I’m struggling to pay my bills, and you’re telling me the way to have more is to give more? I realize that’s a question many people ask when they seriously start to consider tithing. Tithing is one of the most controversial topics in the church today, but I don’t think it should be all that controversial. If it’s being presented correctly, Christians should see tithing, not as a legalistic dictate, but as the key to unlocking the greatest blessings God has to offer us.
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Tithing is the Single Most Important Key to Making Ends Meet
Why am I even covering tithing here? Good question. Since you’ve asked, I’ll go ahead and answer that. People who know we are very skilled at living in a frugal manner often ask us how we have made ends meet on one income all these years. We’re living in a two-income world, so finding ways to live on one has not always been easy. People want to know our best tips. There are posts I want to do in the next few weeks sharing some of the best ways we’ve kept our household bills low. For instance, I want to tell you how we pay a fraction of what most people do for our cell phones. I want to share with you how we get all our TV channels for free and have managed to avoid a cable bill the entire time we’ve had a house. (Don’t worry. We’re not doing anything unethical.) But I can’t tell you about all of those others secrets to making ends meet until I tell you the most important key to always having enough money to operate your household. For us, that key has been giving generously to both our local congregation and other ministries. I would be doing all of us a disservice if I left tithing out of the equation.
I know it seems counterproductive. I’m telling you if you want to have enough money to pay your bills and provide for your household, you need to give away the first tenth of your earnings every month. That seems crazy to people who don’t understand the way tithing works. People who have not been raised in the church have probably never heard of tithing. Many people who have been raised in the church have sat under bad teaching on tithing. If a church leader is extracting tithe from the congregation through manipulation and intimidation, that’s faulty doctrine. I would not personally stay in a congregation where the position of leadership is used as a bully pulpit. I don’t like leaders who rule by fear and coercion. If a tithe is begrudgingly extracted, that’s not cheerful giving. If the tithe is a mandated burden, it completely defeats the purpose. A congregation should be educated on the reasons and benefits of tithes and offerings, but no one should ever be shamed into tithing. I’ve heard horror stories about people in certain churches being very publically shamed before the whole congregation for not tithing. That’s just ludicrous! I don’t even have a clue who in my church tithes or doesn’t tithe. I don’t even care who does or does not tithe. I only need to worry about my own household, not anyone else’s. But I will share with you all the reasons to tithe because I think it’s absolutely to your benefit. What you do with that advice is between you and God.
Tithing Helps Other People
Let me be clear, I don’t think anyone is going to hell for not tithing. We’re not under the Old Testament law. But I do think Christians cheat themselves when they do not tithe. I also think you limit your church to some degree. Your local congregation relies on your support to operate. It’s not a government agency (Thank goodness!). It does not receive money forcibly extracted from everyone in your area in the form of taxes to pay its electric bill and heating bill. A church relies on the voluntary contributions of its attendees to operate, so you really should consider contributing financially if you enjoy the benefits of that church. Most churches participate in a variety of community and missional outreaches, so the larger society also benefits from your contributions. The faith-based community does a much better job of taking care of the needs in the devastation after any natural disaster than the state and federal government agencies. Government agencies are too often bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy while the religious organizations can rush right in with aid and clean-up crews after a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. Church outreach programs feed people, clothe people, house people, and so on. If every Christian were giving a full tithe, there would be no need for government welfare programs. All aid used to be handled by the religious community. I actually believe it was God’s intention for the church to be the vessel of welfare programs, not the state, but that’s neither here nor there. There are some good reasons to tithe just because there’s a need in your church, your community, and other communities, and it’s good to be charitable.
Most Importantly, Tithing Helps You
But let’s talk about the most important reason you should tithe. It’s a huge benefit to you! Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured unto you again” (Luke 6:38 KJV). That was Jesus speaking, not some Old Testament law. There are certain cause-and-effect relationships that exist in the world. There are physical cause-and-effect relationships, like “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” There are spiritual cause-and-effect relationships. The more you give, the more that comes back to you. That’s a spiritual cause-and-effect relationship that Jesus states right there in Luke. Jesus praised the poor widow woman later in Luke 21 for giving the two mites while chastising the rich men who were likely giving their full ten percent. The poor widow woman gave all that she had. It was probably a huge portion of her income. It could be argued here that Jesus is saying to give more than ten percent. I actually feel ten percent is probably the very minimum we are supposed to give, but I’ll let you work the details of that out between you and the Heavenly Father. Dave Ramsey, the creator of the well-known Financial Peace courses, says,
“Tithing was created for our benefit. It teaches us how to keep God first in our lives and how to live unselfishly. Unselfish people make better spouses, friends, relatives, employees and employers. And they usually have better finances. God is trying to teach us how to prosper over time.
If you would like to learn more about Dave Ramsey’s views on tithing, you can find that on his page: Tithing and Giving: Your 5 Questions Answered. (Disclaimer: My husband sells life insurance and other financial products, and he disagrees with some of the recommendations Ramsey has on those products, but there’s so much good in the Ramsey programs, we don’t see those minor differences to be enough to cause us to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Our daughter and her now husband took the teen version of the class at his church, and it was definitely a good influence on her.)
Tithing Makes God the Provider of Your Household
I know tithing when you don’t have that much anyway isn’t always easy, but it’s just as important to tithe then as it is when you have plenty. I’ve written my tithe check at times (thankfully not so much now as in the earlier years of my adulthood) when in the natural sense, it seemed like a really irresponsible thing to do because there were times when I handed over that check wondering if I was going to have enough money in the bank to cover all the bills by the end of the month. The tithe has always come out first, and somehow or other there has always been enough to cover those bills just at the right time. We don’t tithe because it’s the law. We’re under grace. Tithing is a covenant between you and God, and covenants always come with blessings of provision and protection in return. When you put your tithe into God’s hands, you make God the provider of your household instead of your our limited resources. God’s resources are never limited. Tithing is an act of faith, and faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). With that act of faith you say, “God, I trust You to provide for my finances. I trust You to take care of my family. I trust You to take care of our health. I trust You instead of myself and my own income and my own resources.” You can be sure, God is much better at all of these tasks than any human.
A Man Who Tithes in Faith is a Great Blessing to His Household
One of the greatest blessings in my life has been that even though my husband was not raised in church, and he was a relatively new Christian at the time of our marriage, he never even questioned me when I insisted we must tithe. He never said, “I’m the only one making the money here, and there’s no way we’re giving away the first 10 percent of it to the church.” He just gave me the checkbook. He was willing to step out on faith with me without even really understanding why. I’m sure it seemed odd to him, but he loved me enough to do whatever pleased me. And then later, when I told him now we need to give this additional amount to the Gideon’s, and then we need to pledge this much extra to the building project, and now we need to send this monthly amount to this ministry, he’s never disputed that, and God has continued to bless our household tremendously for it. I know the most key factor in our ability to live on one income in a two-income world has been the simple act of tithing. And I’m so grateful for a husband who has set a Godly example of leadership for our family by making tithing a priority through the years.
Tithing Makes the Rest of Your Income Go Farther
When asked about tithing, Reverend Billy Graham once said, “We have found in our own home, as have thousands of others, that God’s blessing upon the nine-tenths, when we tithe, helps it to go farther than ten-tenths without His blessing.” You can read more about Reverend Graham’s views on tithing here: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Answers – Does a Christian have to tithe? . We have definitely found this to be true as well. We don’t always see all the different ways that God has his hand on our provision. I firmly believe God sometimes prevents circumstances that would have cost us money. He makes our food go farther like the widow woman with the barrel of meal and cruse of oil (I Kings 17), or he makes something we use last longer like the Israelites wandering around for forty years in the same clothes that didn’t wear out (Deuteronomy 8:4). Sometimes he sends the right person to give us something we need. Sometimes he sends us good neighbors who know how to fix issues with our car that would otherwise require taking it to the shop.
God’s Provision is Always Right on Time when You Tithe in Faith
One time many years ago, we needed a freezer. We had been watching for a good deal on a used freezer for a while, but none were coming up in the classified ads (now we could have found a dozen on Facebook rummage sites, but that was back in the day). We could have purchased a chest freezer because they’re less expensive, but I was trying to hold out to find an upright freezer in our price range because I know how frozen foods have a way of disappearing into the pit of the chest freezer, never to be found again until they’ve been sitting on the bottom for a decade. Then all of the sudden we had a deer at the processing plant that we knew would need to be picked up in a couple of days, and the processing of the deer itself was about $65 dollars, so that gave me even less for the freezer that I now desperately needed. That Sunday as I was writing my check for the tithe, I happened to take note that the amount of the tithe was right at the amount I needed to buy that upright freezer. And I had this brief moment of weakness where I thought, “Maybe I could just not put that tithe in this week, and I could go get that freezer, and maybe I could afford to tithe that much extra by the next pay period.” I knew there was no way I was actually going to have the money to pay that amount extra on the tithe by the next pay period, but, after all, didn’t I really “need” that upright freezer, instead of having to settle for that chest freezer that’s smaller and harder to organize? I immediately felt conviction for that thought. You know the kind of conviction you can physically feel in your body, where you start sweating? And I knew I could not steal that money from God. I wouldn’t dream of stealing that money from someone else, and yet I was sitting there contemplating stealing from God. So I dutifully wrote that check, even though I was having a little trouble with the cheerful part that day. And I gritted my teeth as I put it in the plate, and under my breath, I said, “God, I hope you’re happy because I really wanted that upright freezer.” Low and behold, that Tuesday, we got a check in the mail that was retired overpayment credits from our rural electric co-op. We were able to use the check from the rural electric co-op to buy the upright freezer I wanted.
God got His money, and I got my freezer because God’s resources are never limited. He can take whatever money you give Him, and He can give it right back to you in a million different ways, just like He turned five loaves and two little fishes into baskets and baskets of food. God can do way more with our money than we can if we will let Him. And He wants to bless our households way beyond what we can imagine if we will just give to Him in faith.
You Can’t Afford Not to Tithe
I know some say they can’t afford to tithe. I would challenge anyone that you really can’t afford not to tithe. Tithing opens the door for God to pour out his blessings on you and provide for all your needs. It’s surrendering that 10% with the trust that God is big enough to meet your needs. It’s an act of faith. It’s not legalism. You aren’t going to hell if you don’t tithe. You are not somehow less Christian if you don’t tithe. But you are cheating yourself out of God’s best for you. It’s pure faith and trust. I am not trying to start a debate. I’m just offering some food for thought. I also believe in tithing on the gross (but I understand there is room for disagreement on that). You CANNOT out give God. I have never seen anyone tithe themselves into lack. I have, on the other hand, seen many tithe themselves into prosperity!
These are a few other books on God’s provision. I haven’t read every one of these books, but I’ve read enough of each author to feel comfortable sharing their work.