Why We Should Tithe – Or Should We?

This is a touchy subject among people of faith, but one that many of us struggle with – including me. I’ve been dealing with a series of long-term career and financial issues which have made tithing very difficult for me, and often impossible. But I still feel a need to tithe in some way. We get blessed when we tithe and it is also an exercise in faith especially when money is tight or non-existent.

Why We Should Tithe – Scriptural Reference

The Bible verse most frequently cited for the practice of the tithe is found in Malachi:

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” – Malachi 3:10

Why We Should Tithe - Or Should We?
Why We Should Tithe – Or Should We?

This isn’t just a call to tithe, but a promise from God that He will bless us if we are obedient in this regard. But blessings will mean different things to different people. Some may want and desire a financial blessing while others may need healing or a revelation about an ongoing issue they may been having within their family or at work. Some of us call these miracles.

My Own Negative Experience With Tithing

Many years ago, I worked for a local church and saw many families lose their homes due to feeling pressured to tithe, even though they did not have their rent money or enough food for their children. I remember answering the phone when these same people called the church office for financial assistance. The pastor I supported would tell me to tell them he was unavailable.

Needless to say I quit within a few months and never went back to church until nearly 15 years later. I’m not saying this happens in all churches, but it’s probably more common than we want to believe. To this day, a sadness exists on my insides when I recall these families.

Personally, I do not like to watch TV programs that promote purchasing a breakthrough. That’s way too common! And completely wrong. Malachi 3:10 specifically refers to blessings, not necessarily the financial kind.

Does Tithing Mean 10% – or What We Can Afford?

Let me start by saying that if you feel led to give 10% of your income as your tithe, I believe that God will honor that. But is 10% a requirement? The churches that have the tithe as a central doctrine will claim that it is, mostly based on translations of the word tithe.

But we have a scriptural reference that takes the definition in a very different direction:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Paul is saying that we need to give, but there’s no mention of 10%, or of any percentage of any kind.

This verse suggests that it’s okay to give what we can, rather than making 10% an absolute requirement. It also opens the door to doing volunteer work at our churches when we may not be in a position to contribute with money.

What About Those Who Are Not in a Position to Tithe?

The idea that everyone should give 10% of their income as a tithe regardless of their station in life seems like an over-simplification.

For example, what about someone who has an income, but needs every dollar to support a family? The Bible gives us direction on this question:

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

If you are tithing, rather than paying your bills, isn’t that like giving with someone else’s money? What if you need all of your income to support minor children? They are 100% dependent on you for the very basics of life, including food, a safe place to sleep, clothes and so on. I believe God entrusted our children into our care because He knew we would be responsible.

And what about someone who simply doesn’t have the means to tithe on an ongoing basis? This is a position that I have been in myself.

We have this lesson from Jesus:

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:41-44

Clearly it’s not about a percentage, but about the act of giving itself.

My Own Situation and Why I Have Been Researching the Tithe

Like a lot of people who are over 50, I’ve been struggling to make a living ever since the financial meltdown. Tithing has been a constant stress for me. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but rather that most of the time I can’t.

I recently went back to church and did well with tithing 10% – for about 3 weeks – then had to choose between paying my rent and tithing. I have not been back to church since this happened as I would be totally embarrassed when the offering plate came my way.

I have prayed about this issue and have kept track of all income since the shortage existed for me. My plan and prayer is being able to tithe the lump sum I owe when I can. It took a week of no sleep, feeling guilty and feeling I had failed God before I had peace about my situation. I have dealt with homelessness for a few years and being in my 50’s when I got laid off – I’ve had a challenging time with getting back on my feet. I feel God understands my fear of being homeless again and knows my heart.

Right now, I would not be a cheerful giver! I was for that first 3 weeks because my 10% tithe was not affecting my rental payment. I am not saying the church I was visiting said I had to give, but you know it is expected when the offering plate is passed to you. I have seen people not put anything in the plate and I applaud them for being able to do that. But not everyone can do that and I am one of those.

Back when I was a child in Jamaica, there were no offering plates at the church I attended with my Grandma. I know churches have expenses like the rest of us, but I yearn for a place to go to worship with other believers even when I may not have an offering or tithe in my pocket.

The “Prosperity Gospel”

I used to attend Christian seminars hoping for more wisdom and for networking opportunities with other Christians. But I got tired and drained from the constant “prosperity gospel” being shoved down my throat. It was like – give God $100 so that He can give me $1,000. This came across to me as a way to “manipulate” God for money.

But here’s what I know: God blesses me when He is ready and when I don’t expect it!

I am finally getting this message loud and clear and now have calmed down from the frenzy I was in as I tried to think of ways to pay my tithe and my living expenses. Yes, every week created some new challenges, challenges God ALWAYS worked out for me when I LET Him.

Have you ever been swept up by the prosperity gospel? I know people who swear by it. Has it worked for you?

Final Thoughts on Tithing

I encourage everyone to always pray about tithing. God will give us a peace about tithing. As more churches get caught up into the offering or tithing requirements, more people like myself are feeling more stressed out when they have to choose between an offering or tithe and paying rent or buying groceries.

I don’t believe God wants us homeless or hungry, yet we hear of many Christians doing just that in an effort to be obedient about tithing. I get the obedience part of tithing. But is tithing a special form of obedience? And do people like myself who’d rather not be homeless or hungry disappoint God?

I feel that no one should be made to feel guilty about tithing or giving an offering. I feel God blesses us no matter what we give, and when we give from our hearts, it is truly a very special form of giving.

What do you think? Do you feel we should tithe even if it means not paying bills or a debt? Or should we tithe first and let the bills go including food if we do not have enough left over after tithing? And how do you calculate your tithe?

( Photo by JamesCohen )


14 Responses to Why We Should Tithe – Or Should We?

  1. Excellent points and I agree. Malachi’s passage gave us a directive to the greedy and unscrupulous priests. Deut 14 sheds a whole different light on tithing. You never see it preached because it refers to sharing and eating the tithe during worship as an act of communion. The actual concept of a tithe was a tax or tribute in return for protection by a lord or ruler of a land. The amount was normally 10%. But it could be more or less and most often was talking about harvest or herds. God asks us all to be generous to help others. He did not ask us to build and maintain the church. In the NT that was the annual temple tax, and it was a floating amount. The CHURCH wants the tithe we know today not God.

  2. Hi Mike – I agree with your take. The tithe has an entire doctrine built around it that isn’t consistent with the New Testament, or even always the Old. Sacrificial giving is an act of obedience, but it’s also about giving to the poor, not just the church. Methinks the concept has been twisted over the years, and maybe became institutionalized as part of the indulgences system. There’s two sides to it that I think are distorted, that tithing anything less than 10% is a sin, and that you need to be tithing even when you’re poor or broke. That encourages people who are already struggling to go deeper in the hole. We know that isn’t coming from God.

  3. Mike, thanks for stopping by to leave a comment on my guest post here & on my LinkedIn Profile – much APPRECIATED!!! I am back to viewing TV ministers like TD Jakes, Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar as I still have the “need” for the spiritual side of things. Once I get another car, I will go back to searching for a “home” church. I did the search based on being able to walk and was not satisfied with what I found in the two churches I visited for a few weeks. I have a desire to connect with “older” SPIRITUAL women as I do not have a mother in my life and cannot sit around and wait for her to be one. This is one of my constant prayers and I believe it is on its way just like in the book of Ruth. This bible story is what keeps my HOPE alive. Blessings everyone…

  4. Angela, biblically speaking place your faith first in your daily walk with God. Not sure TV preachers are the answer. Big churches are not the answer either. Find a small community group for bible study, there is the closest example of what the early church had in mind. Even OT life was built around the family and local synagogue not the temple. I believe our hope will be there not investing in bigger debt laden churches with huge budgets. Give as you see there is a need and God will be honored.

    Kevin. Thanks and change is needed to experience a revival in our country. Until we return our focus to daily prayer times personally and with family first and then with our local friends there will be same old same old hypocritical religion in America. God bless both of you.

  5. Mike, an excellent suggestion about the bible study which I did at one of the churches I visited. Yes, I do miss the “people” contact at a church home but feel it is best to watch something rather than do nothing and end up in the devil’s hands. Now I am not into the sinning, but I tend to think too much about my circumstances. It seems that I have been in a hole since 2008 after being laid off for the third time. The other two times I was able to get right back into the job routine and maintained my independence I have had since age 18. Now I am dealing with the shame and pride of having to live week by week (sometimes day by day) with keeping a roof over my head. But to be honest, this has only driven me back into God’s lap where I plan on sitting forever. I have learn’t my lesson and regret wasting so many years (about 15) with running from him. We will always face challenges, but when we RELY on God 100% – he either gives us the strength to deal with the situation or remove it from our lives. I do now have PEACE of mind, something I have not had for some time. Now to let HIM help me to TRUST Him more with what is ahead of me. I no longer FEAR death or what the next minute will bring. Now I understand what walking in FAITH means. Believing even when we have no idea what is going to happen or cannot see anything. I am so GRATEFUL my only child, a daughter now 28 has stuck to her Faith even when I gave up. It is because of God that we now have a “healthy” relationship after many years of hurt, tears and anger. I now know my future grandkids (cannot wait for her to get married and give me some) will have a better life than she had. She has forgiven me for the mistakes I made as a mother and only because of God. I have also forgiven her for the hurt I felt. God is AWESOME indeed. Blessings everyone….

  6. Hi Mike – Once again I agree. I think we need to move back to the house church format of the early church. It invites participation, and that makes us doers of the Word. Current churches are like movie theaters where you largely sit and be entertained. We have to become “boots on the ground” for Christ, and that’s not happening in the more passive world of the corporate church.

  7. I have never agreed with the mandatory amount of a tithe especially when it means taking away food and rent. I used to get these boxes of envelopes from the church which had amounts listed on the outside of what should be put into the envelope and sometimes there would be multiple envelopes per service. Being a single mom raising 2 children made my budget very tight so I would ignore the suggestion on outside and put what I could afford. Since I didn’t associate with many people in the parish I could sneak into the back of the church and not have to deal with the looks from the ones who always dressed up for church. I would be in my work clothes trying to keep my children still during service. I endured this until my children were confirmed and then stopped going because of the hypocrisy. Tithing should not be a percent if you not able to afford it

  8. Hi Maria – I don’t agree with that percentage thing either. On the one hand you have low income people for whom 10% would leave them homeless, and on the other you have wealthy people for whom 10% wouldn’t even be sacrificial. So it comes back to giving what you feel led to give, that will keep you as a cheerful giver.

    Interesting stories from a couple of Jewish guys I’ve known over the years. One said that his synagogue BILLED it’s members. I think that’s over the top, but he was used to it and thought it was normal. Another told a more complicated story. He said that anytime his synagogue needed money for a major project, it would be handled before a general meeting of the congregation. The rabbi would lead off by saying “we need X dollars to put a new roof on the building”. Dr. Green, the cardiologist sitting in the front, would stand up and pledge $10,000. Then divorce attorney Smith in the second row would stand up and pledge $15,000. All the pledges were public before the congregation, so here was my friend sitting in the back row, upping his pledge to $1,000 (which he couldn’t afford) from the $100 he originally planned to offer. After a few years of that he left the synagogue and the religion. I would say he was run off, in a manner of speaking.

    As that famous philosopher Archie Bunker once said of religions, “That’s one thing they all have in common – the collection plate.” I get the need to raise money to support the house of worship, but they often get too aggressive, which leaves you questioning the religious virtue of the organization.

  9. Kevin. Spot on. Do some research and see how many Billions$$$ churches have in facilities and related debt. So much like Herod’s golden clad Temple in Jesus’ day. We need a better home church & small group network that engaged and educated rather than entertains the people. God bless

  10. Hi Mike – I was in a faithful men’s group for 13+ years in Atlanta, and it functioned very much like a house church. There were several situations over the years where we took up collections for the members who were going through various hardships. So in addition to having very personal fellowship, we did have financial support from one another. Some could give more than others, but all gave what they could and we didn’t judge one another. There was one situation where I wasn’t able to contribute money, so instead I organized the collection effort. We all did what we could when we could.

    That’s the real definition of a church, and that’s what the Church needs to get back to. And for what it’s worth, more often then not, the non-monetary assistance we provided for each other – advice, networking, fellowship and prayer – was much more common, and usually much more valuable. But then, we were a true “priesthood of believers” and had no clergy and no building to support.

    Of course I left the group when I moved to New Hampshire, but Bill Andrew, who is a staff writer here at OOYR is still a member.

  11. Good for you Maria!!!! I myself was a single parent for the 18 years my only child was at home with me. Many times we did not have enough food to eat and I made sure she ate. I also made sure we lived where she could walk to school. Many people just do not get this. Now I see the result of my decisions as she finished her Masters (I have yet to finish my 2 year degree in my 50’s) and has a good job. We as mothers carried our children for 9 months and will do anything to make sure they are taken care of. She is now 28, but I would die for her if I needed to. Your post made my heart warm as it reminded me of my own journey of being a single parent. Blessings…..

    Kevin, glad you brought up how other religions handle collecting money. I briefly was into the Jehovah Witness way of life (a few months) last year and they never passed an offering plate or asked for money. To be honest I have no idea how they do this as I was able to get everything free – their bible and other materials. Not once did I feel bad about not being able to pay for the items I received. Now I decided not to continue with them due to the “ritualistic” way of thinking – deeds for Jehovah. There was a lot of “tension” as the younger generation hated having to do all these deeds because their parents said so. But it was nice knowing there are religions that offer you a seat in their congregation with no pressure to contribute if you cannot. Back then I was once again homeless and trying to hang on to what sanity I had. I thank them for making me feel welcome….

    Kevin, I also want to address your post about the collection for members facing hard times. Unfortunately this situation has been increasing and I like to remind people that more people are now having to choose between helping others and their own household. Personally I hate the public collections and I face that at one of my jobs right now. Twice now I have had to say I cannot afford to contribute and I “feel” the judgement. I would rather they let people “volunteer” to contribute and do it privately. I have been helped in the past when my daughter was a baby and attending a large church. The only reason I took the help (it was to send me to a single’s retreat) was because of how it was handled. All I knew was that I qualified for a scholarship to go and I never knew how the funds were collected. Whenever I have some extra funds, I plan on looking into organizations like the Shriners who helped my daughter who was born with “weak” ankles like her father. He to this day has the issue as it was never fixed when he was born. My daughter is fine thanks to the Shriners. They never charged me to the services, the special shoes she needed and transporting me to and from their hospital.

    In ending, I miss the “warmth” of the church. It seems everyone is now so busy with their various functions within the congregation they forget to look around or listen to God about reaching out to others. I know when I visited the two churches I did, each for a few weeks – no one came over to welcome me in a “warm” way. How about a hug if the person seems receptive. You can tell this with God’s guidance. When I decided to not return to the first church, I did email them to let them know I was not pursuing the visits any more. I had asked for information about their various meetings and had visited the women’s one. It was too late by then, but the lady that stopped by job to check on me (which I did not appreciate, rather a phone call as we are not allowed to step away from our jobs) was bent on convincing me to come back. I told her very “politely” that I would not and maybe I was mean’t to show them what was needed for future visitors to their church. I told her I came “empty and lonely” and left the same way after walking an hour each way to this church. One time it was storming so badly and I was totally drenched. It was a surprise storm, but I was determined to get there. I know there is a congregation out there for me and when I get another car, I will be back out there visiting and praying for guidance. I want to be able to meet with older women – that is a priority and not open to negotiation. I have an emptiness inside of me and some days and nights tears come to my eyes as I remember my Grandma and her “unconditional” love. This was a woman who never had to yell at me or spank me. I loved her so much = I wanted to please her. I want that again in my life and it would be awesome to have that in my future home church. Blessings everyone….

  12. As the economy gets to be more of a challenge, the tithing issue has been a hot topic. I use to watch TD Jakes on TV due to not having transportation to get to a local church and to be honest even if I had transportation – I am usually working on Sundays. Yes, I could probably attend a service on Sunday around my part-time retail job but after after getting back to the room I rent by the week about 12 midnight – at age 58, I am so tired from being on my feet and walking to and from work, I know God understands the TV was an option for now. Well that all changed when TD made an announcement about not appreciating the fact that people watch his shows and NEVER contribute. Guys, it was like I FROZE in guilt as I have not had an EXTRA cent to contribute anywhere. Well I talked about this with my adult only child and her being one not to say what to do – I decided to not watch any more TV ministries. I miss the days when religion was FREE. Yes, they have to pay rent and utilities and fund ministries – but when did God CHARGE us??? Am I missing something here. But on the POSITIVE sides of things, it did force me to think outside the box. I had an old book that was written by Norman Vincent Peale that I had found at work. I had been reading it when I thought of it. Lol, well that thought came to mind. Every morning before I got ready for work, I would read some of it while I ate my daily yogurt. It drew me nearer to God spiritually and gave me the PEACE I had been missing. Sometimes we get knocked out of our routine for a reason. So THANK YOU TD JAKES for saying what you did a week ago. It forced me to get more attuned to God spiritually and I am moving CLOSER to what he has destined for me. I don’t know if I will be able to TITHE any time soon, but I do KNOW God still LOVES me as I travel down the path on the UNKNOWN. Blessings Everyone, Angela

  13. Hi Angela – You’re doing the right thing, reading and studying on your own. I do that as well. We often forget that church and ministries are just conduits to God, but they aren’t a necessity. It’s more about worshiping God as part of a community. The pastor at a previous church we belonged to (for 10 years) said that the single most important part of your walk with God is your prayer life. He said that if that’s right, then the rest is likely to follow. I completely agree. Prayer is about communing with God when no one else is around. If we get that right, we’re on the right path.

    As to the apparent money grab, I get that they all need money to run operations, but I don’t like the compulsion. Some churches and ministers are worse about that than others. But I’d say that if you are right with God, and you don’t have the money, then just worship how and where you want and don’t worry about not giving. There are people who contribute a lot of money to churches, but they aren’t necessarily walking with God. Better to be poor and to have a solid relationship than to be rich and just write a check for the “God tax”. It’s worth noting that many of the people of the Bible were dirt poor, so you’re in good company. On the other hand, the Pharisees tithed regularly but Jesus himself said their hearts were far from him.

  14. Now that I look back I can see where I was getting too DEPENDENT on the TV ministers to get me up and running every day. First was Joel Osteen, who I took the Greyhound Bus to go see in the hopes of not killing myself over a man I decided to leave. This was over 4 years ago. Well the staff was nice, but Joel was nowhere to be found on that day. Now keep in mind this was my last money for that ticket, that was how hopeless I felt. I was also not impressed in the TINY room the Prayer Staff had – all looking cramped and unhappy. I guess I had this impression from watching him on TV that ALL of his staff would be in this PEACEFUL environment and so on. Okay, got past that major hurdle and God provided a way for me to make it back to my daughter. You would think I would have gotten this lesson done pat. Nope, had to go get DEPENDENT on TD Jakes/lol. So when he made that announcement (the first time I am hearing this) – my insides HURT so much, but after Joel Osteen situation – I KNEW that God was trying to get me AWAY from this DEPENDENCY. TV ministers need to realize that some of us cannot get to their church, buy their books/cds, much less become a financial partner. My “naive” self had to learn a second lesson – for some, it is about the MONEY. Sorry, but if God wants you to be on TV – you will be there no matter who gives or does not give. Not one to judge anyone anymore, I am only going to say this – TD Jakes needs to realize that what he SAYS affects his viewers. If I had not been as “strong” as I am now as a Christian, what he said could have sent me over the edge. His words have the power to give someone HOPE. I see too many of these “big” influencers FORGETTING that God put them in that place. Now for my own PERSONAL situation. I do have a room I rent every week and God makes sure I have the rent. Lol, there has been some weeks when I have let WORRY rob me of my sleep and general mental peace – but again, since I walked away from TB last week – I NOW have the time to look back and SEE what God has done. Only HE did it, not me in spite of my only child helping me out when she cans. My dignity suffers every time she does, but I know it is TEMPORARY and I have been here before. As long as I do my part – go to work in spite of major tears every time I have to/lo, trusting God in ALL things = my dreams will come to pass. I also want to be part of a ministry that is willing to LISTEN to my thoughts about PREVENTING homelessness. It is not about the tithing, it is about the GIVING to something you believe in. I am so over the holiday gift baskets. Do these provide a job for the “needy” person for the rest of the year??? No!!! It is time ministries start to look at their LOCALS instead of living in this dream world that all is well outside their front door. No it is not as more companies are CLOSING their doors. I NEVER thought Walmart would shut down any of their locations – but they have. More to follow. Bottom line, if we do not find a way to keep these businesses afloat (the ones that treat their employees like humans) – our future will be one of homelessness and lack. It is CHEAPER to PREVENT the job loss versus trying to find the money to house, feed and cloth the homeless. That is where my dream is – to get this message out into the world to hopefully DECREASE the job losses WORLDWIDE. Once we do that, then we can DECREASE the homeless. Until this happens, the homeles numbers will keep INCREASING worldwide. Blessings Everyone, Angela

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