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Why Isn’t Tithing Making my Financial Life Better?

Church Offering Collection Plate

Question:

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

Answer:

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.

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Comments

  1. By the way everyone, I know that tithing can be a somewhat controversial teaching, and there are some of you out there just waiting to pounce on me and argue with my interpretation of this subject. Well, there has already been quite a debate about tithing on this site before, and I’m not sure what else there is to say.

    So, I’m going to save me and you both the trouble by pointing you to two of our articles that specifically address your objections. Answering Objections to the Tithe addresses some of the most common arguments against tithing, while The Heart of a Tither dives deeper into the heart of the matter.

    Of course, you’re welcome to post angry comments here if you want. But unless you raise a point not already addressed in one of those two articles, I probably won’t respond.

  2. When God gave the Israelites the promised land, He RESERVED, for Himself, a tenth of the crops and every tenth animal (Leviticus 27:30, 32). They NEVER did belong to the Israelites. In other words, the tithe was from God’s increase of FOOD, not from man’s income. It was a way to distribute FOOD to the Levites and priests who did NOT inherit any land. But the tenth was raised on property given to the Israelites, so they had possession of it. In Numbers 18, God commands the Levites to take the tithe. The Israelites did not pay the tithe, or give the tithe, they took the tithe or handed it to the Levites.

    According to Numbers 18:20-21, WHO gave the tithe to the Levites? The farmers, or God? God did the giving, NOT the farmers. Most tithers seem to ignore that fact when they talk about tithing. They act as though the farmers gave a tithe to God or to the Levites. Not so. GOD gave the tithe.

    The Levites, as a tribe, received the tithe, not as individuals. The tribe received the tithe, and the tribe was responsible for the work at the Temple. But only some of the Levites actually worked at the Temple. Yet all the Levites, the whole tribe, got the tithe.

    The tithe belonged to God (Leviticus 27:30-33), and He gave the tithe to the Levites. As long as THE NATION of Israel complied with the law, THE NATION was blessed. Otherwise, THE NATION was cursed with a curse. Today tithing teachers try to bring this down to an individual level which is NOT in the scriptures.

    • Gary, you and I have danced this dance before, and it’s clear that we’re not going to agree. There’s nothing in your arguments here that I haven’t already addressed in the articles I linked to above.

  3. It would help if you gave scripture to back up your belief. Without scripture, it’s just you talking. Means nothing without scripture backup.

    • I agree with you Gary. I watched my mother and father tithe faithfully for as long as I can remember and I never saw the blessing as described in the scripture. Pour you out a blessing that you won’t have room to receive.. I never saw that. What I did see was a lot of hardship and it had nothing to do with mismanagement of money.

      • John W Reed says:

        Hi, I note nobody who promotes tithing responding. The truth is they have no response. They themselves have no answer so they duck and cover from the real hard realities of tithe teaching in the everyday life of believers.

  4. Brian,
    I really do admire your effort to explain your defense of tithing. Many tithers don’t research scripture enough to even understand tithing deeper than just a percentage. I would like to address your objections in your other article.

    1. I care very little about using this point to argue for or against tithing, because the application and meaning is more important than trying to prove whether the tithe is required or not. There was a significant reason as to why the tithe only consisted of the produce of the land and of the animals. God wanted to display that their sustainability was dependent upon his provision. The tithe was based upon agrarian means because growth and creation is completely dependent upon God. 1 Corinthians 3:6 states, “i have planted, apollos watered, but God gave the increase”. Only God can bring rain, and only God can create. the israelites were not allowed to tithe with their hand-made crafts or their money made with their skilled labor, or the money they made from their own knowledge. It is imperative to understand why Israel could only give a product that ONLY GOD could give to them first.

    2. The resemblance of Melchizedek and Christ is not evidence to continue tithing any more than his resemblance as the lamb of God is to continue sacrifices. We cannot use pre-law examples to prove that they have existence in the post-law era. As you stated, the bigger question is whether Jesus abolished the commandment to tithe. I think this could be answered by asking whether circumcision was abolished because Jesus or Paul said the words, or was it abolished because of what Jesus DID. Was unclean meats abolished because Peter said the words – “It’s Ok” or was it abolished based on what Jesus did, not what was said. I’m not trying to negate words, i’m trying to make people understand that there’s not this line in the sand that states if Jesus, Paul, or Peter didn’t speak against it, then it must continue.

    I think everyone on both sides of this issue agrees that the law no longer condemns us regardless of whether we tithe or not. So the question still remains, Does what Jesus did relinquish the obligation to calculate 10% out of our paycheck each week, sign a check, and deposit it in a plate?

    The last thing is that tithing and first fruits have nothing to do with one another.
    – Israel was not required to tithe on their first or the best. Leviticus 27:32-33 says clearly that the tenth (not the first) animal was set aside as the tithe. And that they were not to search whether it was good or bad.
    -The first fruit offering was a completely separate gift, offered at a completely separate time, with a completely separate purpose & meaning. The tithe and the first fruit offering were never synonymous in the bible.

    I am not arguing that God doesn’t deserve the first or the best. I’m stating that when it came to tithing, God didn’t want the first, he wanted the tenth. He didn’t want them to choose the good or bad ones. The first fruit offering was given weeks before the tithe was. First fruits resemble a type of Christ. The 10% tithe does not resemble Christ in any fashion. The first fruit offering was a set amount that did not change with the amount of increase, the tithe changed based on percentage. The first fruit was symbolic and really had no purpose to feed anyone. The tithe was there for food for the levite, the poor and stranger. This is just simple fact and does not require a theology degree to see this straight-forward distinction between tithes and first fruits.

    3. I agree with what you initially imply in this point. Absence of evidence is not evidence at all. Many non-tithers abuse this argument and it makes me cringe when i hear it. At the same token, the absence of Jesus abolishing the tithe is not evidence either. Jesus was very much under the law. He attended all the festivals and practiced every Mosaic law. Jesus tithing affirmation was in accordance of the law. A few verses earlier Jesus says to obey the pharisees. Obviously his instructions in this passage were not universal to you and me. He also said that the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, which confirms that they were still to obey the Mosaic law. Also, Jesus confirmed that food (dill, mint, cumin) were still required as well. “Give God what is God’s” implies 20%, 30% . . . & 100%, so i agree that of course it includes 10% as well.

    4. “We don’t give the tithe because there are no longer priests” is a weak argument, so you easily shredded that argument. The real argument is that the Levites who served by the law were given the tithe by law because the law gave them no inheritance. There is a symbiotic cycle in the Old Testament that created accountability, but in the new testament that cycle is being broken. Let me explain. The Levites were required (by law) to serve without choice, so in turn the Israelites were required (by the same law) to tithe for them. In the New Testament ministers are led (by the Holy Spirit) to serve and individuals are required (by another source) to tithe. I think ti’s kind of odd that the Holy Spirit can lead someone to the most dangerous inner city in the world to pastor, but the Holy Spirit is not responsible to lead others to give? This principle is applied for businesses and governments. You can’t give a congressman his authority from the US constitution and then use Russia’s constitution to authorize pay for his service. The Church can’t have the Holy Spirit ‘supposedly’ leading pastors and then have a different authority paying his bills. Imagine if the US constitution provided tax dollars be paid towards anyone who claimed they were called by God to be a pastor.

    5. Encouraging abundant generosity is not support for the doctrine of giving 10%. We are to pray, serve, and study abundantly, but that still wouldn’t justify a requirement of even 1% requirement of worship time a day.

    It is a misconception to say that Jesus raised the bar in the new testament. Jesus NEVER raised the bar. The Israelites/Pharisees were trying to lower the bar with their standards, so Jesus had to remind them that my laws are found in the lessons not the exercises. So they were missing the point . . . and really the ones that mattered most.

    I can agree there are many people who are trying to wiggle out of giving by arguing against tithing. But Just because i’m not gonna sell my house. car, and kids future to stand up for the new testament model does not mean that there is lack of biblical evidence against tithing.

    Closing
    My relationship with God is much like my relationship with my wife. If i gave to my wife in the same manner that i tithed to God, my marriage would have no indicated of intimate communication. If a bride in love does not need tithing to motivate her to sacrifice for her groom, then why would a church in love need to? In reality, we have direct, intimate communication with our God, which means we can directly petition us, and we can him. We do not need a law that plans our worship. Our worship and requirements are customized for each one of us. There is no blanket rule for giving that covers everyone. Tithing was only required for only some of the Israelites anyway. Our Spirit led giving should be liberal, sacrificial, cheerful, abundant, and frequent. That’s hard to do. Tithing is easy.

    Brian, thanks for your commitment to encourage greater giving. Thanks for letting me respond. I tried to sound as constructive as possible although sometimes my passion gets a hold of me.

    – Jared

  5. The resemblance of Melchizedek and Christ is not evidence to continue tithing any more than his resemblance as the lamb of God is to continue sacrifices.

  6. Kimberli Barnett says:

    Never see any example of a christian tithing in the New Testament.

  7. Beat this. When i was about 12 on up to 17 my grandparents were in the ministry. Had been there whole life. From 21 or so… not sure. they were like 62 and 58… again not sure. Anywho they lived not far from my family. They were rather poor as God never finacially blessed my grandpas small church…they requierd wood for the winters to keep the heat bill down. Guess who helped for years doing that….. thats right me. Not much after school fun for this kid… lets see… so i did this for about 6 years untill my grandpa died… left me with nothing…. now i help my grandma allot. Shes still around. I tithe or have off and on as i have been able to as God has not financialy blessed me….even a little… i find it odd that so many people have the same type of story??? I dare anyone to say im not worthy of being financially blessed. I also dare anyone to say that i did what i did for the lords servants out of a selfish motive…. no here is the truth people…….. GOD BLESSES WHO HE FEELS LIKE. ITS NOT BASED ON WHO HAS DONE THE MOST OR THE BEST FOR HIM CAUSE I WOULD HAVE SOMTHING… IVE BEEN A BLESSING FOR 2 MANY OF GODS PEOPLE FOR HIM NOT TOO BLESS ME???? so take it as you will. There is no answer. God rains on the just and unjust alike.

  8. I agree with Gary. You can not support the tithing command for Christians if you go by scripture.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but tithing was only commanded under the Mosaic law, was only food (as noted in Mal), and does not apply to Christians. The only two mentions outside the law are Abram (tithed on the spoils of war and returned the other 90% to Sodom – Gen 14) and Jacob’s vow to tithe. Neither are mentioned as commands.

    The reference to Jesus speaking of tithing in Matt 23:23 needs context. He was speaking to Jews under the law – not Christians – the new covenant had yet to start. He also confirms that tithe is food. Finally, he was chastising the Pharisees for their legalism – not handed out accolades for tithing.

    What I do see for Christians is GIVING as purposed in their hearts – not reluctantly or under compulsion (2Cor 9:7). There is no specific percentage mentioned, but 2Cor 9:6 does state that we reap as we sow.

    If I err, please show me using scripture in context.

  9. Brian,

    You said that “God requires us to give 10 percent of all we earn back to Him.”

    I disagree.

    The command to tithe can only be found in the Pentateuch, or pointing back to the Pentateuch.

    In Psalms 147:19-20, we are told that the commands given to Israel were given to no other nation. In Acts 15:19-20, we read that Israel’s commands are not to be imposed on Gentile Believers. When you say, “God requires us to give 10 percent of all we earn back to Him.,” you are adding to God’s word.

    There is no such requirement for the Christian.

  10. The most religious (tithing) states are some of the poorest. The church gets the cold, hard cash while everybody else gets the unproven promise. This article is very presumptuous in saying that she did not give out of love. And if she did give out of love and ‘God’ still did not provide, another excuse (i.e., you’re living in sin) would be created without ever proving the first claim (that God rewards loving tithers). Also, remember that the Malachi verse on tithing does not even talk about love (and tithers during that time did not have the New Testament). Farmers do not tithe 10% of their crop as security for the next harvest because historically, it does not work. The French Revolution occurred largely because the peasants were tithing and their main staple (wheat) had a mass crop failure. The earth simply has limited resources (minerals) just like people, governments and churches. The dust bowl is another example. Most people during that time were very faithful Christians.

  11. This was very informative.
    Thank you & God bless!

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