Should You Tithe While in Debt?
This is a tough question. I'm not a theologian or a biblical scholar, so I kind of feel under-qualified to answer this question. But I do have personal experiences with tithing, so I will discuss the topic from our point of view. Tithing is the biblical principle that we should give 10% of our income back to the Lord. Back to the Lord, you ask? Yes, he is the one who has blessed us with income in the first place, so we should be giving back as an offering of thanks and to help build his kingdom. For me, tithing is more of a discipline than a requirement.
Do I believe and trust God enough to faithfully give 10% of my income no matter my circumstances?
This was the question that presented itself when we sat down to do our very first budget. We had been rather ho-hum about tithing. We'd tithe if we happened to be at church that weekend, but not if we were out of town. When we did, great! If we missed a few, no big deal. Needless to say, it was random.
But when we were diving into Financial Peace University and at a crossroads financially, we decided that if we were going to get serious about being intentional with our money, the first thing we needed to do was to be giving a tenth away.
Our Tithing Story
God loves a cheerful giver, so we set our hearts and minds to the belief that this is the right thing to do, and promised ourselves this would be something we will always do.
We debated whether to give a tenth of our net or gross income, and we decided to give based on our gross. Honestly, when we put that number on paper, it was gut-wrenching. Knowing we were going to be working very hard to get out of debt and also giving away that amount of money every month really messes with your head and your faith.
The first budget we ever put together, we were in the negative and weren't sure how we were going to make it all work. For four hours we thought, argued and cried, before giving up and going to bed. We were short on our budget by the same amount we were tithing. God is pretty funny sometimes.
We marched forward with our plan anyway. We tithed, and we can only explain what happened as the work of God. He provided. Somehow we had enough to pay the bills and even had money left over to start digging out of our debt.
As time went on, we faithfully tithed and God provided. There were times that we had the temptation to use that money for something else. Thankfully, we (usually Kelsey) were strong willed enough to say "that's not an option."
We can sit here now and tell you we have tithed consistently over the past four years and we are still blessed with plenty of everything we need and a lot of things we want as well. We have an emergency fund of six months of expenses, and the only debt we have is our mortgage. God is good, all the time!
Straight From the Word
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. Proverbs 3:9-10
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Again, we are not experts on this subject, but wanted to share our experience regarding tithing. Here are some other great resources to check out if you want some other viewpoints.
- Mary and her family didn't tithe while in debt, and I love her post about tithing and debt.
- Dave Ramsey of course has his opinion on giving while in debt.
- Bob from Christian Personal Finance has some thoughts on tithing while in debt and also shares his personal experiences with tithing.
There are two sides to every coin. If you are a Christian, I'm guessing you've struggled at one point or another with this subject. This is not meant to be a judgmental post at all. Giving is a very personal subject and it's between you and God. My aim is to get you thinking, not to guilt you into tithing if your heart isn't ready.
Think. Pray. Do as God leads.
Would you/do you/did you tithe while in debt?