Should You Tithe While Paying Off Debt?

tithing debateFor those of you that are a part of a religious institution such as a church, temple, or mosque, you probably wonder if it’s prudent to be tithing while trying to get out of debt or save up for a large purchase. There is a lot of debate among this topic, and I think it’s worth thinking about if you’re devout in your religious faith. I’m going to explore this issue in the context of Christianity. Tithing is the act of giving back a portion of your wages or earnings back to God as a symbol of showing Him that what’s your is not really yours, it’s God’s property. In Christianity, the tithe is 10% of your wages/earnings that is donated to your home church. This is not only a symbolic gesture, but it helps support the church and the charities and missionaries that the church supports. There are some really good Christian personal finance blogs out there that have talked about the issue of tithing and getting out of debt in the past.

Here are a few resources from other bloggers about this subject:

The General Consensus

From what I have read, the general consensus among Christians who write about personal finance and the teachings of Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial Ministries (both organizations with a Christian backbone) support the idea that Christians should be tithing no matter what situation they are in, unless you are unable to provide for your basic necessities. In that case, your church should be helping you and using church offerings to help support you until you’re back on your feet. But, financial goals of getting out of debt or saving for a big purchase would not trump tithing. It’s also important to remember that tithing is not an eternal issue. The tenants of Christian salvation are not affected by those who tithe and those who do not tithe. There should be no “guilt” in not tithing, but rather, it should be done out of the generosity and willingness of your heart.

Gross versus Net Income

I don’t think God and the Church are splitting hairs over this one. Again, do what you feel is right in this situation. If you feel led to tithe based on your gross income and you have the means to do it, that’s perfectly fine. If you’ve always been tithing off of net income, there’s no shame or harm in that. Biblically, I’m really not sure if it’s clear, so in the matter of gray areas, pray about it and do what feels right.

For those of you that are not religious or not part of a church, this article wasn’t for you, but I know that there are many Christians that think of about the issue of tithing when trying to work towards such a great goal of getting out of debt. The Bible teaches against being in debt, because in Proverbs it warns about “the borrower being slave to the lender,” but supporting your home church and its works around the community come first.

  • JimmyDaGeek

    If your religion expects tithing, then you tithe. The idea is that all bounty flows from a supreme being that bestows it upon the person and expects the person to share it with those less fortunate. And there are ALWAYS those less fortunate. Many things people think are needs are just wants. People get into debt because they can’t distinguish between them.

  • Matt Jabs

    Great topic. I’ll give you my personal experience…

    Whenever I give, my finances always go MUCH more smoothly. Whenever I stopped giving (not for any good reason, just because of selfishness) budget busters seemed to pop up constantly.

    We came to the conclusion that we need to give as a 1st priority… and everything else will fall into place. It has worked great for the last 16 months! :)

  • FinancialBondage

    good post. tithe on take home pay if you want. God don’t mind either way. God is not an accountant.

    If you are not tithing yet, don’t beat yourself up over it. Start on the next payday. Give $20 or $30 a week. Something. And work on increasing that as God puts it on your heart.

  • Derek Clark

    I would definitely suggest continuing to tithe while getting out of debt. I agree with Matt Jabs, my finances have always worked out well using 90% of my income. When I go above and beyond it seems as though blessings get poured out. The old saying that you can’t out give God has always been true in my life.

  • Gary Arnold

    Preacher: You tithe on the first ten percent of your income.

    God’s Word: You tithe on crops, and every tenth animal that passes under the rod. NOT the first, but the tenth. See Leviticus 27:30-33. Preachers are mixing firstfruits with the tithe and they are NOT the same. In Nehemiah 10:37-38 we learn that the firstfruits were taken to the temple for the priests, and the tithe was taken to the Levites to go into their cities.

    Preacher: The Levites worked full-time at The Temple.

    God’s Word: The Levities and priests were divided into “24 courses” and they rotated working at The Temple one week out of every 24 weeks. Therefore, the priests and Levites actually worked at The Temple about two weeks a year. The rest of the time they had regular jobs. See First Chronicles 24 for the priests and chapters 25 and 26 for the Levites.

    Preacher: You tithe the BEST to God.

    God’s Word: You tithe every tenth animal whether that animal be good OR BAD. See Leviticus 27:30-33.

    Preacher: The firstfruits of your income belong to God.

    God’s Word: In the Old Testament, every time a firstfruits offering is mentioned it is referring to the first of the crop, assets that came from God’s hand, not man’s labor. Firstfruits offerings has nothing to do with income.

    Preacher: The tithe was taken to The Temple.

    God’s Word: The tithe was taken to the Levites to go into their cities. See Nehemiah 10:37-38.

    Preacher: Malachi 3:10 Take all the tithes to the storehouse.

    God’s Word: The Levites received the tithe, and they were required to take a tenth of the tithe to the priests. ONLY that tithe went to the storehouse, NOT the tithe from the people. Again, see Nehemiah 10:37-38.

    Preacher: You are robbing God if you don’t bring your tithe to the church. Malachi 3:8-10.

    God’s Word: The priests were robbing God, not the people. The priests robbed God of the tithe by stealing the Levites portion (Nehemiah 13). The priests robbed God of the offerings by giving the worst and keeping the best (Malachi 1).

    God defined His tithe in Leviticus 27:30-33 as HOLY. How dare anyone change God’s definition and then call a tenth of their income a HOLY tithe!

  • Erik Folgate

    Thanks for the comments guys. I like hearing testimonies about when you tithe or give, you end up in better financial shape than when you weren’t giving. That’s really good encouragement.

    • Casey

      As far as tithing from gross or net income, I always ask myself if I want gross rewards or net rewards in Heaven. :)

      • Chris

        Hi Casey

        You cannot buy God’s blessing in the New Testament…read Eph 1:3-4 and Gal 3:1-5. The only way we receive our blesings is by faith. The Law of tithing is NOT of faith Gal 3:10

  • Daddy Paul

    I always give something. Even if I have to gather up my cans in the pantry that no one wants to eat to give to the food bank. It does seem when I give I get more work and money.

  • TheMadTurtle

    Personally, I believe your offering should be whatever you can make it. If you can’t tithe, then do what you can. I can say from personal experience, that I’ve been tithing now for over 3 years and, personally, I feel a lot better about my finances than I did when I couldn’t tithe.

  • used to tithe

    I tithed my 10% and more after I was saved for 8 years and was glad to do so. I always felt that God would take care of me. I was disabled and trying to get on disability four of those years and came close to declaring bankruptcy. My wife and I still tithed. We were in debt exactly what we were tithing. I finally got my disability and back pay and paid my debts off. I knew God was looking out for me. Now four years later, and doctor bills and one daughter out of work, another daughter with a baby and a husband who won’t support the baby, I’m barely able to pay the bills. I kept tithing believing God would surely help me until I couldn’t pay the bills and had to quit tithing or sell my house which only has four years left to pay on.
    I feel God broke his covenant with me on tithing.

    • Gary Arnold

      I am so sorry to hear of your problem. However, God has no covenant with us regarding tithing.

      The first time tithe is mentioned in the Bible is Abraham’s tithe of pagan spoils of war, and Abraham kept NOTHING for himself. This was NOT an act of worship. Biblical historians agree that it was custom in Abraham’s day to give the king a tenth of the war spoils. Furthermore, Abraham made a vow that he would keep none of it. Genesis 14:8-24

      The next mention of a tithe is Jacob’s VOW to tithe. Jacob set the conditions, not God. Nowhere in The Word does it tell us that Jacob actually tithed. Genesis 28:10-22

      Next is The Lord’s Tithe. God gave His definition as a tenth of crops and animals which came from God’s hand, not man’s income. God NEVER commanded anyone to tithe on anything that man made or earned. Leviticus 27:30-33.

      The ordinances (instructions, or laws) for The Lord’s Tithe are in Numbers 18. God gave strict orders to take His tithe to the Levites. God NEVER changed that command. Anyone who takes God’s tithe to anyone other than the Levites is being disobedient to God’s Word.

      There are others tithes in the Bible such as the Festival Tithe and the Tithe for the Poor. It is The Lord’s Tithe that churches pattern their teaching after.

      Church leaders ignore God’s definition of His tithe, and ignore God’s ordinances for His tithe. They change the words to fit their pocket book. This is nothing but manipulation of God’s Word. They are false teachers.

      The Bible CLEARLY SHOWS that the tithe ENDED at the cross in the Book of Hebrews. In the first nine verses of Hebrews 7 the words tenth or tithes appears SEVEN TIMES. The ONLY place in the Bible, after Calvary, that tithing appears is in Hebrews 7.

      In Hebrews 7:5 we are told that Levi (the Levites) took the tithes under the law. In Hebrews 7:12 we are told that when the priesthood changes, the law will change. Hebrews 7:18 is telling us that Numbers 18 was disannulled. Numbers 18 established the Levitical priesthood, and part of that establishing included tithing. When the Levitical priesthood ended (at Calvary, or at least in the year 70AD when the temple was destroyed), all laws that established that priesthood were canceled. If Numbers 18 wasn’t canceled, we would still be under the Levitical priesthood.

      Those who argue they didn’t have money or income then are really ignorant of what the scriptures say. They had money and wages, even in Genesis. The farmers had income from barter exchanges, and they had markets to buy and sell as proven in Deuteronomy 14:24-26.

      Those who argue Malachi 3:8, robbing God, need to start with verse 7. God is talking about His ordinances in Numbers 18 which we learned were disannulled according to Hebrews 7:18. Also, if you start with Malachi 1, you will see that God is speaking to the priests, not the people. The priests robbed God of the tithe (Nehemiah 13) and the priests robbed God of the offerings (Malachi 1).

      In the New Testament we are taught to be generous givers, NOT tithers. There is not even ONE verse in the New Testament after Calvary to even suggest we should be tithing.

      You have been misled and robbed of your money, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Chris

      God never breaks His covenant…you were duped by greedy preachers who were coveting your money. There is a promise in the Old Testament BUT you have to obey it ALL of the Law to get it (Gal 3:10, Deut 28:1-2)

      The New Covenant is a walk of faith. Our salvation …and our material blessings for our needs are appropriated by faith. Tithing is a matter of the Law (Mat 23:23 and Heb 7:5)….the Law is NOT of faith (Gal 3:12)

      Start confessing your blessing….not trying to earn it. Say “Father I thank you that Jesus died so that I could become your child and that you would provide my every need. I thank you that Jesus became poor that I might become rich (2 Cor 8:9)

      Let your Heavenly Father lead you by His Spirit into green pastures


  • Michelle Green

    Gross is all, net is left up to interpretation. Is Net after taxes and other deductions, etc? What about if you are self employed, where you pay taxes after expenses? For me, I know, I can’t go wrong with tithing off of all income.

    Why would you want to give less to God, who you love and loved you first, when Caesar gets all of his, and he really doesn’t care at all?

    • Gary Arnold

      Michelle Green said, “Gross is all…”

      Being a retired Accountant and Tax Auditor, I can tell you that very few non-accountants know the definition of gross income.

      IF you are working for an employer, gross income INCLUDES all fringe benefits including what your employer pays for your medical insurance, retirement, and ALL other benefits. Your employer does not include many fringe benefits on your paycheck stub or your tax form at the end of the year. Few wage earners even know what their gross income is.

      IF God wanted us to tithe on our income, God would have said so, and He would have told us how to compute our income. God didn’t leave it up to me or you to decide how to compute His tithe.

  • Ed McGlasson

    Thank you for writing this and providing the information. I have been personally convicted for years that if we don’t collectively tithe while we seek to be debt free, then most could justify not. Not to mention, it’s freeing to give to others as we manage our own personal financial goals and budgets. Well done, well done!