Should I Tithe When I Have Debt (or Other Financial Pressures)?

5 Things to Consider Before You Abandon Your Giving

Photo credit: nick.mealey / Foter / CC BY

When faced with financial difficulties, the question of whether or not to tithe or give often arises. And the reason is simple. There is a desire to use every last penny to help get themselves out of the situation. If you have or are facing financial challenges, you have probably considered not giving. It may seem to be the most logical option for you. But before you decide to abandon your giving, consider the following five points:

  1. God tells us to give. The Bible tells us to give and to do it joyfully. The concept of proportional giving (giving based on percentage of income rather than specific amount) is woven throughout the Bible. Personally, I think 10% of gross (before taxes) income is a great place to start and by no means a limit. Where should you give? Start with your local church.
  1. Giving occurs first, not last. Also woven throughout the Bible is the idea that giving takes place first, not last. Giving is not about providing the leftovers. Giving is a prioritized act that often requires sacrifice. Before bills? Yes. Before debt? Yes. Before savings? Yes. Understandably, this prioritized act can be a massive challenge for those in financial distress. And we will get to that in point five.
  1. God does not include an exclusion clause. When the Bible talks about giving, there is no “out.” There are no loopholes or exclusion clauses. There are no reasons provided for not giving. We give because He gave so generously to us. He gave us something priceless. He gave us something no dollar amount given could ever compare. He gave us Jesus.
  1. We should not let one bad decision cause us to make another bad decision. There are cases where financial downfalls are completely out of our hands. But often, we are the cause of our own financial hardship. We didn’t budget our money. We bought houses, cars, and clothes we could not afford. We took out too many loans. We built up balances on high interest rate credit cards. Poor financial decisions do not give us reason to make another bad decision—not giving like God desires us to give.
  1. God delights in those who obey when obedience is not convenient. In Mark 12:41-44, we see Jesus point out a poor widow who put two tiny coins into the temple treasury. In the midst of many rich people giving large amounts of money, He said she gave the most because she gave out of sacrifice. She gave when it was inconvenient. If anyone had a reason not to give, it was her. But she was obedient. God saw this and delighted in it. And God will delight in your decision to give even when it is not convenient.

A joyful attitude toward giving does not negate the fact that real sacrifice is taking place. Joyful givers can have a lot, have a little, or be in the midst of financial turmoil. Whatever your circumstance may be, find joy in giving, not because it is easy, but because you trust God with everything, including your finances.

Why You Need to Be a Thankful Leader

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 thoughts on “Should I Tithe When I Have Debt (or Other Financial Pressures)?

  1. The following question was provided on Twitter: “I knew someone who was way behind on bills and still tithed, I reminded her she wasn’t giving money to God, she was giving money that wasn’t hers to give to God. What do you think?”

    Let me start by saying this is an excellent and difficult question. And I still stick with the points in the post. The reasoning found in the question above seems to lead to this end: “paying bills should occur before giving to God.” I know this is not your intent.

    The same line of reasoning of “I owe, therefore it is not my money, and when it is not my money, I do not give to God what could go toward the person/company I owe” must be applied to all bills, whether late or not. If this is true, the person/company owed, whether late or not, is taking priority over God. Again, I know this is not your intent.

    The question I would ask is, “How did she get into this situation, and what options does she have to get out of it while still faithfully giving?”

    I hope this helps.

    • Hey Art,

      thanks for responding. In general I would agree with you. But I know some folks in poverty who have a poverty mindset. They are behind on car bills, have past due medical bills, have some outstanding “check in to cash” bills. The person I’m thinking of is also a believer. She’s constantly out of money yet continues to tithe.

      In cases like this, and I’m sure there are a ton, I would advise the person to pay of outstanding debts and then go back to tithing. I know most people have some debt and there is no excuse there but when it’s outstanding and you are fully behind and owe a lot of people, it seems different.

      I wonder if Jesus would have commended the old woman in the temple if she spent the last two cents (or however much) at the temple when it was supposed to go to a collector…

    • It was forbidden to tithe in money. If one lived to far from the Temple to transport their tithe (agricultural products grown and produced in the Land (Israel, their was no requirement to tithe products grown outside Israel), the tithe was sold for money and the money used to purchase a new tithe once the farmer got to the Temple.

      The tithe was eaten by the farmer’s family after a portion was taken by the priest and shared with the poor and immigrants.

      Essentially, the tithe was a tax on agricultural products (there was a desperate Temple tax) that was used to feed the farmer (who would otherwise rarely kill livestock), the priest, and also served as a welfare tax.

      In the New Testament, the tithe was replaced with voluntary giving.

  2. How else can you titlhe, if you don’t have a local church, I am legally blind, can’t drive and get around, I don’t have any local church anymore.

  3. How else can you titlhe, if you don’t have a local church, I am legally blind, can’t drive and get around, I don’t have any local church anymore. I never asked before!