You’re making $59,000 a year. And you have $25,000 in student loans. Additionally, you have $5,000 in credit card debt. Oh, and don’t forget about your $12,000 car loan. Congratulations! You are the normal American. However, you discovered the restrictive nature of debt. Subsequently, you decide to do something about it and make a plan to get out of debt. But you also give to your church, which begs a very important question. Should I tithe while I’m in debt?
This is a question that many Christians ask while getting rid of their debt. Furthermore, it’s tempting to look at your tithe and think of how much debt you could knock out with it. After all, it is logical to use the extra money towards debt. The faster you get out of debt, the faster you’ll start giving again and the more you can give, right? Maybe not.
Asking the question, “should I tithe while I’m in debt?” might be the wrong question. You might want to ask, “what does the Bible say about tithing?” Let’s dive into Scripture and see what it tells us.
What is Tithing?
The simplest definition of tithing is the giving of 10% of your income to support God’s work. As an additional note, the Hebrew word for “tithe” literally means 10%. The Bible consistently denotes a percentage instead of a specific amount.
One of the earliest examples of tithing we see is in Genesis 28:20-22. In that passage, Abraham states that he will give back to God 10% of all that God gives to him. Later, Leviticus introduces tithing into the law in Leviticus 27:30-34. Now, you’ll notice that Leviticus uses a lot of farming language when it comes to tithes. Why? Because crops and animals had the most value at that time! Livestock and produce were a main source of income and also used for barter. Today, we mostly use money.
Is There a Difference Between a Tithe and an Offering?
The answer to this may surprise you, because the answer is yes! Remember, tithing is a specific percentage, and that percentage is 10%. We call anything above that an offering.
In a nutshell, tithing comes first. Afterwards, anything else you want to give is an offering. Both are important to Christians!
So…Should I Tithe While I’m in Debt?
Yes! Tithing, giving, and generosity are all essential to the Christian life. While you may want to hold off on excess giving while paying off debt, you should still consider tithing. And don’t worry. I’ll give you plenty of reasons why.
1. Tithing Increases Our Faith and Dependency on God
Does God really need our money? No, of course not. Then why give a command to tithe? It’s so we can more fully rely on him. By tithing, we sacrifice some of our income so we can look to God to meet our needs. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
2. Tithing Always Comes First
When it comes to giving, the Bible consistently uses language like “firstfruits” and “your first and your best.” That’s because tithing is the first thing you plan, even before paying your bills, debt, or anything else. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” – Proverbs 3:9
3. Tithing Supports Your Church and Helps Meet Your Community’s Needs
Do you want to know how your pastor is paid? What about the maintenance of your church’s facilities? Or the food bank your church runs? All this money comes from tithes and offerings. Furthermore, tithing supports the ministries of your church. This includes community outreach, food pantries, orphan and widow care, and much more. “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 9:14
4. God Does Not Give Any Exceptions to Tithing or Giving
I want you to consider, for a moment, how generous God is to us. Indeed, God is extraordinarily giving towards us even when it was most inconvenient to him. When Jesus walked on earth, he became our example. Furthermore, God gave us something priceless when he sent Jesus to us. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, which was hardly convenient for him. Let us follow the example of our Lord, and give regardless of our circumstances. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
5. Tithing While in Debt Sets a Pattern of Generosity
I’m going to be real with you. If you don’t start tithing now, you’ll probably never start. Many people say, “I’ll start tithing when I can afford it,” but they never do. This line of thinking implies that everything has to be just right before you can start giving. See the story of the Widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44. Start a pattern of giving before it becomes convenient.
6. Tithing and Giving Bring Joy
Finally, we have joy when we give! There are several places in Scripture that speak of the blessings of giving. However, these blessings aren’t always physical or monetary in nature. When we are good stewards of what we have, God blesses us. Furthermore, he blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. It’s not just about us. On the contrary, it’s about loving God and loving others. So give willingly! “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
But Wait…Tithing is Under the Law. Aren’t we Under Grace?
Yes, we are under grace and I praise the Lord for that every day! And it’s true, God will still love you no matter how much or how little you give. On the other hand, I want to challenge you in this area.
First, being under grace doesn’t give us license to be less generous. Moreover, the Bible gives warnings about those who aren’t generous. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Choosing not to give makes you miss out on God’s blessing.
Second, being under grace should make us more generous, not less. Meditate, if you will, on what Jesus has done for us. He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and offered himself as our once-and-for-all sacrifice. He gave us everything, and we already have what we need in him. Besides, it all belongs to him anyway. “For ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.’ – 1 Corinthians 10:26
Finally, I want you to consider the fact that the average churchgoer today gives less than previous generations. Furthermore, less than a quarter of church attendees are tithers. Giving to churches continues to go down. Therefore, I want to challenge you to tithe even if you’re in debt.
Make a Plan to Tithe, Even While in Debt
I have a challenge for you. Even if you are in debt, make tithing the first thing you budget. You can do this even if you have an irregular income or if you’re in the middle of a crisis. Then attack your debt with a vengeance, but not at the expense of tithing.
So yes, you should still tithe while in debt. And remember, the Lord loves a joyful giver!
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