Tithing – The Touchy Topic

I realize the very word – “TITHING” – generates strong emotions. And I get it; not every TV preacher is honest.  If a pastor of a church preaches on the subject, parishioners think he just wants more money. Or, in this economy, who can afford to give ten percent?  Then there’s the argument – do you give a full ten percent before or after taxes?  Do you tithe to your local church or can you give it elsewhere?  I can’t afford to give if I won’t get a tax deduction.  Fill in the blank.  I know there are more objections than these.

Frankly, I don’t even feel like addressing those questions.  I could.  But that’s not where my heart is.  What really beats in my chest is the longing for people to know that they are cheating themselves when they don’t tithe.  Yes, the Bible says if we don’t tithe we are robbing God.  And in my opinion that’s a very big deal.  But I long for people to know that God is not a cheapskate.  He is not stingy, nor miserly.  And He is a debtor to no man.  It’s impossible to out give God!

A couple years ago, a very precious friend asked me if I tithed. I responded with a laugh. “I can’t afford NOT to!”

And I really meant it. I’ve been tithing for over 40 years and in that time the Lord has never, ever failed to take care of our finances.  We’ve not always had a big surplus, but He has always met our needs. Always.  And we did it on one income at a time when society insists that both parents must work to make ends meet.

Not only did our Heavenly Father provide so we could pay our bills consistently, He also did things for us that to this day do not compute on paper. How in the world did a family of five, living on one blue collar income, manage to take vacations – sometimes flying?  We still laugh about it.  It was pure delight to see how God came through for us.

One time, he gave us a “two for one” vacation. Because of an overbooked flight, we surrendered up our seats, which garnered our entire family flights for another vacation the following year.

I could go on and on about how God took care of us because we faithfully tithed. No, I’m not patting us on the back because we did it. How can I? Tithing works for anyone. God doesn’t play favorites. I even know of a business man who was not a believer, but he knew that tithing worked so he did it. And God blessed him. A lot.

When I see people struggle with finances, the first question I want to ask them is, “Do you tithe?” I never say it. But I think it. And I feel sorry for them because I know they’re experiencing a tremendous amount of angst that isn’t necessary.

I’d like to offer a challenge to all people who do not believe in tithing. Here’s how I’d set it up: In one column, I’d have them keep track of their income – their full income before taxes. In another column, I’d have them record the amount their tithe (ten percent) would be, before taxes, if they DID tithe. Every entry would be dated. In a third column, I would have them record any unforeseen expenses, car and appliance breakdowns, furnace malfunctions, air conditioning going on the fritz, sick pets, anything that isn’t a predictable expense. At the end of a year, I would have them compare their totals – the amount it would have cost them if they HAD tithed – and the amount they paid out for “disaster expenses.”

I’m not saying people who tithe never have unexpected expenses. But I am saying that God PROMISES that if we give what belongs to Him, the ten percent (minimum), He will “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” God actually invites us to test Him on this! He promises other things, too, but I’m not telling you here. Read it for yourself! It’s in the Bible – Malachi 3:8-11

I dare you to take the challenge. If you’re not ready to trust God yet, then start keeping track like I suggested. Let me know in a year which column is bigger. I’d love to hear.

But seriously, I hope you’ll take God’s challenge instead. There is no greater thrill than interacting with the God of the Universe – the One who loves you more than you can imagine – and discovering that He cares about you…and your finances!

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2 Responses

  1. At the risk of getting stoned by some of my peers, I am going to share a different perspective. Grace, you know my heart as well as anyone on this blog so I’m going to take a risk and share another perspective. We grew up spiritually under this same teaching I could add l other verses and principles you don’t have included here. We lived for 5 years as a single income family (wife staying @ home w/ 4 little ones) on 1 blue collar income, wrestling with net vs gross, (chose gross as long as I we could) received government assistance w/ food, childbirth, church helping us out with older cars when ours would finally quit being safe to drive, etc. Long story short, after attempting to implement these teachings on tithing just as you have so clearly articulated, I have come to the opposite conclusion, that tithing is not part of the gospel message for those of us living after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. it is Old testament law. The financial principle I believe most clearly applies to me today is from 1 Corinthians where Paul said not to give reluctantly nor under compulsion, rather make up your mind as to what you want to give, then give it cheerfully. I spent years and years dealing with the self condemnation that came from feeling like I was letting God down, and also trying to balance living in a culture where both parents working was the norm. We rented, bought clothes @ the second hand store, and garage sales, barely had enough money for postage stamps sometimes, and nothing for going to the dentist…all the while by faith giving the tithe, plus working every Saturday @ church work days, and attending discipleship classes, 3 and 4 church services a week, yada yada, It wasn’t until years later that I met another believer who had the same understanding as I on this one. I normally keep quite on this topic, but since you blogged about it, thought I would pull back the curtain on our lives. DM

  2. Hi DM,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I like to hear how you think. My motive in sharing our experience isn’t to shame or judge anyone, nor to argue doctrine. I realize there are far more aspects to finances than merely tithing. Since people like Dave Ramsey give whole seminars on finances, which can last for days or weeks, I knew from the get go that I was only touching on one tiny part of the picture.

    I have learned from personal experience – the hard way I might add – that there are numerous reasons for financial challenges, and the issue of tithing is only one aspect. Some of our “school of hard knocks” lessons we have learned: God has used a shortage of finances in our lives to draw our attention to areas in which we needed to repent, to steer us in a new or different direction, and to let us experience the consequences of “leaning on our own understanding” instead of acknowledging Him in all our ways. That last lesson was really painful and took five years to resolve. But the lesson stuck and I am so grateful He allowed us to learn it. It has been invaluable.

    My post on tithing is sort of like a one-page daily devotional which gets people thinking in a direction but in no way exhausts the subject. I knew it when I wrote it. I didn’t mention the hardships we experienced for many years, mainly because that wasn’t my point. My point is God’s faithfulness. Did we go without stuff that others had? You bet. My clothes and our house furnishings were from Goodwill and Garage Sales. A lot of them still are. I enjoy the outlet that recycling affords my creative streak. And I delight in sharing the stories that go along with the items. But we also saw, repeatedly, that God came through for us in miraculous ways when there seemed to be no way. He is faithful.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, DM. They’re always welcome.

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