“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
Honestly, I can’t ever remember one instance where I felt bad after giving. Now, that doesn’t ring so true about the multiple times I’ve bought something but felt guilty even before I even got back home. Buyer’s remorse anyone?
Speaking of giving, a tithe is a form of giving and seems to be something that people have questions about once they start earning an income.
Let’s take a deeper look at what exactly a tithe is…
What’s a tithe?
It seems that the word “tithe” and “give” are thought to mean the same thing, but they actually don’t.
In the dictionary, a tithe is defined as:
A tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment.
In other words, it’s the first 10% of your income that should be given to your church.
What Does The Bible Teach About Tithing?
The first instance of tithing in the Bible can be found in Genesis 14:20-24 whereby Abraham gave 10% of everything he had to the King of Salem, Melchizedek.
The tenth Abraham gave represented everything he had. In giving the tithe, Abraham simply acknowledged that everything he had belonged to God.
Paying tithes was an essential part of Jewish religious worship. The concept of tithing can be predominantly found in the books of:
Mosaic law required that the Israelites give one-tenth of the produce of their land and livestock, the tithe, to support the Levitical priesthood as noted in Leviticus 27:30, “A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s, and is holy.”
Actually, there were three tithes that Israel had to pay:
The first was to support the Levite priests and was the 10% portion of everything that they made. (Num 18:21, 24).
Secondly, in Deuteronomy 14:22-27, there were the tithes of the feasts each year. These particular tithes were in the best interests of the families who previously tithed. They could use these funds for whatever their hearts desired during the feasts of the Lord.
Finally, there was a tithe for the poor which was only given every three years (Duet 14:28-29).
These tithes were never commanded to nations other than Israel.
There’s been much debate that tithing was taught only in the Old Testament and no longer applies to modern day times.
But there are reference of it being taught in the New Testament when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)
Now the early church was split on this topic as some wanted to remove themselves from the legalistic practices of Judaism while others wished to honor and continue the ancient traditions of the priesthood.
Most scholars agree that the practicing of tithing has changed since originally taught in the Bible but the concept of setting aside a tenth of one’s income or goods for use in the church has remained.
Paul also points out an equivalence between the way priests in the Old Testament made a living and how gospel workers in the New Testament era made a living in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14:
“Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel”.
Should You Tithe While Paying Off Debt?
The quick (and maybe sarcastic) answer would be yes you should continue to tithe even while paying off debt because most people stay in debt the majority of their lives.
I once remember a lady that called into the Dave Ramsey show to get his thoughts on this subject. At the time, she was paying $2,000 a month towards her debt and was concerned that if she started tithing, it would significantly cut down on her debt repayment.
He felt that God doesn’t need any money, yours or the lady asking the question either. If that’s the case, why does He teach us to give a tenth of our income?
Well for one, it’s good for us to learn how to be givers and people tend to want to be around generous rather than selfish people. (I’d agree with him there.)
Selfish people tend to be CHEAP (not frugal) people. There’s nothing worse then hanging around or going out to dinner with a cheap person. They don’t take others into consideration. It’s all about them.
There’s some people out there that practice performance-based Christianity. They think God’s going to give them money because they gave someone else money or helped them out of a tough situation. It doesn’t work like that.
God wants us to tithe so we can start learning how to be generous. Remember, generous people tend to have a better life. God wants us to have a great life and be generous at the same time. And whichever way that the caller chooses to handle her debt, God’s not going to be mad at her.
The scripture teaches us to give our tithe (tenth) straight off the top before we do anything else with our money and then start working our financial plan. Which in this case, involves paying off debt.
In her case, Dave recommended that she lower the amount going towards her debt so she could start tithing. He didn’t recommended doing it because he said to do it. He recommended it because that’s how God wants us to live.
How To Tithe Correctly
I don’t think there’s one way set in stone on how to tithe correctly. If you ask five people, you’ll likely get five different answers.
Remember that God doesn’t need our money, he can manage without it. Tithing was put into place for our benefit and not His.
It’s no different than how parents discipline their kids such as having them make their beds or wash their own clothes. We as parents can do these tasks ourselves but we’re teaching them for our kids’s benefits later in life.
Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.”
Whenever someone tithes, it should be done freely without expecting anything back in return.
It teaches us how to live an unselfish life by putting our faith in God and knowing that He will provide no matter what life throws us.
In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus discusses the widow’s offering which shows how a poor woman gave out of poverty (all she had) which showed she had total faith in God:
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.”
“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 states, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Many people tithe or give grudgingly or think it’s necessary even in their heart they really don’t want to.
Again, God doesn’t need our money, and he wants us to tithe and/or give because we WANT to and not because we have to.
For me, I didn’t realize just how selfish I was until I was engaged. I wasn’t focused much on giving and especially tithing.
My thoughts were, “My money was mine and I was the only one that was going to benefit from it.” Reflecting back, getting married was the BEST thing that could happen to me both from a relationship standpoint but also to change my heart just like the Grinch had a change of heart in Who-ville.
Remember, people like being around generous people and back then, I wasn’t too generous. My wife loves telling the story about how she would drive three hours a week (six hours round trip) to visit me while in my first year of residency.
Whenever she got ready to leave to go back home, I would take her car to gas it up but NEVER paid for it. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. What a selfish dude!
At that time, it never crossed my mind that I should give some of MY money to someone that I was getting ready to spend the rest of my life with. I was always so focused on myself that it was starting to show up in my relationships in a negative way.
It took me getting married and having kids to really change my heart and to LOVE to give and tithe. Honestly, doing these two things brings me more joy than anything else.
Take Home On Tithing
Remember that the act of tithing was put into place for our benefit and not God’s. He’s got all He needs and doesn’t want our money, because it’s already His. But the one thing that he does want is our hearts.
Tithing teaches us how to keep God first in our lives, live unselfishly, focus on helping others without expecting anything back in return.