Risking charges of cultural appropriation, I'm going to come right out and say that I thinking tithing is a wonderful idea that Pagans should borrow and embrace . . . with some modifications to fit our diverse paths and beliefs, of course.
Tithing is the Biblical tradition of skimming ten percent off the top of one's income and giving it to one's church. This was an effective way to provide for priests and ensure that charity stays local, but there are a number of reasons why its literal application won't work for most modern Pagans. A few that come to mind are:
Whether it's your local metaphysical shop, farmer's market, or hardware store, buying local is an easy path to intentional spending. The 3/50 Project is my preferred method of encouraging local spending, because once you get past the sometimes-confusing name, it's an easy way to redirect existing money to local businesses.
The 3/50 concept is this: take fifty bucks each month, and spread it around three local businesses instead of using it at chain stores, franchises, or online. The project has a pretty specific definition of local business that focuses on the amount of money which stays in the community. One thing I like about the concept is that it stresses balance -- don't avoid big-box stores entirely, if that's where you get the best deals on some items, but do spend some money in businesses owned and operated by your neighbors.
The term grey charges is new to me, but the concept isn't: these are financial parasites that suck off your bank or credit card balance for as long as you don't notice them. Like living parasites, they succeed by staying small and not hurting you too much at a time, costing the average consumer less than $350 per year but banging the entire economy for about $14.3 billion in 2012.
Grey charges depend upon us not spending with intent. Some of us can't be bothered to look at our statements, but it's just as common to be afraid to look at our financial situation. Either of these extremes is the opposite of living a life of intent, because earning and spending are part of the intentional life.
I've been studying the nature and value of money for awhile now, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what the stuff is. Here in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, philosophical and economic discussions about money are hopelessly entangled with political philosophy, which makes it all the harder, but I think I have a grasp of what American currency is, and how it got there.
Barter was the first way humans exchanged things they had for things they wanted. It works well when two people each have something they other wants and they value it equally. Otherwise, the trades can become inordinately complex, such is the stuff that fiction writers love to illustrate, because wacky hijinks ensue.
Debt counselors like it when their clients use cash for all of their transactions. That's because they understand that physical currency connects us to the power of money. If you've noticed that most money-drawing and prosperity spells use a couple of bucks as a material component, rather than a checkbook entry or ATM receipt, you're seeing the same idea in action. We don't fully realize the power of money if we keep it in the realm of bank balances and automatic bill payments.
This is no accident: money is the earth element, so by definition it's a material component. The fact that we've made various representations of money, from bills of credit to checks to a jumble of electron, obfuscates this fundamental truth. Money is physical, and forging a relationship with it is going to be much more difficult if you can't feel it in your hand, hear its clink, or smell its peculiar, musky odor.
NPR reports on a study that confirms what many of us already felt, that poor people are more charitable, in how they think about community and as a percentage of what they have. So what's going on here? I have some ideas, not all of which could possibly be correct at the same time, and I'm even more curious about the ideas I haven't thought of myself.
Not surprisingly, "religion" is cited as a motivator for charitable behavior, but from what I can tell, that generic term as applied in the studies cited actually means "Christian religion" instead. It's understandable that researchers focus their efforts on the largest groups, but the rest of us must read between the lines.