404 That Time I Stopped Tithing

That Time I Stopped Tithing

I recently stopped tithing and I didn’t even feel bad about it. Mostly because both my wife and I had been unemployed so there really was nothing to tithe from. But I started my new job this week and now I’m considering if we should continue on this course of holding back the holy “tenth” of our income.

I’ve been tithing since I received my first paycheck at minimum wage, working as a grocery bagger at Winn Dixie. I was taught that the tithe belongs to the Lord and over the course of my life was even threatened that if you don’t pay tithe for awhile, you owe interest on “back-tithe”.

As my relationship with God has matured, I grew into a more heart-based approach to giving. Many times I’ve stood on a stage talking about how God doesn’t need our money, but He wants our heart. An orphan heart is one that doesn’t believe they will be taken care of so they hold back the little they have.

I still believe giving is about our heart and yet here I am considering if we should not tithe.

The thing is that in this time of unemployment, we’ve gotten behind in our finances. We’ve been given quite a bit of money already by our parents and family, which was quite a humbling experience for me.

SIDE NOTE: Please stop saying how “humbled” you are when people say nice things about you or ask you to do important things. If you’re not humiliated, you’re not humbled. Use another word. 

And yet, we’re still a little behind and every month some new, unexpected expense pops up. There’s no way I’m going to borrow money and then turn around and tithe on that money. We blew through all our savings that kept us afloat all these months I was out of work and so we have a decision to make.

We can tithe and be short every month on our bills or we can stop giving and play catch up. 

I honestly don’t know if we’re going to do it. Not because I feel this obligation to give my “ten percent” but because I honestly do believe it’s a trust issue.

I’ve always put my trust in God with my actions. I trust Him with salvation by giving my life to Him. I trust Him with my gifts by using them for His glory (like this blog). I trust Him with my finances by tithing to the local church.

This isn’t a debate on whether tithing is right or wrong. I believe giving trumps not giving and the tithe is just a symbol of consistency with a precedent. I don’t feel the need to debate either side of that. I know what I believe and I’ve made peace with it.

But for me, the tension lies in this particular season. To give or not to give?

If I stopped tithing for a season to get my feet back under me and make sure we don’t run up our credit cards, is that a demonstration of not trusting God? Is it really faith to give ten percent of my income to the church, even if I could possibly go into debt?

I really don’t have the answer. I’m in the middle of it right now and I’m talking to God about it a lot. I’m not afraid that He’ll be upset with me for making the wrong decision. It’s a heart thing for me. If this is an opportunity to put my faith in Him and watch Him come through in a way that blows me away, I don’t want to miss that.

On the other hand, I don’t feel like pulling back my tithe is a fear-based decision. I think it could really just be a wise decision. We’ve been in transition and our finances have been in flux for a few months now. We’re preparing ourselves to get adjusted to a single income after being without any income for awhile.

Or maybe the 10 percent is what’s really hanging me up. Maybe the amount doesn’t really matter. I think of the story of the widow who brings her last two mites as an offering and she was honored above the wealthy people who brought much more. I really don’t know.

It makes me uncomfortable not having answers. Especially writing about not having answers. But I was talking to my friend Keith the other day, who is one of my favorite writers, and he said that he isn’t really interested in reading stories with all the answers. There’s a beauty in the tension and some of the most honest and powerful writing comes from wrestling with life’s tensions.

More than anything, I want to make a decision without fear. In a recent sermon, Jonathan Martin said that any decision made in fear is the wrong decision.

And fear does not exist in this dojo.

Comments

  1. Tony, here’s the thing. This entire struggle is not about whether tithing is right for you. It’s either what God wants you to do or it isn’t. Your situation can’t dictate what God is expecting of you, so you are struggling with its basis. The reality is that there really isn’t a debate. The Bible does not ever ask you as a gentile to tithe, nor does it ever ask anyone – gentile or not – to tithe MONEY. It’s nowhere in scripture. But, we are called to be generous people and to help those in need.

    Right now, your first responsibility is to be faithful with what you are given. Catch yourself up. Pay your bills. Get in good financial shape so that you will once again be in a place where you can help others. That is the spirit of Christian giving, as opposed to tithing which was put into place to provide for the priests of Israel, who were prohibited from inheriting owning things. So, the other tribes had to provide for them. This isn’t necessary anymore.

    I write a blog article about this on my website a few years ago titled Christian Generosity. Check it out at http://www.josegomez.com/Blog?blogid=7322&view=post&articleid=61174&fldKeywords=&fldAuthor=&fldTopic=0. I hope it helps, brother.

    Also, know that even in the times of the tithe, those that needed did not tithe. Only landowners did – those who had grains and animals to give. Those in need were not obligated because a portion of the tithe was for their provision.

    There is so much confusion about this topic, and it drives me nuts to see so many believers struggling with this. So, sorry if my passion comes through.

    • Tony I agree with José. Good word brother.

    • Hey Jose,

      Thanks for sharing your article. It has great info. Maybe what I didn’t clarify is that my struggle isn’t because of duty or expectation I feel that I’m supposed to tithe or that the Bible is mandating it. How I give to the church is a personal decision. The tension isn’t about if tithing is right or wrong. It’s my own struggle in how I give.

      Katie and I have decided that we want to tithe on our income. We give through the local church because we are a part of it and we believe in what they are doing in the community. It’s not an obligation but a way that we trust God with our money by being generous with it. Again, it has nothing to do with what the Bible says specifically about the tithe. I know many people tithe and many people that don’t and I respect anyone’s decision either way.

      My tension is with trusting God. I don’t want to ever stop giving because I don’t trust God. I don’t ever want to stop giving because I am no longer generous but I want to use my money for my own benefit. Giving regularly and a set amount helps me make giving a habit and not just when I feel like it because honestly, there’s always something I would rather do with that money for myself.

      I do appreciate what you said about getting in good financial shape so I will be in a place where I can help others.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  2. I’ve gone through (and am sort of still going through the same thing), trying to decide what is the right amount, knowing that by tithing I’ll show that yeah, I do trust God. It was particularly tough when I got laid off three years ago and opened my own business, trying to figure out what number to tithe off of when I didn’t know what my “profit” was going to be (money would come in in spurts while expenses stayed steady.) Still trying to figure that one out, actually.

    You’ve got to figure out what’s right for you. If it was me, I’d probably try to figure out a reduced amount to give, maybe 10% of net instead of gross, or 5% or 2%. Or, pray about if there is something specific that God wants you to give towards. (You know the old line we get at church, “you haven’t started giving until you give more than 10%”. Horse pucky! I’m completely ok with giving towards specific ministries rather than the local church, or including my Compassion Int’l support as part of my tithe calculation, etc.)

    Very happy for you with the new job. I know God is blessing and will continue to bless you and your family. Hope you have peace with your decision on how/when to tithe… as long as you’re praying it through, God will be with you whatever you decide. (There’s an old song/verse…. ‘rejoice for the steps of the righteous man are ordered of God’. There’s a lot of truth in that…)

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Dan. It helps to know that others are thinking hard about this. I don’t think it’s just a simple answer all the time and it’s frustration when people just toss out scriptures and don’t really consider different situations.

      More than anything, I want my heart to be right with whatever we do for however long we do it. I want to trust God but I also realize that even when I’m faithless, He’s faithful.

  3. NICK MYHRE says:

    Very interesting, made me think about a lot! Personally I don’t believe in a rule based 10% mandate that we have to live by or else. I tithe partially because my pastors whom I respect and trust believe it to be true and I want to honor that (which is a new perspective for me). I believe in living generously, giving to those in need and sharing with those around me even when it may hurt a bit. This in my opinion takes continually being focused on and connected to the Lord rather than checking off a checklist of things good Christians do, tithing and then hoarding the rest. I say its totally fine to not tithe for awhile to catch up. God knows your heart and if you are truly living generously and thinking about those around you.

    • I don’t believe in the rule based 10% either. I actually don’t like to talk about the “tithe” as something everyone should do. I believe a thankful heart will breed generosity and an orphan spirit will breed a hoarding mentality.

      Initially I tithed because I was taught that I should, then I changed how I thought about it but I continued to give 10% because I felt it was a good, consistent goal to budget and create a habit of faithfulness.

      Now that things are tighter than they’ve ever been, it’s now that I’m thinking that changing how I give in this season makes sense.

  4. Tessa Smith says:

    Respectfully, being humble and being humiliated are not the same thing. Being humble is knowing your place in the world- neither better, nor worse than anyone else. Right size. Being humiliated is a whole ‘nother animal.

    1. “humility – a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people” 2. “humiliation – the unhappy and ashamed feeling that you get when something embarrassing happens”. Both taken from MacMillan dictionary.

    • Being humble (noun) and being humbled (verb) aren’t necessarily the same thing. I was referring to the latter. I’m a word nerd so I’ll see your MacMillan dictionary and raise you a Merriam Webster definition of the verb form of humble:

      2hum·ble transitive verb \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\
      : to make (someone) feel less important or proud : to make (someone) humble

      Synonyms
      abase, chasten, cheapen, debase, degrade, demean, discredit, disgrace, dishonor, foul, humiliate, lower, shame, sink, smirch, take down

      Even though this was a side note and not the actual point of the post, I appreciate your comment!

  5. francesca says:

    So for now what you are tithing is not physical money, it is faith and love, your family. what is wrong with that? That is a form of sharing and abundance that everybody could use. I think God is very proud!
    Fear or anger based decisions are never the right ones.

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