The young woman who sent this note has (as she mentions) written to me a number of times for advice, and always raises excellent questions.  This time, however, she touched on a subject that is a quandary and even a quagmire for many in the church:  the issue of tithing.  Having just recently written my piece On Sabbath, where I note that the keeping of the Sabbath serves as a reminder that all of our time belongs to God, and had in the course of that paper mentioned that the giving of the tithe serves a similar function in connection with our money.  Yet I have heard much teaching about tithing that seems not at all Biblical to me despite being based on texts from scripture, and this was not the first time I had been asked to address the matter.

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Hello Teacher-

It's been a while since I've emailed you.  I have a dilemma. I've told you before about my broken marriage and how God put it back together again with me growing in Christ.  I also talked to you about my horrible finances as well as the church I was attending of the penecostal faith.

Anyway to make a long story short, my family and I have been back in church almost a year now and are doing well giving our best to do for the Lord and live right.  We have big hearts and are always trying to find ways to help the service of the Lord.  May it be telling someone about the gospel, giving small gifts we can afford, cuttng back on our own small splurges to be content and live without excess debt and struggles while trying to get out of our large debts.

Well I attend a small poor community church and as much as I will like to give my 10% in tithes, it's very hard to.  We are struggling to eat, pay for gasoline, and trying to pay off debts, while still trying to do little stuff for others financially whenever we can.  My pastor and a sister of the church are being very strong about giving the 10% even though we can't afford it.  The sister is behind on her mortgage, can't get her car out the shop, and struggling for food, because she gives her 10% that she can't afford right now.  My pastor drives a new truck and is not hurting for cash, but the congregation is hurting to make ends meet, but still giving 10% (I think they all are).  They quote the bible hard on the 10% issue.  But I find there is not much said about paying your debts, and how being in debt and not paying is a sin.  My pastor preaches about giving but don't preach on how to get out of debt, nor does he have an emergency fund set up for those who run into a financial situation.

My husband says for us to only give what we can afford, until we get out of debt.  But my pastor says to pay your tithes and let God fix your debt.

Well I feel my debt is mine to fix, not God's, and the Lord blessed us with an income to pay our debts then when can do more giving financially once we're out of debt.  Now since we don't pay our tithes right now, he keeps preaching on people not paying their tithes.  It's like he's scolding us.  I just can't comprehend the notion of paying our 10% that we can't afford right now and let our debts keep building interest because we can't pay, and continue to be threatened to be sued in court.

What do we do?  The whole thing is about to drive me crazy and out of church.  I feel God is telling me to handle the debts so we can be debt free in order to do his work financially.  See we were already in a huge financial bind before we got saved.  So we just can't ignore that we owe money to bill collectors to pay tithes.  Help?!

When pastors ask me for advice on what to preach about giving, about asking their congregations how much of their money they will give to the Lord, I always tell them they should turn the question around:  as believers how much of the Lord's money are they going to keep for themselves.  The Lord does not view ninety percent of the money we receive as ours to keep or use as we will; He regards one hundred percent of our money as His given in trust to us as stewards to use in the best ways possible.  Let me, though, refer you to the answer I gave this correspondend.

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