How Do I Start Tithing?
Q: My husband and I have not been very good stewards with regards to our money in the past. At this point, I am planning to take over the finances in order to get us on a budget that includes covering monthly expenses, tithing, saving, and debt repayment. I also intend to bring my husband and I together on a regular basis in prayer with regards to our finances. Right now it appears we barely have enough income to cover our monthly expenses and debt payments which, up to this point, has taken us further in debt. I am looking at which expenses to cut and we intend to cut them drastically. In this circumstance should we tithe even if by paying tithe we are not able to make debt payments that are due? Or is paying what we can toward tithing and paying the full amount due each month on our debt biblical? I want to do what is right in the eyes of God. I know God expects us to be good stewards and to pay what we owe and even better to not owe anyone. We have made mistakes in the past. We are now repenting and trying to be obedient to God and be good stewards with what he has given us. Please help me understand what the right thing to do is.
A: I appreciate your question on tithing. Your intentions and your heart are in the right place. When it comes to tithing there are a lot of opinions on this topic. God wants us giving back 10% of what we earn. Many will debate the 10% as an Old Testament commandment and not relevant to the New Testament church.
However, I believe that we should tithe, which means a tenth. If you are not tithing, you might be in such a situation that you cannot just start giving 10%. This might be a gradual process to get a plan in place where you are giving a tenth. I look at what we do with our paychecks each month from 3 different areas: God’s portion, non-negotiable items, and discretionary spending.
The non-negotiable items are items that if not paid would cause you harm. That would be electricity, food, mortgage, debt payments, etc. If you don't make these non-negotiable payments, things are turned off or taken away from you or you don't survive. Discretionary spending is spending money on everything else. These are all expenditures that we could do without. I don't believe that God ever wanted us to not live up to the responsibilities that we have created in our life. The goal is to decrease those responsibilities as much as possible. We have a responsibility to pay back debt, make car payments, pay mortgages, etc.
So when you are just starting to tithe you have to look beyond the non-negotiable responsibilities to get the money to start. This can be a tough choice. Keep in mind that discretionary spending is cable, telephone, kid’s expenses, and everything else that is not tied to a commitment. Start building up to the 10% until you get it to that level. With every percent that you increase your tithe, make that non-negotiable.
Some say have faith and tithe 10% then trust God to take care of the mortgage and the debt payments. God gave us common sense not to put ourselves in harms way. Being diligent in this process will require a lot of faith. Just be honest with yourself and with God about what you are doing without in order to make the tithe.
When starting out on this journey of obedience, you are going to have to sacrifice. If you start out giving $50 a month and you find it easy, I think that the point is being missed. The good news is that God will bless you in ways you never dreamed...and no I am not specifically talking about money. It is enough that God will bless you and show you a part of your relationship with Him like never before. We all make mistakes with money and it is easy to get ourselves in these situations. The steps that you take going forward are the ones that make the most difference. It is where your heart is today and tomorrow and not about where it was yesterday.