Q & A: Should I Tithe While Getting Out of Debt?
Sometimes tithing can be one of those subjects we try to avoid because it makes our hands feel clammy and our eyes can’t seem to make contact with anyone else. So let’s just completely strip all the awkwardness that comes about when talking about tithing. Let’s get down to the core of what it is, why we do it, and why we should never hit the pause button on tithing, even for debt payoff.
WHAT IS TITHING?
This part is simple. A tithe is a tenth of your income, designated to be given to your local church. A tithe literally translates to a tenth, so there’s no need to debt percentages of 5%, 10%, etc. Deuteronomy 14:22 commands “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.” Crops and livestock were the currency of biblical time, so we now translate that to our income. In the first part of Malachi 3:10 we read “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house…” and we know the role of the storehouse in that time is equivalent to the role of the local church today. So therefore, we are commanded to give a tenth of our income to the local church.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TITHES AND OFFERINGS?
The tithe is a tenth of your income and is given first, before you spend or allocate any other money elsewhere. An offering is any giving that goes above and beyond the tithe. This could be giving to your local church, charities, a friend or family member in need, or just simply giving to others to bless them and have fun with giving!
WHY SHOULD I TITHE?
It’s tempting to think God would command us to give because He needs the money, or because the church needs the money. But the truth is, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), He is the Creator of the universe (Genesis 1)…he does not need our money. And in the same way, the needs of the church will be met with or without you. God commands us to give because generosity is one of the most beautiful ways we reflect God’s image. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1: 27) and He is the ultimate giver. God gave his only Son so that we could have eternal life. God calls us to give because he wants us to be more like him.
And the topic of giving is not a salvation issue, but it is a command. We are called to give in obedience and it’s for our well-being! We are to give freely and without expecting something in return. Giving causes us to move along the spectrum from being selfish to being selfless. Unselfish people are better spouses, relatives, friends, employees, employers, and even financial managers. God is teaching us how to prosper over time. He works all things for our good (Romans 8:20).
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 90%?
So you’ve given the first tenth of your income to the local church and now you need to budget for the remaining 90% of your income. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Ok, I gave God his part, now I can do whatever I want with mine!” The truth is, 100% of your income is God’s money. Not just a tithe, not just what you give back, but all of it. He owns everything. He’s given you the means to work and earn an income and now you are a manager, or a steward, of that income. It’s your responsibility to manage it well and see that it is put to good use. This is why financial freedom encompasses everything from living without debt, to living on a budget, saving for your family’s future, and giving outrageously. We have to put enough effort into managing our finances to make sure we are using 100% of it in the way God wants us to and not only giving him the 10% we tithe to the church.
SO, SHOULD I STILL TITHE WHILE GETTING OUT OF DEBT?
I get it. You’re wondering if there are exceptions to the rules of tithing, like when you’re trying to throw every penny you have into your debt snowball. It’s a justified question. But first of all, let’s remember that tithing is not about rules, it’s about giving freely, so make sure you are giving out of love and not out of guilt. Secondly, let’s remember that tithing does not question salvation, but it is a spiritual command and it’s for our own good. In Malachi 3:10 God actually promises to bless us if we tithe faithfully. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
I’ve seen this scripture fulfilled in my own life and in others. When you give faithfully, the blessings just seem to happen and sometimes it comes in the form of unexpected income, or a friend helping to fix your car, an extra meal, or an anonymous gift. People have actually reported that when they stopped tithing, their financial situation seemed to get worse. So, you definitely don’t want to hit pause during the hardship of paying off debt as quickly as possible. If you’re having a hard time living off 90%, you’re still going to have a hard time living off 100%. So give your tithe to God, give the stresses of your finances over to God, and let him change your heart and your life! No one ever went broke from giving. When you’ve reached financial freedom, then you can really begin to have fun with money and give outrageously.
OTHER FAQ’S ABOUT TITHING
WHAT IF I’M NOT A MEMBER OF ANY LOCAL CHURCH OR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION? You can still find an organization or charity you feel passionate about and give 10% of your income to them. There are plenty of ministries and organizations that do good work and would benefit from your generosity.
SHOULD I TITHE ON MY GROSS OR NET INCOME? This one is always up for debate and honestly, the choice is up to you. Just be sure to give 10% of your total income and that includes side hustles, part-time jobs, freelance work, etc. The point is to change your heart and become more of a giver.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I TITHE? Once again, this is your choice. In my experience, most people tend to give either once a month or as often as they receive a paycheck.
CAN I GIVE MY TIME OR TALENTS INSTEAD OF MONEY? While time and talents are also good things to give to God, you cannot substitute this for the tithe. Scripture clearly states the tithe as a tenth of our increase, that is, currency.
IS IT OK TO COUNT MY TITHE ON MY TAX RETURN? You’ve been obedient to give your tithe to the church. You can definitely take the tax deduction. We’re called to be good managers of money, and taking the tax deduction is managing the remaining income well.
What other questions do you have about tithing?