Tithe Talk

April 15th seems like a good time to talk about money. Whether you just completed your 1040ez today or you spent your refund two months ago, tax time can stir up a lot of fiscal emotions. It’s a time when we think about the money we have, the money we want, the money we spend, and the money we share.

While finances are part of daily life, they remain a sensitive issue. So it’s no surprise that tithing has church members divided in their pews. Tithing isn’t an easy thing to write about either. Just thinking about raising the topic brought a whole list of potentially controversial things to my mind. Like:

The Rule of 10 Percent

We all know the 10 percent rule, and there are strong opinions on giving before taxes, after taxes, etc. But as a friend of mine recently said, “Is 10 percent really even enough? How generous are we actually being?” Hmm. I never thought of it that way. And Scripture seems to back her up:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

The Way We Collect

The way churches collect tithes varies as much as our denominations. I’ve seen everything from passing the plate to people walking to the altar to make their contributions to unmarked offering boxes set off to the side. Online giving options have also caused debate; some congregants love the ability to build their tithe into their budgets, while others criticize that giving online misses the point by removing the heart of the action. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. To me, the way we tithe is really just semantics.

Tithes and offering resting inside an offering plate
Photo Courtesy of ©Lightstock

The Option to Give Other Stuff

Why is it all about the Benjamins, baby? Maybe we should also be giving our time or our talents or ourselves. Giving shouldn’t be legalistic money thing; what else could we be tithing?

The Sermon That Never Ends

Let’s get real. We sort of dread the tithing sermon, don’t we? We feel like we’ve heard it before. We get restless in our seats. We feel awkward being asked (or worse, guilted) into giving. Money talk can be uncomfortable, whether you’re in or out of church walls.

OK, see what I mean? I bet I said something that stirred you up one way or another. People feel strongly about this discipline and its many facets. Regardless of your stance on amount or practice, giving is between God and the giver. And ultimately I think tithing comes down to the heart issue of trust. It’s easy to say, “It’s all God’s anyway!” And that’s true—it is. But, if we’re honest, sometimes the reality of writing that check is a hard choice to make.

Letting go of control is a difficult thing to do. And as women, we can relate to that, right? We are overloaded with responsibility for our families, so it feels a little weird to say, “Here you go! Take this substantial portion of what I have and do whatever you feel like doing with it.” And I think it’s OK to admit that. But sometimes the best lessons come from doing things that are uncomfortable. What do you ladies think?


  1. Robin says

    I was raised by tithing parents so tithing has always been part of what you just do for me. It’s never been a big decision or a hard decision – it just was. So I’ve always tithed at least 10% of any gross I’ve received. It’s what I was taught and it’s never caused a hardship and I’ve never questioned it. Even when I was not attending church regularly, I sought opportunities to give. I am grateful for my parents having raised me this way – tithing seems to cause so many questions and stress for some and I’ve been fortunate in not having to deal with those issues. I’m also a CPA, so money talk just makes sense to me and doesn’t make me uncomfortable

    But for the first time in the last year, my finances have become tight enough that I’m living paycheck to paycheck. And I have momentarily considered cutting back my tithe to make things ‘easier’. But just as quickly, I know that none of it is ‘mine’ and cutting back would make nothing easier. So I continue to write the tithe check first, then everything else is taken care of. And you know what? Every bill has been paid. Food has been bought. Gas has been put in my car. The only thing I can see I MIGHT be missing is the extra stuff I’d fill my cart with at WalMart or the shopping trips (shoes, my how I love them!). And I’ve been just fine without them. How much costume jewelry do I really need? Turns out, not any more than I’ve already got!

    Thanks for letting me share :)

  2. says

    Larissa- lovely article, but you may want to study the theology of tithing a little further. Tithing is an Old Testament law that we as Christians are no longer under. It was basically a national income tax for Israel and supported the Levites, the Temple, etc. While Christians should indeed give generously and even sacrificially as they are moved by the Holy Spirit out of love for Christ, 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that with regard to giving, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart.” There is no longer a “rule of ten percent” that we are under compulsion to give.

    • Larissa says

      Thank you so much for this comment, Michelle! I personally agree completely. I think 10 percent as a good rule of thumb if you don’t know where to start. But maybe I should have said “rule” in quotation marks. :)

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