tithe definition

Tithing: Gross vs the Net, Sending it with a Credit Card, & a Tax Write-Off

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In an earlier post on the Money Peach blog, Peach talked about he and his wife’s decision to start tithing money to their church.

He shared what led up to their decision to start tithing, and how tithing would eventually change their lives forever, and I couldn’t agree more. I can say with 100% confidence that being a faithful tither has blessed my family and I just as it has blessed Peach and his family.

Therefore, we thought Money Peach readers deserved a more expansive post on tithing and the benefits of it. What is the history of the tithe? Where did it come from? When did it start? There are many questions regarding tithing and we thought we’d touch on some of those questions as well.

As always, we welcome your insight in the comments section on this important and sometimes controversial subject. We’ll give our opinions on tithing in this post, however please know that we’re not saying our opinions have to be your opinions.

Before we start, we just want you to feel comfortable in the fact that the Money Peach blog is a judgment free zone. 🙂  In the end all we want is for this post to bless you and encourage you. After all, that’s what God calls us to do.

The Tithe Definition and How it Relates to the Offering

Simply put, a tithe is a tenth.

In Biblical terms, the tithe is for giving to your local church. The Bible first talks about tithing in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 14:19-20, Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God, blessed Abram (soon to be called “Abraham”).

He said “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.

When Abraham received this blessing, he gave the high priest a tithe – or a tenth – of all the spoils he received from his victory against his enemies. And so began the concept of the tithe.

This Biblical concept continues today with Christians all over the world.

As Christians, we are called to give tithes and offerings. Our tithes are to consist of a tenth of our income to our local church. This is to be our steadfast gift to the Lord.

Offerings are Different

In Proverbs 3:9, we read “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;:

Remember that during the time period Proverbs was written, firstfruits may not have been seen as a metaphor as we see it today. Instead, this literally meant firstfruits from vine, the first 10% of your crops, or the first tenth of your livestock.

The keyword when thinking of the tithe is it comes FIRST. Before you do anything with your “fruits”, or income in today’s world, God is asking you honor with with your first 10%.

With that said, offerings are gifts over and above our tithe commitment. Some examples of offerings might include:

  • Additional gifts to your church for things like building funds or families in need
  • Disproportionately large tips to waiters and waitresses (one of my favorite types of offerings 🙂 )
  • Random acts of kindness such as buying the coffee for the guy behind you in the drive thru
  • Contributions to community or other charities
  • Other giving as you feel led by the Lord

Therefore, a tithe is a basic starting place for giving, and it’s meant to go to the church you attend. That might be a brick and mortar church in your area, or it might be an online church.

Give Where You’re Fed

Some people say your tithe should go to the “place that feeds you” spiritually. Maybe you don’t attend a local church, but instead watch church services weekly on television or online.

In that case, you might send your tithe to that church. The point is to make tithing a regular part of your budget just as you do with anything else.

It’s a way of honoring and submitting yourself to the God you serve. And it’s a way of keeping your flesh in check.

Your Money Isn’t Meant to Only Serve You

Paul calls us in Galatians 5:16 to “walk by the Spirit so you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh”. And yet the world we live in today makes it so much easier to serve ourselves (myself included).

Everywhere we look, we’re encouraged to buy this, that, or the other thing for our own pleasure and happiness.

But setting aside ten percent of our income and giving it back to God allows us to walk by our spirit and not fulfill the never-ending lusts of our flesh. It’s a form of self-discipline in a world where it’s so easy to idolize money and the stuff it buys.

Remember, money is simply a tool. It’s meant to meet our needs, but it’s also meant for us as Christians to use it as a tool to help those who are unable to help themselves. Tithes and offerings are some of the ways we can help others in the name of Christ.

Imagine what the world would look like if all Christians on Earth sent off a tithe to the local church? Would we still need to rely on the government to take care of attempt to take care of those who are less fortunate or unable to take care of themselves.

Again this is only my humble opinion, but I truly think if the world gave a regular tithe, the government would become irrelevant in terms of “helping” those in need.

The Trust You Put in God

How many of us like losing money?

Ummmmm….yeah, that would be no one.

This is exactly the reason why I think it’s so difficult for us to give our money to the local church because it feels like we are losing a little (or a lot) of it, right? If you stop to think about why you feel this way, start thinking about paying your taxes each year. It just doesn’t feel good!

What’s the difference?

Because you don’t really have a choice, do you? The government is literally forcing you to hand over the money you worked so hard for and if you’re like me, you may not be thrilled with the way they handle it. In fact, you just may not TRUST the government to do the right thing with it.

The next question I would ask is this: do I TRUST God?

If your answer is “yes”, then one way to trust God is with His money. Remember, God created everything, including money, and therefore we are only giving back to God what is already His. And to take this a step further, He’s only asking us to give 10% of it back to Him so He can do far more with it than we could ever dream about.

But Isn’t Tithing an Old Testament Law, and Aren’t We Free from the Law?

This is a great question! Some people believe that because tithing was established as a part of the Old Testament law we’re no longer required to do so. To be honest, they do have a valid argument for sure, but then again I don’t believe this is worth arguing over 🙂

Here’s why…

Yes, the tithe was established as a part of Jewish law and yes, we are free from the law as born-again Christians since Christ came to free us from the law, which the New Testament calls the law of sin and death.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” –John 8:36

Honestly, I don’t think we should spend time caring about who is right or wrong, but I instead believe the practice of tithing for New Testament believers is much more of wanting to send a tithe versus having to send a tithe because of an Old Testament Law.

Plus, tithing helps us keep control of our flesh as I mentioned earlier and giving a small portion of God’s money back to Him helps us keep in mind that money isn’t everything. Money is important for sure and it does touch every aspect of our lives, but it’s definitely not everything.

The takeaway here is not whether or not you should feel guilted into giving a tithe, but rather feel compelled to give a tithe based purely on the belief that God can do more with a small portion of this money than we can do with all of our own.

Tithing on Gross Income or Net Income?

Important: God’s love for us doesn’t depend on whether or not we tithe. I can guarantee that He doesn’t need our money. Keep in mind, He created everything. Everything.

Also God loves us no matter what and we know this because His Word says so.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for usRomans 5:8

In other words, God loved you long before you became a Christian – and He loves you even if you’re not one. After all, He sent Jesus to die for our sins long before we knew that we even needed redemption.

Similarly, God loves you the same whether you tithe on your gross income, your net income, or not at all. I personally don’t think God really cares about the math as much as He cares about your trust in Him. Whether you tithe before taxes, after taxes, or you do the math and realize you accidentally sent of 9.8% versus the full 10%, God cares more about why you’re tithing and less about how the math works out.

But if you are looking for something more concrete, think about the word firstfruits. This was the word found in Proverbs 3:9 which is referring to the very first thing you do with your firstfruits, which in today’s world is your income. Firstfruits means before everything, including Uncle Sam.

Another great way to think about it is this: ask not how much of our money should we give to God, but how much of God’s money should we keep for ourselves 🙂

Tithing When You’re in Debt?

Another question you might be wondering about is whether or not you should tithe when you’re in debt. I truly believe the answer to that question is 100% up to you.

The Bible doesn’t talk about stopping tithing for any reason. However, some people feel more responsible when they’re putting all extra cash toward debt.

They might stop tithing while getting out of debt and then resume tithing. That being said, it’s important that if you’re cutting out tithing while getting out of debt, that you do it with a pure heart.

Stopping our tithe for the purposes of paying off debt and then not fully committing to getting out of debt is not being a good steward of the money God has fortunately blessed us with. For instance, let’s assume we cut out tithing to get out of debt and then we are still taking large vacations twice a year. If this is the case, we may need to reevaluate where God stands in our lives, right?

Remember, God won’t punish you for it (Jesus already took our punishment for us on the cross), but you are taking away your own blessing of being able to give.

What About the “Uncle Sam Tithing” Deduction?

You also might be wondering whether or not the money you tithe should be counted as a charitable deduction. Is it okay to get pay less in taxes or even get a check back from your tithe via Uncle Sam?

Or is doing so a self-centered endeavor? If you look online you’ll find several opinions on this subject just like you will see regarding every other Biblical subject.

So the question becomes, is it bad to claim the deduction on your taxes when you tithe? And if you do claim the deduction, aren’t you in essence not “giving” the ten percent?

In my humble opinion (and Peach agrees), claiming your tithes as charitable deductions on your taxes is simply another part of being a good steward of God’s money.

After all, the better you steward your money, the more you have to give away, right? Responsible money management has several facets:

  • Earning to the best of your ability
  • Budgeting and managing those earnings responsibly
  • Tithing and giving where led
  • Paying taxes where due
  • Being a good accountant by taking advantage of monetary laws

So, yes, go ahead and claim those charitable deductions on your income tax return. Just be sure to give a tenth or more of that tax return back to the Lord. 🙂

What About Credit Card “Tithing” Rewards Points?

Another question people have regarding tithing is whether or not it’s okay to pay your tithe with your rewards credit card.

My first thought regarding this is that it depends on your reasoning and your intent. Some people pay tithes with credit cards out of convenience and others do so to gain credit card rewards points.

The thing to remember is God wants your tithe to come because you truly want the tithe to be used to bless others. He doesn’t want you to tithe just so you can get airline miles or cash back at the end of the year.

The desire to send a tithe to the church should come before your desire for rewards points. If you still feel guilty about these tithing kickbacks from the credit card companies, you can always donate your cashback or miles to your local church 🙂

The Borrower is Still Slave to the Lender

The last thing God wants you to do is to be a slave to the borrower and get yourself into credit card debt when you pay your tithe via your card.

If you do choose to use a credit card for tithing, make sure to remain diligent about budgeting, pay your credit cards off each month and do not allow those rolling balances to accrue. And if you get a large check at the end of the year from your cash back rewards you can try what a friend of mine does – he tithes on that income as well 🙂

“But, I Don’t Have Enough Money to Tithe!”

You may feel as if you don’t have enough money to tithe. After all, if you’re spending everything you make as it is, how can you possibly give ten percent to the church and still have money to pay your bills?

Let me encourage you that most people (not all, but most) make enough money to tithe with. They are often just spending their money in other places instead.

I know a family who makes close to $100k a year, has very, very little debt and yet doesn’t feel they have enough money to tithe with. This isn’t a criticism; just an observation I wanted to share.

I know their finances well, their expenses well, and that they spend all that they make and don’t budget. First off, it’s tough to find extra money when you’re not budgeting or at least tracking your everyday spending habits.

Secondly, human nature dictates that we’ll automatically spend what we have, whether it’s $10 or $1,000. Without a financial plan in place, it’s very, very easy to nickel and dime yourself into broke. Or, at least into paycheck-to-paycheck living.

I’ve also been there myself. In fact, it was the nickel and dime spending that got myself and my husband into $60k worth of consumer debt. However, once we started our monthly budget, we were able to better see where our money went and we suddenly found we had a lot more money to give away!

Again, not judging anyone here, but you might be surprised at how much budgeting and will change your financial life forever.

Tithing on Any Income – Yes You Can!

I know another story about a single mom. She was raising three kids on a ridiculously low amount of income. Her child support totaled $300 a month and house payment was $250 a month.

She also worked a job that paid very little but she wanted to start tithing based on her trust in God. She was compelled to keep the 90% and give God the 10% back so he could do more with it than she could do alone. The amazing part of her story is that she’s been tithing for over forty years straight, and she’s tell you she has always had more than ever needed.

She doesn’t live a life of luxury by any stretch of the imagination and has never made more than $35,000 per year. But this woman – my own mother – still drives a 2004 car that she bought new and it still looks new to this day. She also takes her kids and grandkids out to eat on occasion and she has enough money for her weekly bowling league outings.

My mom taught me that no matter what your income is, stepping out in faith and tithing will never result in your harm. After all, we have God’s promise that:

Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. -Luke 6:38

The Promises of God

God isn’t a fairy-tale God who sprinkles magic fairy dust on your tithes. However, He does love to bless His children. All of them, and He so appreciates a gift given in faith.

Malachi 3:10 says “Bring all tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.

We aren’t to tithe for the purpose of getting back. However, when we tithe for the right reasons – in faith, to honor God and to bless Him – we can be assured of having all that we need and more.

I know a lot of Christians, and I have yet to meet one who tithes with a pure heart and with trust in God that isn’t blessed in return in more ways than one. Chris Peach, the founder and editor of this blog, will agree – as humans we can only do so much, but God can do so much more than we can imagine…and He’s only asking for 10% 🙂

Becoming a Cheerful Giver

Which reminds me: giving with a cheerful heart is important. The Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

He doesn’t want anyone to give out of compulsion. If you’re not at that place yet where giving feels like a great thing, don’t feel guilty.

Instead, work to get to know God. Study your Bible, especially the New Testament. Find out about the goodness of God with your own eyes through His word.

I’m convinced that the more you get to know Him, the more you’ll fall in love with God and understand how much He loves you. At that point, you may not be able to contain yourself from giving – cheerfully. 🙂

Also, start small if you need to. Give one percent, then two percent, then five percent to your church. Start giving offerings as you feel led. Tip 25% instead of 15 or 20 percent. Bring some food to your local food shelf.

Letting go of your money and becoming a cheerful giver often takes practice but I can tell you from experience that once you become a cheerful giver, the feeling of blessing others through your tithe will be one of the best feelings you will ever have in your life.

But What if the Church Squanders the Money I Give?

This is another concern I hear often from Christians. They worry that they can better put to use the money they might tithe by choosing recipients on their own.

My first thought regarding this very important subject is that if you have that little trust in your church, you’re not at the right church. You should be attending a church where you trust the leadership and trust them to be the best steward of His money as possible.

My second thought is that it’s important to do your duty regarding tithing and let God handle the rest. If the place where you’re giving is misappropriating funds, God will handle that. You do your duty, and leave the discipline of undisciplined money managers in the church in God’s hands.

The Takeaway

It’s important to know that God loves you with His whole heart – whether or not you tithe. His unconditional love for every person never fades.

And whatever your opinion on tithing, I’d be willing to bet that if you tried it you’d be blessed by it. When done right – and in combination with good money management – tithing results in many blessings.

And you also get the personal satisfaction (in a non-prideful way, of course) of knowing you’re helping bless the world alongside God. After all, He’s given so much for us – isn’t it fun to give Him something in return?

So, what are your thoughts on tithing? Have you tried it? How did it affect your life? What other concerns or questions do you have about tithing? Or, how can we help you to manage your money in a way that makes tithing possible?

We’d love to help. Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to answer them as best we can.

And if you wanted to learn more about tithing, here is a personal story for the Founder of Money Peach, Chris Peach.


 

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3 replies
  1. Marc
    Marc says:

    My parents were missionaries when I was growing up, so it was easy to see the importance of giving since our family was dependent on financial support from churches and individuals. Early on in my adult life I gave my tithe to the church and didn’t give much thought into how I gave (it wasn’t necessarily 10%, kind of depended on where I was at financially), but I gave to the church and not much else. I personally don’t feel that 10% has any real significance to us today. The past few years I’ve tried to give as I feel led by God, not necessarily a specific percentage, and not all to my local church. In the New Testament Jesus talks a lot more about giving to the poor and helping people in need than he does about giving to the church. Now instead of just writing a check to my church I spread out my giving and give to other causes that help the needy as well (World Vision and The Exodus Road for example). Since I’ve changed my approach my giving has been a lot more rewarding, it’s something I think about a lot and motivates me to make money so I can give more, and I’ve been led to give more than I would have in the past. I still think it’s important to give to my local church, but I think that’s only part of the bigger picture.

    Reply
  2. Steveark
    Steveark says:

    My wife and I tithed on our gross income our entire careers from the $18,000 salary I started at to the several hundred thousand I made my last year of my full time career. We still tithe on my six figure side gigs in retirement and I firmly believe the money we’ve given through the local church has blessed my family more than anyone else. It kept money in perspective and since it was a big check, bigger than any of our bills or mortgage, we felt it when we gave. One thing I have no clear idea about though is how do you tithe in retirement after you quit making an income? Tithing is based on your “increase” and things like Social Security and investments are coming from money you already tithed on previously and in some cases haven’t even grown at the rate of inflation so there has been no increase. Plus if you were to try to calculate it somehow, assuming you even had the records for the net growth of your assets, it would be mind boggling. I’m thinking right now we’ll probably keep tithing based on what we actually spend, if I stop earning, as we draw that out of our investments. Just like using gross instead of net as the basis all these years, why not be on the high side of the equation, after all He has given us much more than we needed!

    Reply

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