For nearly as long as there have been Baptists, they have been questioning leaders about tithing. One deacon wrote into the Baptist Message in 1924 regarding the tithe. The editor’s response, and the question, are both very interesting. The well-meaning editor sounds more like an accountant than a religious paper editor. The article is below.
Editor, Baptist Message:
You have asked me to reply to the following question, propounded to you in a recent letter: “please answer the following though the columns of The Message: My employer pays me a salary of $300 per month and provides me a residence worth about $75 per month free. What is the minimum amount of my tithe?—Deacon.
It appears that we must first understand what is to be tithed. In Deut. 14:29, we find this clause, “Thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase,” and in Lev. 27:30, these words, “all the tithe * * * it is holy unto the Lord.” I believe, therefore, that these scriptures, together with others, which might be quoted, would fully defend the following statement:
To correctly tithe, one must give one-tenth of one’s net income. Again, it would appear that there could be little argument over the proposition that no living expenses are properly deductable against the Lord’s holy one-tenth, but that all material obligations ought to be met out of our nine-tenths of the increase. The only charges that occur to me which may be properly deductable from a salary are those expenses exclusive of living expenses absolutely essential to the earning of the salary.
In the case cited, if the offer was for a salary of $375 and the deacon furnish his own house there could be no argument but that $37.50 would be the proper monthly tithe less, as stated above, the necessary expenses other than the necessary living expenses in order to earn this salary, such as car fare, etc.
In a case where the salary is given, $300 and a residence given valued at $75 per month, I believe that the deacon would have the moral right to properly appraise, for his own use, the value of the residence to him per month and, therefore, for his tithe put a valuation on his monthly salary at a figure less than $375 if he could honestly under value the rent at less than it was appraised to him, and then his tithe would be based upon his full figure of the total value of his salary.
Very truly yours,