I had this conversation with an elder of a church recently. He was, out of love, giving me a hard time as I don't have a job at the moment so 10% of nothing is well, nothing. But his argument was that I still have money in the bank, enough to get by for a while until I'm able to find work. My question is this: is tithing simply a money issue? If I am to give God the top of what I have; the cream of the crop so to speak, how can that simply be something I use to make ends meet? Can't it be using what talents and abilities I've been given to serve? Money has never been a huge issue to me, and I'll gladly give what I have...as you said, God asks us to test Him in money. I take that to heart and God's always provided. But I can't get past the thought that it's just money.
I am sorry. From my perspective you were given wrong, hurtful, and guilt-producing advice from this particular elder. Giving you a "hard time" is not being loving. Speaking truth is one thing. Speaking truth in love is another (Ephesians 4:14-15). Particularly galling is when someone speaks to us untruth not in love. It seems to me that you were more ambushed than helped by your encounter with him. Again, I grieve that happened to you.
The elder missed this truth: Jesus, Paul and James talked about meeting the needs of others as a way of expressing gratitude to the Lord. Tithing is the outward expression of a grateful heart. Meeting the needs of others is just as significant a part of the Christian life as a regular tithe. You might try to look for opportunities to minister to those around you as a way to practice the grace of giving. Paul commends the Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians 8:2 “…out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” You don’t have to feel like a failure if a lack of income leaves you unable to tithe. We’ve all been called to meet the needs of others any time we see them. This concept is taught just as strongly throughout Scripture as the concept of tithing. Whether you have income coming in and therefore you are able to tithe or not, you are still a valuable, contributing member of the body of Christ with so much to give.
Now, let me answer your questions one by one.
First, we tithe on our present income, not on past money we have already tithed on. No income, no tithe. If you have already tithed on the money in the bank, you have no need to tithe on it again. Of course, if you have not tithed on that income, it would be quite appropriate to tithe on it now.
Second, from how I read the Bible, tithing is basically a money issue. The OT sacrificial system, for example, accepted grain, sheaves, birds, and oxen. Each of these things had monetary value. Of course, cash was also accepted.
Third, as best as I can tell, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts, and so forth, are not subject to tithing. They are utilized under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit as needed. Service in the Kingdom is not measured by time or tenths, but by responding positively to the Holy Spirit when our service is necessary to minister to others.
Fourth, You said that you would gladly tithe if you had a job, and when you do work again, you will resume tithing. I remember when God refused to allow David to build the Temple because of David's bloody hands. Solomon would accomplish that task. David was broken-hearted; however, the Lord let him know that because he had it in his heart, He would give him "credit" for it. I think the same applies to you, to others now out of work, and to so many married Christian women who want to tithe, but whose husbands won't allow them. God says to you all, "I know you would if you could. You will when you can. You've done well; since you have it in your hearts, I will still give you "credit."
Well, Dustin, I hope this is helpful. God bless you and I hope you will soon have a new job.