The Problem with Tithing

3 Problems with tithing and how to overcome them

Reading Time: 4 minutes

No one wants to talk about their money. For some reason, we’ve bought into the lie that our money is personal and God only speaks to us personally about our wealth. It’s funny how the Bible doesn’t share that view.  There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about our money, and Jesus either talked about money or used our wealth as an example in about 40% of His parables. Why? Because our wealth is a big part of our lives, and how we view our money will have a big impact on how we view the Kingdom.

The Problem With Tithing

We recently worked through a series with Bethel called “Money Matters.”  In the chaotic world we live in, we have to figure out how we can spend less, to give more, and to save more!  The Kingdom is too valuable to allow the power of money to overcome us.  Giving more and saving enough for the future will help us to be effective as possible for the Kingdom.

I understand the tension we face — I naturally enjoy having control over my finances.  This obviously causes problems when it comes to giving.  One thing I can honestly say though, is that God has graciously led me through the journey of letting go.

When I first starting to give to the local church, I had a separate “tithing account.”  Yes, that’s where I would put aside my giving each week and then, when I knew I didn’t “need” it at the end of the month, I gave it to the church.  The problem was — I always “needed” it.  Let me come back to that story later.

Tithing today…

There’s been much debate over whether or not tithing is something Christians have to do today. It was certainly practiced under Old Testament law (Malachi 3), and sacrificial giving was certainly promoted under New Testament grace.  It’s also certain that giving has nothing to do with attaining salvation, but yet an inseparable activity of someone who has experienced salvation.  Tithing becomes one of our responses to God’s grace — its one of the ways we show how much we love Jesus.

Perhaps, we can say: tithing is a voluntary act of discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and salvation. We don’t give 10% of our income to gain salvation, favor, or status; rather, tithing is a call to believers who value the expansion and funding of the Kingdom.#Tithing is a voluntary act of #discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and #salvation. Click To Tweet

But here’s the issue — even if we do practice tithing, it can be problematic if we don’t allow ourselves to be truly transformed first.  There are some pitfalls of tithing that can really hinder us.  Let me share three of them with you, and how we can overcome them.

1. Tithing avoids “sacrificial giving.”

Tithing can imply that 10% is enough and less than 10% isn’t good enough. The point of giving isn’t found in a percent, but in the sacrifice.  The early Church sold their possessions to give the poor (Acts 2:45).  They willingly and cheerfully gave something up to help the Kingdom.  That means, for some, 10% is only a start, and, for others, 8% could mean significant sacrifice.

2.Tithing makes us think “legalistically.”

Sometimes we have the tendency to think, “I pay my 10%, so I deserve… or I want…” You can fill in the blank. The problem, however, is that our giving doesn’t increase our “rights”. It’s our responsibility to selflessly give to the Kingdom and we can’t allow a number to increase or decrease our voice or impact.  The early Church collected and handed their money to the Church Leaders for disbursement.  Paul clearly stated that money collected was not a way to receive reward or power, rather an investment into the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

3. Tithing doesn’t help us “surrender” our money.

#Giving is..realizing that God owns everything..& He expects us to be good stewards.. Click To TweetThe story of giving is all about realizing that God owns everything we have and He expects us to be good stewards of those resources.  If we’re not careful, we can view “tithing,” as another expense in the budget and not a complete surrender of our money.  Just because we give 10%, doesn’t mean the other 90% is ours for the taking.  That mentality will easily give way to our world of consumerism — a world Jesus is not calling us to pursue (Luke 18:18f).

So how do we overcome these problems?  We need to view our generosity as an act of daily discipleship, and start thinking of tithing this way:

Think: How much more can I give?

Even though we’re living in grace and tithing is now a voluntary act, our underlying question can’t be: “How can I get away with giving less?”  If we ask that, we’ve missed the point all together.  We have to ask: “How much more can I give?”  The final answer to that question may not monetarily change much, but the mentality behind the question changes everything.  Our desire should be to give as much as we can!

Think: How can I support God’s activity?

#Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us! #disciple Click To TweetWe give to enable God’s activity in God’s Kingdom.  Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us (2 Corinthians 9:12f).  As a result, we have to think selflessly and not selfishly as we give.  Even though church politics and hidden agendas often exist, there’s no room for them in the Kingdom!  We must support God’s activity, not our own.

Think: How does God want me to structure my budget?

Just because our culture wants us to think we own our money because we earn our money, it’s not a biblical way of understanding our financial blessings.  God owns everything and is responsible for enabling us to work in the first place.  We are simply his faithful stewards, who ask: “God, how should we use these resources effectively?”

Final thought…

Back to my story…Along my gracious journey with God, I slowly learned that my giving was my grateful response to what God has given me (the gift of grace), and not what I give to God. My journey went from struggling with tithing (why I had to give 10%) to wanting to give as much as I could!

Our giving shouldn’t be out of any compulsion, rather freely given out of a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7).  But that doesn’t mean we avoid the discipline of tithing.  We have no reason to believe that Jesus didn’t practice tithing himself.  It does, however, mean we avoid the potential pitfalls.

Your turn…

How have you viewed tithing/giving?  Has it helped or hindered your view of generosity?


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When Should I Teach My Child About Giving and Tithing?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

#MoneyMatters is a Q&A category based on questions I have received on the topic of Christians and wealth, money & possessions.  If you have a question, email andrew@andrewholm.com , and I do my best in writing a response!

money matters

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if the Bible would just have a book about parenting in it?  It would answer all our questions about when, how, why, what to say, rules about age, and everything else, so we would all know what to do.  This, however, is somewhat wishful thinking.  In reality, we have a Bible that deals with us personally.  As much as I would love to have a book in scripture about parenting, knowing the Bible is about helping me through life is more empowering to me in the long run.

As we look into teaching kids about tithing, for example, the Bible teaches us how to be stewards of our own wealth and expects us to train our children accordingly (Proverbs 22:6).  What most of us miss, is that in the first part of Proverbs 22, the theme of wealth is mentioned several times surrounding this “parenting” verse.  Clearly, the fundamentals of giving and tithing are important to the development of a child and have a lasting impact.

Teaching your child about giving and tithing is very important.  Here are a few thoughts in responding to this question:

1. You teach best by doing your best.
If you believe in tithing, and you want your child to learn from it, make sure your child witnesses you tithing.  For whatever reason, we try and keep the financial matters of our lives private.  While there is no need for our kids to know or feel the pressures of money, the only way they’ll learn is if they see good financial stewardship in action.

2. Children are natural givers; don’t wait until culture reverses it.
I love seeing a child give without expecting anything in return.  My wife and I recently had a baby girl (Rae) and we were amazed by all the gifts she received by so many family and friends!  One of the gifts that stands out the most came from a little girl from our congregation, who, out of her own allowance, bought Rae a gift on their family vacation.  She insisted that she needed to give our little baby a gift.  Somewhere along the line, however, culture will try to strip that sweet giving nature away and replace it with a desire for personal gain, unless her parents counteract it with positive parenting.  It’s important to encourage our kids to care for others before themselves, otherwise culture will teach them differently.

3. Don’t try to walk before you can support your head.
Nearly five months has passed since Rae was born.  In the initial few weeks, it was really important to support her head because she couldn’t do it on her own.  Now that she can, we have to put our attention towards the next steps – sitting up,  rolling, crawling, standing, and eventually walking.  It would be crazy to expect Rae to walk before any of these previous steps.  Giving and tithing is a lot like this process, especially if this is a new concept for the family.  No one can expect someone to jump right into it!  We have to grow, step by step, mastering each step along the way.  Set goals, take “baby steps”, and before know it, giving and tithing will be a part of the family’s DNA.

4. Giving doesn’t grow with age, your heart does.
I’ve heard too many parents say, “they’ll figure that out when they’re older…”  Truth be told, with that attitude, the Christian faith won’t even be on their radar when they’re older, let alone giving and tithing.  There is always a way to relate difficult and complex concepts to children in ways they understand.  If you don’t know where to start, ask your child what they think of money and what it’s used for?  You’ll be amazed at their answers!  More than likely, they will describe how you use money.  If we all do our best in learning how to communicate giving and tithing with our kids during their childhood, their heart for giving will continue to grow with age.

So, to answer the question: the best time to teach your child about giving and tithing is right now.  Don’t hide your giving and tithing habits from your children.  Include them in family projects of generosity (ie. helping a neighbour, or sponsoring a child oversees).  Encourage those moments when your kids are looking to give (even if it’s small)!  Set small goals as a family, achieve them, and make giving and tithing a part of the regular family conversation.  Before you know it, the heart of giving and tithing will become stronger than the heart of owning and buying things for yourself!

 

 

How Do We Know If We Are Spending Our Money Wisely?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

#MoneyMatters is a Q&A category based on questions I have received on the topic of Christians and wealth, money & possessions.  If you have a question, email andrew@andrewholm.com , and I do my best in writing a response!

money matters

If there’s one thing everyone has to deal with, it’s money.  It’s impossible to live and raise a family in this world without dealing with money.  Unfortunately, money issues are frustrating and tend to cause problems.  In fact, among couples, it’s often the first thing to be ignored, resulting in pulling couples apart.  I want to offer three questions that will help all of us to discuss and decide how to use our financial resources more effectively.

Before looking at the three questions, we have to realize we often live in complex and diverse family situations.  Here is a brief outline of where we may find ourselves:

Before a relationship…
As a single person without kids, there is one decision maker and one receiver.  It’s still possible to be in financial crisis; however, all decisions are made by one person and affect that same individual.  As a result, working through how to spend money is fairly simple and can often be decided by sticking to a personal budget.

In a relationship…
As a couple, the situation is completely different.  Instead of one decision maker and one receiver, there are two decision makers and two receivers.  Decisions are no longer one-sided, they take on the needs of two people and impact two people.   In a relationship, it’s very important to learn how to talk about money matters.

In a relationship with kids…
As a family, there is a new dynamic added.  There are still two decision makers; however, now, there is at least one more receiver (depending on how many kids).  Two people are making decisions which impact a number of other people.  As a result, it’s very important to make sure the family is on the same page as they discuss money matters.

Kids with no spouse…
As a single parent family, the situation is slightly different again.  Instead of two decision makers, there is one decision maker and a number of receivers.  While it may seem this is easier, the pressure is on one decision maker to ensure all receivers are taken care of.  Without a doubt, it’s vital to ask the right questions to make sure the budget is balanced and healthy for the family.

Mature relationship with grown-up kids…
As a mature family, the focus changes from direct receivers, to being supportive of many receivers.  Once the kids have grown up and start their own families, financial discussions and decisions directly impact the couple, but no longer have the same affect on their once dependent children.  Their financial decisions do, however, have the potential to help support the newly formed immediate families.

 

In either situation, the key is understanding that there is always at least one receiver, and in many cases, several receivers.  In other words, the financial decisions we all personally make, affect those around us.  Therefore, no matter where we find ourselves, the following three questions will help guide our financial discussions and decisions.

 

AKSING QUESTIONS:
Whether you think you ask questions or not, everyone asks questions when we discuss money matters.  The most common question we ask will focus on WHAT we, or our spouse, spend money on.  In other words, as soon as we see or talk about a purchase, we often focus on the product or service in question and immediately determine if it’s profitable for our desires.  We’ll ask, “what in the world have you bought now?” or “how many of those do we need?”  While we may have reasonable concerns, our focus needs to be on the receivers in our lives and not only ourselves.  To do this, we need to ask three important questions:

1. WHY are we spending money on this product or service?
In order to make healthy financial decisions, we need to make sure we know WHY.  We need to set goals and objectives that are profitable for the receivers in our lives.  We may never fully understand the WHAT, but if we can discuss the WHY, there is a better chance we’ll understand each other.

2. WHEN are we spending money on this product or service?
Some purchases are required immediately; however, others can be placed on a timeline according to the priority of the receivers in our family.  We can understand the WHY, and know it follows our goals and objectives, but if we don’t decide WHEN to purchase it, we may spend outside our means or avoid a purchase that is more important.

3. HOW are we going to make it happen?
If we know the WHY and the WHEN we have to figure out the HOW.  We have to ask ourselves, “how will we pay for this purchase?”  The answer to this question could be as simple as placing it in your personal budget; however, it could also be as complicated as adjusting the WHEN in order to save for the purchase.  The HOW could also be to chose to use our current savings, cashing in an investment, or as simple as using a gift-card.  In either case, a healthy financial decision will include an answer to this question.

 

Let’s look at a few examples…

Saving for retirement…
WHY: So we can afford to live without working after we retire.  This is profitable because it benefits all receivers in the household.

WHEN: The earlier we save, the less it will impact our daily lives and the greater our savings can grow with interest before retirement.  The exact timeline, however, may be determined by student loan payments and/or the costs of raising children.

HOW: By setting aside regular amounts from our income.  In some cases, our employer helps contribute to this investment as well. The amount may depend on the final decision on WHEN.

 

Another example…

Spending money on a hobby…
WHY: So we can relax and enjoy a favourite pass-time.  This is definitely profitable for the receivers who enjoy the hobby, but may not be profitable for those who do not.  Priority would be set based on the involvement and enjoyment of the receivers in the household.

WHEN: The hobby could be seasonal or all year long.  It could require an initial investment, or an ongoing expense.  Maybe the WHY has placed this on hold for a while and the WHEN could be after the kids have grown up, or another significant moment.

HOW: Depending on the cost, it could mean saving over a period of time, or placing it within the current month-to-month budget.

 

Final example…

Supporting a local church ministry…
WHY: Helping to support a church as they help support the community with their local ministry.  This is profitable for the whole family in that it practices generosity and local responsibility.  Priority may be set based on the importance of the local church among the receivers.  For example, a Christian would feel the responsibility of supporting their local church.

WHEN: Depending on the type of ministry, it could be helpful to make this a weekly, monthly or even an annual matter.

HOW: In its simplest form, supporting with our regular income would be most common; however, using an inheritance or investment could also be an option, especially for one-time projects.

 

As we continue to make important financial decisions, I hope and pray these three strategic questions will help develop our final decisions.  While the examples used here show a particular rational, it is very important to use our own specific contexts as we discuss our financial decisions. These three simple questions of WHY, WHEN and HOW will help us do just that and make choices that help benefit the entire household.

In terms of a direct biblical response to this question, refer to Part 2 of the Money Matters series on Bethel’s podcast: http://podcast.bethelbr.com/?p=216