One of the recent attacks on Ted Cruz contends that he has not been engaging in church tithing. The Atlantic published an article purporting to demonstrate the absence of his charitable giving and tithing and how this would haunt his legacy with evangelical Christians.
The logic is that evangelical Christians frown upon non-tithing and Cruz tends to appeal to evangelicals. If he self-identifies as an evangelical but does not tithe, what does this say about his credibility with evangelicals? If Cruz cannot be condemned for some sort of gross immorality, he is liable for neglecting the tithe.
One of characteristic features of giving in the New Testament is giving without regard for the results and the praise and attention of others. The Founder of Christianity said that “when you do some act of charity, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing; your good deed must be secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Mat. 6:3-4; NEB). The attack upon Cruz is based upon the idea that all of Cruz’s giving would have been done to tax-exempt organizations, such as an incorporated church, and that such giving would have been reported on tax forms.
Thus, it is possible that Cruz is giving, but that he is not giving in order to receive a tax deduction or credit from the IRS and, therefore, not reporting his gifts and donations on his tax forms. Alternately, it is also possible that Cruz is giving to organizations that do not have a “tax-exempt” or “incorporated” status.
In this latter scenario, many Christians cannot in good conscience donate to organizations which are incorporated since corporations are creatures of the State and are violating the Church-State separation. Corporations are set up to shield members from personal liability but they have to follow government ordinances to exist. Yet the Church does not exist by the fiat and the regulation of the State; it exists through the redemption of Christ who has purchased her (Eph. 5).1 Therefore, the church cannot be incorporated. These Christians intentionally donate to organizations or persons which are not tax-exempt. They are not looking to donate to a charitable cause; they are interested in giving to those who are needy who have not had the time, good fortune or resources to incorporate. And if they do donate to incorporated charities or churches, it is clearly not with a view toward obtaining a tax deduction. They do so freely. If the Holy Spirit so moved, they would give without hope of securing a better “taxation” position.
As families, is our giving conditioned by those who are needy as the Spirit prompts us or is it set up for maximal tax advantage so that we are only giving a percentage of our income? What are we teaching our kids about the giving up of the assets that they have earned? Can they give those assets up when called, as the early church did in Acts 2? Or do they view giving as primarily (or exclusively) a predictable, planned financial venture, like a 401(k) investment?
In the end, perhaps Cruz falls into the category of those who should have given more and didn’t. But if we are using his tax return statements as the only indication of his giving, that might be a highly misleading assessment.
Speaking of tax-exemption and incorporation, Locust & Honey is negotiating a partnership to produce audio books with a Christian publishing house, Athanatos Ministries, which is not an incorporated entity.2
Late last year, Locust & Honey put out an exciting and adventurous tale about two people who were forced to work together to survive in a very frigid, Canadian wilderness without any help from the outside world. It was entitled, Survival at Starvation Lake. If you have an Audible membership and you’d like to get a free copy of the audio book in exchange for a review, let me know. Otherwise, it is also available along with a free listening sample at Amazon.
1“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27; ESV).
2On the portion of the webpage devoted to donations, Athanatos has this simple disclaimer: “Donate: