I’ve been thinking lately about barter and how it affects my annual increase. I don’t pay tithing on barter. I know quite a few other people who barter more than I and who probably don’t tithe it either.
For example, my wife exchanges babysitting with another woman every week. If they actually paid each other it would amount to about $50 per week. Now if my wife started making an extra $50 per week, I’d feel inclined to pay tithing on it. But since the babysitting is barter, I don’t think about tithing it (until now).
Is this just a nice way to avoid both taxes and tithing? What is it about the exchange of money that causes me to think “tithing” and the exchange of goods that does not?
A few examples of the only-money-should-be-tithed mindset: If my in-laws give me a $300 camera for Christmas, I don’t think to tithe. But if my parents give me a $300 check, I at least consider it. If I lost $1000 in the stock market, I would deduct $100 from my tithing. But a new car loses more than $1000 in value the second I drive it off the lot and I don’t deduct that loss. The difference being that the value of the car is not maintained in some account with a monthly statement? A bonus at work might be a week’s stay in Hawaii, or it might be $5000. Which do you think I’d tithe? Of course I tithe my paycheck because it is an obvious increase, but what about the laptop that I left on the ferry? Isn’t that a decrease? I don’t pay tithing on the portion of medical insurance my employer pays on my behalf, because, well, it’s not part of my monetary salary. Neither are the drinks in the break room or the parking they pay on my behalf.
I assume this is because I pay tithing in money and not in-kind. The money for tithing must naturally come from the same pool that is being tithed. As long as an “increase” isn’t associated with the money pool, I don’t feel inclined to tithe it. This encourages as much barter as possible, especially for one who is self-employed.
I occasionally get the thought that I’d like to try paying tithing on my net worth. You measure up all your assets at the end of the year, compare it with the prior year’s sum, and tithe the difference (down to a minimum of zero). Assets would include bank statements, but also an estimate of the worth of everything one owns. The obvious problem is that this encourages consumption. But, if you feel like you are a relatively good steward and saver, could you tithe net worth and still honestly feel like a full tithe payer?
I don’t think I’d be comfortable tithing net worth. Not because of any fear of offending the Lord, but because of the effort required. Right now I tithe my salary and any investment income minus retirement savings (I’ll tithe that when I actually touch the money). That’s it. I don’t pay tithing on gifts, garage sale profits, barter exchanges, food samples at Costco, or dinners at neighbors’ homes. Somehow I feel dirty trying to put a price tag on every single thing that happens in my life. Not only does it take too much time, but I feel that it would adversely influence pretty much all my relationships. Once I tithe my income, I just assume that all the other gains and losses balance out.
Matt Jacobsen is a long time bloggernacle participent and is local of the Seattle area. He comes to Splendid Sun as the indavidual who introduced me to the community. A hearty welcome.