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Monday, May 12, 2014

58. Should I Reduce My Tithe While in Debt or Even in Bankruptcy?

Should I Reduce My Tithe While in Debt or Even Bankruptcy?

This question came up on Dave Ramsey’s show and it has intrigued me ever since. 


Should I Reduce My Tithe?
QUESTION: Janelle in Sacramento wonders if they should cut their tithe in order to help them get out of debt more quickly. Dave explains his spiritual take and that he wouldn’t stop his tithe or reduce it.

ANSWER: By definition, an evangelical Christian is someone who believes what the Bible says. That’s where we need to go for our answers, not some guy on the radio. However, I can help you with that. I’m not your authority; God’s word would be.

As I’ve studied Scripture, the word “tithe” literally means tenth. Deuteronomy says to give a tenth of your net increase—a tenth of your income. About 1,200 years of Protestant Christian teaching has been that the tithe goes to the local church because the local church is the New Testament representation of the Old Testament storehouse. The Old Testament storehouse took care of the Levites. The church in your community is supposed to be doing that. That’s an evangelical Christian definition of it.

When does it occur? As I’ve studied it in Scripture, it’s real clear that it’s off the top as it says in Proverbs. That’s before anything else occurs. Having said all of that, there’s enough toxicity in Christianity and misinformation, so let’s back up from that. God loves you whether you give money to the church or not. He doesn’t love you more if you give. We’re not going to get into performance-based legalism. We’re just doing this because we love God and that’s what He’s telling His kid to do. I’m going to follow that.

No, I wouldn’t stop my tithe. I wouldn’t reduce it. It’s a tenth. I tithed all the way into bankruptcy court and all the way out. These are a loving Father’s instructions for His kids.


A few observations:

1 - Dave probably should’ve stuck with a simple answer and not gotten involved with the theological or historical side of the idea of tithing. The "storehouse tithing" doctrine has been taught in some American evangelical churches for around 100-200 years. It’s not a 1200 year old church teaching as Dave would have you believe. Why? Because Martin Luther hung his 95 thesis around 1517, so that would be 497 years that the Protestant Reformation has been in existence. So Dave is off by over 700 years. Roman Catholic indulgencies to my understanding do go back over 1000 years so maybe he’s thinking of that. Surely that’s not what Dave is referring to though.  

2 – I’m not sure which Deuteronomy reference Dave is alluding to here. Perhaps he’s talking about the tithe mentioned in Deut. 14:22-29. The only problem with using this passage or others associated with the tithe in the OT according to Mosaic Law is that the tithe was to be given twice a year and once every third year. This would bring the tithe to 23 and 1/3 percent each year and not the standard 10% taught in many churches. The tithe was a tax to pay for the Temple expenses and the Levites (see Num. 18:21) who were commanded not to work.  

3 - There is no passage of Scripture that I know of where the Bible states the NT “local church” represents the “OT Storehouse.” The Church is composed of people or Believers in Jesus Christ. The Church is not a building.

4 – “The church in your community is supposed to be doing that.” It’s interesting that Dave says this in alluding to caring for those who teach the Gospel. I agree with him there. It also could be a reference to caring for the poor and needy. I wonder how much of your church budget goes towards helping the poor and needy? That would be an interesting question to ask at the next business meeting.

5 - Dave’s Proverbs reference could possibly be Prov. 3:9-10. Perhaps this is the “honor the Lord with your wealth and firstfruits of all your produce.” I agree that we should honor God with our wealth. And Dave does get it right that God doesn’t love us more if we give more. God loves us infinitely more than we can imagine or even fathom. Nothing we do makes God love us more. Nothing we do makes God love us less. That’s not an excuse to sin but it truly freeing to live in the assurance of God’s love.

6 - Would any serious financial consultant recommend a Christian to tithe even when they are facing financial trouble and in particular bankruptcy? The moral, religious, and financial dilemma of this suggestion are intriguing.

7 - It’s not a secret that a large portion of Dave Ramsey's company and personal income for his financial services is derived from Evangelical churches. Probably you’ve seen an advertisement at your church to attend a FPU (Financial Peace University) seminar or watch the DVD’s for a class. How popular would Dave be with Evangelicals if he were to say that Christians could reduce their giving in certain life situations or to entertain the idea that generous giving might not be 10% for some Christians in certain situations?

I think we need to encourage Dave to talk about things he knows about such as personal finance topics and less on history or Christian Doctrine. People can tithe or give while in debt but I seriously take issue with saying people should do so while in bankruptcy. 


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