I tithed 6 months in a row and during those months I was always behind in relation to bills. After I stopped things got better. How do you explain that?
— Judy, Norway
Thanks for reading in Norway, Judy! Your question is one that a lot of people wrestle with. And unfortunately, a lot of people miss out on the blessing of tithing because they get frustrated with the process.
We’ll deal with your situation in a few minutes, but first, let’s give some background on the issue for people that may not be so familiar with the subject. The Bible teaches that all wealth belongs to God — we just manage it for Him — and God requires us to give 10 percent of all we earn back to Him. This 10 percent gift is known as a tithe, and is practiced by many (but not all) evangelical Christians.
There are a lot of reasons to tithe that we’ve covered here at God, Money & Me. Tithing is commanded by God in the Old Testament and re-enforced in the New Testament. Our tithing is important because the money we give serves as the primary financial resources for our churches.
Tithing isn’t an burden that God puts on us to weigh us down, though. Because the things that we do with our money help to determine the state of our hearts, tithing is a way of uniting our hearts with the heart of God. And God also promises that if we’re faithful to tithe, He will be faithful to bless us with greater resources because of it.
This is the part where you might be getting hung up, Judy. Many people do have trouble with this aspect of tithing.
All About Blessing?
A lot of people learn about tithing in church. And a lot of churches teach tithing when they’re trying to raise money. This creates a series of incentives that are somewhat perverse: The pastor wants to get more money for the church, so he preaches sermons to encourage giving.
In order to incentivize giving, he needs to make the church members think that they will somehow gain financially from tithing. So he plays up the “return blessing” idea without really covering the other principles of tithing.
When that happens, people get the wrong ideas. They give with the wrong motives. And it usually doesn’t work.
What the preachers forget in this scenario is that tithing isn’t really about your money; it’s about your heart. God doesn’t need your cash, but He knows that giving regularly will bring your heart closer to His.
All About Obedience
At its most basic level, tithing is about obedience. We should give God what He asks of us because it’s the right thing to do. After all that He has given to us, how could we withhold the little that He asks of us in return?
Unfortunately, too many people forget this principle. They study the scriptures that promise blessing to tithers, and they decide to give because they’re looking for a blessing.
This, of course, is not true obedience — it’s simply treating God like an investment bank in the sky. And it’s not true generosity, either — it’s just selfishness and manipulation masquerading as giving.
I suspect, Judy, that you have found yourself in this position. It sounds like you have some financial difficulty in your life, and you decided that you would try tithing to see if the magic principle of blessing turned out to be true.
What you discovered is that if the motivations of your heart aren’t in the right place, God isn’t moved by your perceived obedience. And if you’re basing your decision to tithe on whether you’re prospering financially, you’re just holding your money hostage until God gives you the things that you want. You’re not really being a cheerful giver, which is what God specifically wants us to be.
A Budget Issue
There could be one other thing at work here, too: Based on the way that you worded your question, I would be willing to bet that you don’t have a solid budget as the foundation for your financial life. Most people that have a well crafted budget don’t find themselves struggling to pay bills at the end of the month, because they’ve already allocated the money to pay those bills before the month begins.
If that’s your situation, you should build a good budget that lists all of your income and all of your expenses every month, and take your tithe out at the top of your budget. Then plan the rest of your spending on the 90 percent of your money that is left.
A budget will help you see if you’re wasting money in any other areas of your life and more carefully disciple your money. You may find that a good budget helps to solve the cash flow problems that you’ve been having and actually makes it easier to tithe.
In the end, folks, here’s the important thing about tithing: God asks us to do it and believe in faith that He will reward us for it. The reward is not the motivation, but only a bonus. Tithing comes from a heart of love and obedience toward God.
And our hearts are what He’s been after all along.
Photo by Rubber Bullets. Used under Creative Commons License.