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Saturday, October 11, 2014

104. Should I Tithe While in Debt? - Part 1 of 2

I have been following threads for the last couple of weeks in a social media groups offering financial advice to families struggling to pay off their debt. These are generally committed Christians who are following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps program. I personally think it’s a great program in helping people reduce debt. On one thread in particular, a question about tithing while in debt came up. Of note tithing or giving to the local church is a question to Christians. So this post is directed to those who follow Christ. (Please also see part 2 here)

This was a wife’s comment and cry for help:

“I'm struggling we've been tithing but I realized last night if we didn't tithe this pay period we could knock out 2 of our debts on our snowball list.”

Responses varied but the following stood out and also disturbed me: 

“Don't stop tithing. Your whole budget will go to crap. Believe me!”

“Skipping your tithe is a way to invite Murphy {
the idea that anything that can go wrong will go wrong} right on in. Give GOD what is HIS there is no struggle.”

“Tithing is an instruction from God. The Bible asks, Will a man rob God? But it also says, God loves a cheerful giver. Giving is a blessing to the giver.”

“No, favor [towards those who tithe] isn't fair but if you trust God, he will take care of you guaranteed.”

“What is your priority, God or debt payoff? That will help you choose where your money goes!”

And on another similar thread to a similar question this comment was made: 

"The Bible states that the tithe should go to a local church. It is 10% off the top of your income."

When I asked where the Bible explicitly states that a tithe goes to a local church the response was jumbled at best. In reality it was a non-answer because nowhere in the Bible is there a command to tithe to the local church. This may or may not surprise you.

But here are some further thoughts on the topic:

First, I believe the reason Dave Ramsey encourages the tithe (apart from the fact that a lot of churches sponsor his program) is because that is part of his Christian worldview and interpretation of Scripture. Nothing surprising with that at all. 

Dave Ramsey views, like many Christians today, tithing (returning 10% to the local church) as a command to the NT Believer. Further, a good portion of Dave's courses are offered by churches. Let's be honest shall we? There would probably be significantly fewer churches supporting Dave Ramsey's program if he didn't emphasize tithing and giving.

Second, it makes sense to "tithe" or give to the local church which you attend as a Believer. 

The light bill needs to be paid. The water needs to be paid to. And then there’s all the outreach programs churches do on top of discipleship programs offered. Someone has to pay for the materials, etc. And of course the staff should be paid. But further Scripturally those who are leaders in the local church should be paid fair wages. (Matt 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:14). Also our gifts should go first to those who teach the Gospel. (Gal 6:6)

Third, and this is our personal experience and testimony,

We don't "tithe" in our family. We try to give generously as the Holy Spirit leads. In my giving to God, sometimes it has been 10% of my income and other times it has only been 1% or 2% depending on my financial state at the time. And by the way, you can’t "tithe" less than 10%. Tithe literally means 10%. During times when we struggled financially to give 10%, we gave in other ways such as helping with community outreach through our church and teaching Sunday school.

As our financial situation improved we have been able to give more.

Some months we give 10%, while other months (primarily around Thanksgiving and Christmas) we may give up to 30% or 40% of our income.

There is a different way than this concept of the “modern tithe.” Just like budgets can be flexible, giving can also be flexible.

God doesn't keep score or judge us based on our giving record. 

A brother in Christ challenged me by his example this year. When they give financially to the church they use cash anonymously so not even the church elders or church treasurer knows how much is given, in the spirit of Jesus’s command in Matt. 6:1-4. God looks at our heart. He does not need our money. He wants us to give out of grateful hearts and not under compulsion. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Tithing does not make us a better or more worthy Christian. It is not a "salvation" issue and it should not be used to guilt Christians or place unnecessary burdens on them. 

The promise Jesus made was an easy yoke, not an easy life. (Matt. 11:28-30)

There is no "guarantee" of financial success, if we tithe.

See the second part here

Note: I’d like to re-emphasize I understand that there are differing viewpoints on this topic. In my study of Scripture on this topic, these are my conclusions. I am open to feedback and know that I still have much to learn. I think we should be Bereans, searching the Scriptures for ourselves instead of blindly accepting what other people teach. That said, this is not a salvation issue, and while I feel very strongly about this issue I can agree to disagree if someone sees it differently. 

What do you think of tithing verses giving as pertaining to Schritpure? What do you think about tithing while in serious debt? 


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