a way to make you feel welcome and wanted.

Volunteering in this way should be when someone has a real need. Everyone has different priorities, but supporting your temple should be as much of a priority as going out to fancy dinners or vacation extras. It should be a necessity in your life.


Pastor Eric Olsen, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School, Plainview:

The short answer is "Of course," but it is important to understand why we give at all in God's service and on behalf of God's people. Sometimes, unfortunately, tithing and other forms of giving are equated to tipping: to insure proper service or to say thank you.

For us and our relationship with God, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, we have to start with ourselves. We must count our own blessings beginning with our own life, then our family, then our friends and continue outward.

Our blessings are endless, but we do not earn them. Nor can we compensate God for them. That is not what tithing is about. Developing an attitude of gratitude is important for our well-being. We are giving in response to our own thankfulness. Our time, talents and treasure, everything we have should be dedicated to the Lord. As a Lutheran pastor, I see the concept of tithing as flawed. It is not about giving, but about not withholding any of one's self in the service of God. Giving freely comes from a deep place within your faith.

We all have something valuable to give. It doesn't have to be monetary. We have members who are impoverished, and it would be impossible for them to give 10 percent of what they have. We also have members who are well off and 10 percent is no hardship at all. While they may be different monetarily, they are the same in God's eyes. Whether you give money or give of your time and talents, it is the same in God's eyes.


The Rev. Frederic A. Miller, curate/associate pastor, Christ Church Oyster Bay, an Episcopal congregation:

Tithing was a commandment in both Leviticus (27:30) and Deuteronomy (14: 22-29). Everyone was to give 10 percent of the fruits of the land to God. The early church depended on those tithes and tithing to survive. Even today, houses of worship depend on their congregants giving to survive.

Christians also interpret tithing in a broader way (2 Corinthians 9:7). Everyone should make up their own mind how much they give. If you are giving but not happy about it, then don't give. God loves a cheerful giver. Also, Jesus criticizes those who give in an ostentatious manner (Matthew 23:23, Mark 12: 40-44).

Think of tithing as our care for others and how we express our relationship with God. It is good for us to give and give generously, but it doesn't have to be money. It also can mean to donate your time, your talents. As long as you're giving, that is the main thing. The amount is secondary.

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