The Problem with Tithing

3 Problems with tithing and how to overcome them

Reading Time: 6 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: 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

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!