This page is an extended answer to a letter on another page, Difficult Questions:  Should We Tithe or Pay Our Debts?  The reader may wish to refer to that page for a better understanding of the background of this one.  This is the answer page, and begins with a quote from that letter.

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.

Your contribution via
PayPal Me
keeps this site and its author alive.
Thank you.

Let me commend you for your insight.  You are right.  Your pastor is mistaken.

It is difficult to talk about the "problem" of tithing, because there are so many who think this a commanded part of our Christian conduct that they fail to see just how inconsistent it is with the gospel.  It is also certainly true that God commands some people to tithe, to give 10% faithfully, and to be very careful to do so.  On the other hand, God commands some people to give 20%, or 30%, or even 90%.  God has at times told some people to take a check they've just received and endorse it, as is, to meet someone else's need.  But God does not use rules to tell us how much to give; He uses guidance--and part of guidance is wisdom.

It puts me in a bind, to some degree, because I cannot tell you that God is not telling you to give any particular amount of money.  I do not and cannot know what God is telling you to give.  All I can tell you is that God wants you to be a generous person, to give what you can where and when you can, and to follow His direction in doing so.

Most of those who teach tithing make a big deal about the idea that giving that tenth will cause God to give you more.  They might say that it frees or enables God to bless you, but however they phrase it, what they are saying is that you can control God by using this rule of tithing.  That's not gospel.  The gospel is about God generously giving us everything entirely because it is what He wants to do, withholding from us only because we need to learn.

I have so much to say on this subject I am starting to get disjointed; I hope you can bear with me.

We have a few cars.  Most of them were given to us, and with several drivers in the family and lots of places people have to be, we need them.  One of our friends was in an accident, and the car on which he depended to get to and from work (not his car, and he was not the driver) was demolished.  My wife, from generosity, chose to lend him one of our cars.  Then we had car trouble, and we were short a car.  She complained about the demands being made on our vehicles, and asked why God did not provide yet another car for us.  I answered quite simply: generosity involves sacrifice.  When we loaned our spare car to our friend, we knew that it would cost us something.  That something that it cost us was that we did not have the car when we needed it.  That was our sacrifice.  Generosity means sacrifice.  God needs us to learn that giving costs something, and thus He cannot always pour out upon us such an abundance that we cannot possibly use it all.

Tithing is given to people as a law, as a principle of the spiritual realm.  We are told in essence that we control God by giving 10%, forcing Him to act on our behalf.  That is not Christian faith; it is, in fact, witchcraft.  It is in witchcraft that people use rules and rituals to control the acts of spirits, gods, and God Himself.  That is not Christianity.

Tithing is rather a principle intended to remind us of something much more serious--just as the Sabbath is a principle intended analogously to remind us of something far more serious. In connection with the Sabbath (about which I recently wrote in On Sabbath), what a commitment to keeping the Sabbath is intended to do is remind us that all of our time comes from and belongs to God, and by making a commitment to give this token of our time we remind ourselves that all of our time is his.  In the same way, making a commitment to give a tenth of our income--or any other specific amount--is a reminder that all of our money comes from Him and belongs to Him, regardless of how we think we "earned" it.  It is a reminder that He should be first in all that we do with our money.

If we can remember that, and act accordingly, then tithing becomes an obstacle to genuine Christian giving.  Our obligation is not mechanically to give a specific percentage of our income to a particular place, but to use all of our resources, our time, our money, our talents, everything we have, are, and do, to the glory of God and the advancement of His purposes in the Earth.

Let me suggest to you that you agree with your husband on this and stop tithing.  You might even prayerfully consider stopping your giving to the church entirely--it sounds like the church has enough money to meet its needs and is not really doing well at meeting the needs of others.  Instead, consider what you can do to alleviate some of the poverty of those around you.  You might wind up giving more than ten percent of "everything", but you might find that you do so in ways that are much more practical and in some ways less taxing on your budget--taking some of that chicken pot pie over to that sister's family, giving someone in the congregation a ride to the doctor, watching someone's kids for an afternoon.  What matters is not that you carefully measure how much you give, but that you give of yourself generously as you are able.

Most people who tithe, and many people who peach tithing, are motivated not by generosity but by greed.  The greed attacks in so many ways.  It attacks the pastor who sees his own desire for comfort and a reliable new car but not the needs of members of his congregation who cannot pay for heat.  It attacks the well-to-do Christian who can ignore the needs of those around by reminding himself that he already gave his pittance, and telling himself the lie that the rest is his.  It attacks the poor Christian by making him think that giving to God is the way to get from God, and then that there is something wrong with God or with himself when that does not happen.  God does not want us to follow some rule about what portion is His.  He wants us to recognize that we and He share all things in common, and to use the part of His wealth over which He has given us control to meet both our needs and the needs of those around us.

If you give to the congregation and not to the organization, you will really be giving to the part of church that is the part that matters.  Yes, the laborer is worthy of his hire, and that means the pastor needs to be paid; but if the church is not feeding its own members, that is, giving them food when they are hungry, it is misusing at least part of its money.  If you step into that gap and help meet the needs of those around you as you are able, and anyone asks you about your "tithe", you can say that you gave it to the church by giving it to the members who truly needed it, and if anyone thinks that was the wrong thing to do they can explain why church expenditures on maintaining appearances are more important than feeding God's people and taking care of their needs.

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young
  Books by the author

No previous answer

Back to the full letter text

No next answer

Back to the letters index

To Mark J. Young's Bible Study Materials

Read about the Multiverser role playing game--accused by some critics of being "too Christian".

Books by the Author