Where, and How Often, Should I Tithe?

Freshly Cut Hair

Question:

I am a hairstylist and I work for a franchise-owned hair-cutting salon chain. The pay is only $9.00 per hour and I get some tips (not a lot, though). I’m struggling financially and don’t make enough to support myself.

How does God want us to tithe? Does He want us to give away our tithe money right away, such as the same day as soon as it is in our hands? Or should it be put into a checking account and a check written and mailed to a ministry or charity on the same day that we get a paycheck?

I know that God has to come first in everything and of course that includes tithing. But I’m not sure how to come up with a good foolproof system to tithe that would please God. What would you advise?

– Claire, Massachusetts

Answer:

Thanks for your question, Claire. This is something that many people ponder when the issue of tithing comes up.

First of all, let me commend you for your heart of obedience in this area. It’s no small thing to give away 10% of your income, especially when you’re having a tough time making ends meet. The fact that you have the desire to obey scripture and tithe says a lot about your faith in God to provide for your needs.

We certainly believe that God wants us to tithe: Scripture makes it clear that the tithe belongs to God, and that He promises to bless us if we are faithful to tithe to Him.

Where to Tithe

We also believe that in today’s model of spiritual community, which is based on the early church in the New Testament, that tithing is intended primarily as a way of funding our home church congregations. Quite simply, tithing makes church happen: Without faithful givers, our local churches wouldn’t be able to maintain their facilities, pay pastors or fund community outreach.

So my first answer to your question is that you should tithe to your local church. If you belong to a good church in your community, you have some responsibility for helping to keep it financially healthy. You fulfill that obligation by tithing regularly to the church.

If you aren’t a member of a solid local church, I’m afraid that this talk of tithing is putting the cart before the horse. God commands us to live in fellowship with one another through the vehicle of the church. If you’re not connected to a church, you’re missing out on a lot that fellow believers have to add to your life, and you’re robbing those same people of the wisdom and encouragement that you could be giving to them.

We also believe that financial giving is a great thing to do, and a big part of how God wants us to handle our money. It’s great that you’re interested in sending money to ministries or charitable organizations. But we believe that these gifts are in addition to the tithe to the local church — they don’t replace tithing. If you want to give to a ministry organization, that should be a gift that comes out of your abundance. You shouldn’t withhold the tithe to your local church because you’re giving to an outside organization instead. On the other hand, you probably don’t have the money to do a lot of extra outside giving right now, anyway.

When to Tithe

Now to your question of when to tithe: The Bible doesn’t specifically address timing issues when it comes to the tithe, so there’s not a strict rule in scripture to refer to. Instead, we each have to figure out the tithing schedule that makes the most sense in our own lives.

I know many people that make a point of writing out their tithe check as soon as they get paid. This helps them to follow through on the idea of giving to God first, before they do anything else with their money. I think this is a pretty good way to go, because it makes a priority of the tithe and helps you to avoid the temptation of spending that 10% elsewhere.

There are other ways to tithe, though. If you have a thorough, well organized monthly budget, you probably have a good idea of how much money you’ll have coming in every month, and when it will be coming. A good budget should have a tithe built into it. So if you know how much your tithe will be every month, you can schedule that gift whenever it’s convenient for you.

Some people like writing a tithe check at church every week; others plan it just to coincide with their pay periods. Laura and I actually just write one check for the entire month, because the amount of our tithe is built into our budget, and it’s easier and more convenient to write one check every month than to make multiple payments.

Fixing the Income Issue

Before we go, I do want to address one other thing that you brought up: You’re having trouble making ends meet at your $9/hour job, and I don’t blame you: Anybody would have difficulty tithing and making their other financial obligations at such a low wage. I don’t believe that God means to burden you with the tithe. Instead, I believe that He wants to bless your faithfulness with more income.

So part of what you need to think about in your life and financial planning is how to get your income up. I’m familiar with the budget haircut chains that you’re talking about, but I also know that there are self-employed stylists working in independent salons that make quite a bit more money than the hourly rate you get now. If you enjoy the work you’re doing, perhaps you should consider making the move to one of these full-service salons where your income could easily double.

I hope that helps, Claire. God bless you!

——

Photo by Watashiwani. Used under Creative Commons License.

The Big Squeeze: Is Your Debt Juicing You?

Juicing fruit

If you’ve ever tried to make a glass of fresh juice from a bunch of raw fruit, you know how much pressure it takes to squeeze the juice out of an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit. And if you’ve ever tried to go back and eat a piece of fruit that has already had the juice extracted from it, you know that a spent wedge of citrus isn’t nearly as satisfying as a plump, juicy one.

Making juice by hand is a tedious and tiring process. People that make fresh juice commercially, like in restaurants, use large, automated juicing to get the very most juice possible out of each piece of fruit.

Those big restaurant juicers, with all of their mechanics and impressive squeezing power, are a lot like our modern debt industry. If you get caught up in it, debt can squeeze the very best out of your life and resources, leaving you feeling limp and dried up in the process. [Read more...]

Why Owning a Home is Better Than Renting

New Home Owners

An Investopedia article written a couple of years ago suggesting that owning a home isn’t a good financial decision has been making the rounds on Facebook recently. A friend found it and forwarded to me, nervous that she and her husband had made the wrong decision in buying a house for their young family.

The article raises some good points about home ownership — it can be expensive, due to the cost of mortgage interest and the inevitable repairs that homeowners make on their properties over time. The tax savings that come from mortgage interest payments don’t make up for those expenses, either. So, is the conclusion of the article right — is renting a home really better than owning?

Not by a long shot. While there are certain times in life when you shouldn’t buy a home (if you have other debt, a lack of cash or unstable life circumstances), home ownership turns out to be the best financial option for most families today. Here are five reasons why: [Read more...]

Giving Changes Your Future Because it Changes You

Generous Giving

The universe is a much less mystical place than you may think it is.

It’s easy to think that the spiritual laws that govern our existence come from a deep, shadowy, inexplicable power. And while God is certainly deep and beyond our understanding, the rules that He has created to run the universe make a remarkable amount of sense. You just have to learn how to think about them.

Case in point: giving. We’ve done a lot of talking about giving recently on this site, especially in the context of caring for the poor. Giving is a mandate from Christ and a deed that demonstrates the authenticity of our faith. It gets God’s attention, and causes people here on earth to glorify Him.

The Bible promises that when we give, it changes our future. It brings us prosperity. We reap what we sow. And yet, the principle behind this can seem somewhat murky. How, exactly does me giving my money away cause me to prosper? How does it change the course of my future?

The answer isn’t rooted in some deep mysticism; in fact, it’s simpler than you might think. Giving changes your future because it changes you. [Read more...]

Adultery, Greed and Your Heart’s True Love

Kiss

What do adultery and greed have in common?

If you answer “not much,” it’s easy to understand where you’re coming from. After all, adultery is one of those really “big, bad sins,” while greed seems much less threatening.

But that’s the way that God sees things. He wants us to be just as faithful in our finances as we are in our marriages. And if you let greed come between you and God — if you become a slave to money — it’s just as dangerous as letting another person come between you and your spouse. [Read more...]

Should I Borrow Money for a Mission Trip?

Mission Trip

Question:

My husband and I are currently planning a missions trip. It’s very expensive, so we are raising support. We hate the idea of borrowing money, but if we continue purchasing plane tickets, etc. for this trip, we will have to borrow money from my brother (no interest, but it’s against, ‘owe no man anything’). Would it be wrong for us to borrow money from my brother until the rest of the support comes in, to avoid being in debt with the bank? Or should we hold off on making purchases regarding this trip until support comes in? 

– Michelle, Toronto

Answer:

Michelle, congratulations on your decision to venture out onto the mission field, even for a short-term trip. Mission work is one of the most important callings in Christian life today, and this experience is sure to make a big difference in your heart, as well as in the lives of the people that you’re going to serve.

Mission trips are often expensive because of the costs of travel, and many people do raise support to cover those expenses. I’ve taken many mission trips in the past, and have raised support to cover the costs of quite a few of them.

Having said all of that, I don’t think it’s a good idea to borrow money from your brother to pay for the trip. I have several reasons for saying that, which we’ll analyze one at a time:

1) You don’t want to be a slave to your brother.

In general, you have a good understanding of the dangers of debt, and you’re wise to stay away from a bank in trying to come up with money for this trip. On the surface, it might seem like borrowing money from your brother is the perfect alternative — after all, he’s not going to charge you interest, and you have a good relationship with him.

That relationship, though, is what would make borrowing dangerous. Proverbs 22:7 tells us that “the borrower is slave to the lender,” which means that if you borrow money from your brother, you enter into a kind of financial slavery to him. There’s a big difference between a healthy brother-sister relationship and a master-slave relationship, and I don’t think that God intends for you to replace the good one with a bad one.

If everything goes right, you might pay off the loan to your brother quickly, and all will be well. But if things don’t go well — if support is slow to come in or if you encounter more expenses than you thought — you could have trouble paying him back. And that is going to have a negative impact on your relationship with your brother.

Were I in your shoes, I wouldn’t be willing to risk the relationship.

2) Good intentions don’t make bad strategies good ones.

The second reason why I would avoid this strategy is more philosophical: Borrowing money is always a bad financial strategy. And even the best of intentions can’t magically transform a bad strategy into a good one.

The mission trip that you want to take is undoubtedly a good and noble thing. and it’s easy to think that because you’re undertaking such a good endeavor, it somehow changes the equation when it comes to debt and wisdom. But the truth is that it doesn’t. Debt is always going to be a bad plan. Borrowing money for good reasons doesn’t change that.

We encounter this kind of thinking a lot among people that want to borrow money to pay for things like education or adoption. Sometimes people go so far as to refer to this as “good debt.” But good debt is a myth.

If you’re really committed to living a debt-free life, this mission trip should be no exception.

3) God always pays for what He orders.

Here’s a final, spirtual way to think about this issue: If you believe that God has called you and your husband to go on this trip, you also need to believe that He will provide you the financial means necessary to make it happen.

I believe that our God always pays for what He orders. He doesn’t tell us to do expensive things, and then leave us without the resources to accomplish them. Remember, God owns everything in the universe, and He gives us the things that we need to do His work. And He never tells us that we should borrow money to do it.

As I said, I’ve been on a lot of mission trips in my lifetime. On several of them, I was in no position to pay for them myself, so I had to raise support. And each time, God came through — I always raised enough money to take the trip, and often more than enough. Later, as I grew older and had more resources, I was able to pay for some of the trips myself.

I don’t know where you and your husband are financially, Michelle, but I believe that God is going to make a way for you to do what He has asked you to do. That might mean expanding your network of support, or perhaps picking up some extra work in order to pay some of the cost of the trip yourself. It may even mean delaying your trip until you’re able to pay for it without borrowing money.

What ever it means, remember this: God would never send you on a mission without giving you the tools to accomplish it. Doing things God’s way may be slower or require more faith than borrowing money. But in the end, doing things God’s way always brings God-sized results.

——

Photo by Breezy Baldwin. Used under Creative Commons License.

Get Out of Debt Before Buying a Home

First-Time Home Owner

It’s a situation that many 20- and 30-somethings find themselves in: You’re married and have good jobs, and you’d like to buy a house… but you still have some debts left to pay off. So which should you do first — purchase a home or get out of debt?

Unfortunately, the status quo in America is for young people to carry large loads of student loans, credit cards and other debt into marriage, and most couples actually accumulate more debt as they go in life. This is a really bad thing, because debt is a form of financial slavery that costs us tons of money over the course of our lifetimes.

We believe that the best path to financial freedom is to pay off your debts as quickly as possible, which means holding off on buying a home until you’re debt-free. This isn’t a popular opinion in America today, but it makes a lot of financial sense. [Read more...]

Your Favorite Money Articles of the Year

Countdown

New Year’s Day will mark the two-year anniversary of God, Money & Me, and during those two years we’ve posted more than 300 articles about God’s approach to financial management. As this year draws to a close, we thought it would be interesting to look at the most popular articles of 2013.

Judging by what you clicked on, read, commented on and shared with friends, our readers had a lot of diverse topics on their minds as they engaged with the blog this year. Some, such as debt an pensions, are typical concerns of personal financial management. Others, including poverty, sin and the way that money can glorify God, have more to do with philosophical or spiritual underpinnings of personal finance.

So here, in case you missed them, are our five most popular articles of 2013, counted down from number five to number one. [Read more...]

What Christmas Teaches Us About Life

Christmas Wreath

By this time on Christmas Eve, you’re probably off work and settled in at home with your family (unless you’re the kind who is just starting your Christmas shopping). You probably don’t want to spend a lot of time reading a long, thoughtful article on Christmas, and we don’t blame you.

We can’t let the holiday pass, however, without pointing out a few of the things that Christmas teaches us about God’s plan for life. This holiday is so familiar to us, and yet we have so much to learn.

There are all sorts of things that could be said about Christmas, its meaning and its impact in our lives. Tonight, we’re going to focus on just three things that Christmas teaches us about God and His plan for our financial lives. [Read more...]

Caring for the Poor: Are You a Public Giver?

3196689058_802477bc3a_z

One of the greatest dangers of Christianity is when we go out of our way to make sure that others know just how Christian we are.

In our modern practice of the faith, which puts so much emphasis on looking like good Christians (regardless of what is  going on inside our hearts), this danger is especially prescient. We want to make sure that other people in our faith communities see us doing good things, so that they will think we’re good people. If they do, it makes us feel better about ourselves.

This problem surfaces in all sorts of areas, and especially the area of giving. Taking care of the poor is such a good and noble thing to do that many of us want to be known for doing it.

From God’s point of view, though, that’s an issue.

[Read more...]

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