Many Christians are deep in debt, struggling to make ends meet, and living from check to check.
Some saints were taught that if they tithe 10% of their income, God will protect them from financial hardships and prosper them financially. But the truth is that many Christians who believe in tithing are struggling financially, and some are wondering if they should ‘tithe’ or pay their bills.
Some religious leaders would advise them to “keep tithing and trust God to provide.” This is unbiblical and unsound advice which shows no regard or concern for the well-being of God’s people. Let me explain why:
1. If the staff at your church discovers that you are struggling financially and in urgent need — their immediate response should be to “care for the flock of God” and find a way to meet your need(s).
Meeting your need(s) might entail them reaching into their own pocket (if they have the money), raising an offering from the congregation, cutting a check from the church, or contacting other non-profit organizations to see if they can help .
The bottom line is that the staff at your church should be charitable and focused on finding a way to meet your needs and ease your burdens. Not focused on receiving your ‘tithe’ so that they can cover the church’s expenses while your needs go unmet.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:4-5)
Telling someone to “keep tithing and just trust God” sounds ‘spiritual’ and ‘sacrificial,’ but it is actually unspiritual and apathetic, because there is no action being taken to ease the burdens of others. This was one of Jesus’ problems with the Pharisees:
“They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” (Matthew 23:4)
Telling someone who is in urgent need to give what they do not have, while offering them no tangible assistance puts an unbearable religious demand on their shoulders. It crushes them. It is financial oppression and spiritual abuse.
Someone who advises a saint in urgent need to “keep tithing and trust God to provide” is no different than the person in James 2:14-17 who sees a brother or sister in need and says “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” and doesn’t help them. What good will such advice do? Faith without good works is dead. It’s not good enough to talk about faith if we don’t show it with our actions.
“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:17-18)
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)
2. Telling people to ‘tithe’ before they pay their bills contradicts the Scriptural teaching to take care of our household first.
It also contradicts the Scriptural teaching that human beings are more important to God than religious rituals and temples made by human hands [e.g., church-buildings].
The full counsel of Scripture teaches that we are to take care of our own household first, before we try to take care of anyone or anything else.
We see this principle in God’s standard for pastors/elders. A man must take care of his own family first in order to qualify to be a pastor/elder. The reasoning behind that is, how can someone be trusted to take care of God’s house if they do not take care of their own household?
This principle applies not only to pastors/elders, but to all Christians. Paul the apostle had strong words for believers who neglected their own household.
He said that a man is worse than an unbeliever if he doesn’t take care of his own household. This is not exclusive to men, it applies to any Christian — man or woman.
Whether you are a man or a woman, if you neglect your own household in order to “pay your tithes,” you are being worse than an unbeliever — because even unbelievers understand that taking care of their household is their first priority and it would be wrong to neglect their household in order to allocate money outside of their household.
Do not neglect your own household in order to give 10% of your income to a religious organization, which will more than likely spend most of your money on operating costs, not charity or evangelism.
Some religious leaders would say that you are “putting God first” “demonstrating faith” “being obedient” and “making a sacrifice” by paying your tithes before you pay your bills. This is false.
Paying the expenses of a religious organization (because that is where most of your money goes) before you pay your own bills demonstrates misplaced priorities due to false teaching — not faith, obedience, putting God first, or being a living sacrifice.
Obeying God is better than making unwise sacrifices that He did not instruct us to make in His word. (1 Samuel 15:22).
Ensuring that the expenses of a religious organization are covered before you make sure that your own expenses are covered is out of order and backwards. Paying the utilities for a building that no one lives in and not paying the utilities where you and your family live is negligent.
If you get evicted or your utilities are shut off, can you sleep in the church building? Will church staff take you in ? Or will you end up in a homeless shelter or sleeping on someone’s couch while church staff tells you to “keep tithing and trust God to provide”?
Before religious organizations existed, God created the family unit. This means that you and your household are of utmost importance to God and your needs are more important than the expenses of a religious organization. False teaching convinces people to reverse this order and prioritize religious organizations over their own household, which is contrary to the will of God.
God would never have you risk an eviction, shut-off notice, or sink further in debt all for the sake of keeping a false tradition and covering the expenses of a religious organization.
Does it make any sense to pay staff salaries while your fridge is empty, your gas tank is on empty, and your utilities are about to get shut off? Does it make any sense to pay off the mortgage on the church-building while you remain in debt? Would church staff help you pay off your mortgage/debt, or do they just want your ‘tithes’? Is this responsible financial stewardship? Or is this financial irresponsibility masked as ‘obedience to God’?
Your needs come before the expenses of a church-building. The church-building is not the house of God — you are. Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and the Holy Spirit lives in you? Church-buildings are temples made with human hands. They aren’t anywhere near as important to God as you are.
Even during the Old Covenant, the needs of the people came before the temple and its religious rituals.
For example, when David and his men were hungry they ate the shewbread, which was not lawful. Yet God permitted it because He values human lives over religious rituals.
Another example would be when Jesus and His disciples picked heads of grain on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees — not knowing the heart of God — accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath day. They failed to realize that Jesus is the Lord over the Sabbath and that He made the Sabbath “. . .to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28).
The same could be said of the tithe. The tithing laws were given to meet the needs of the people (“that there might be MEAT in My house”), and not people to meet the requirements of the tithing laws.
If you study the tithing laws in Scripture, you will see that there were 3 tithes:
The First Tithe which provided food for the Levites and the priests, since they received no inheritance of land in Israel (Numbers 18:21).
The Second Tithe which provided food for festivals in Israel and was eaten/drank by tithers and their family (Deuteronomy 14:22-27).
The Third Tithe which provided food for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
These three tithes were carried out over a 7-year cycle, with no tithing during the 7th year because it was a Sabbath year in which the land of Israel rested from sowing and reaping (Leviticus 25:3-7).
Notice that each tithe was eaten. None of the tithes went towards financing the temple or paying salaries. The purpose of the tithe was not to raise money, but to provide food for God’s people and meet their needs.
As you can see, the tithe was similar to the Sabbath day in the sense that it was given to meet the needs of the people.
If someone is using the doctrine of tithing to meet THE NEEDS OF AN ORGANIZATION and not to meet your needs — they are twisting the purpose of the tithe, ignorant of the heart of God, and putting a religious ritual and a man-made temple over human life.
Poor people weren’t even commanded to tithe under the Old Covenant — they RECEIVED the third tithe as a form of charity. The tithe was to be given by those who owned land — NOT by those who didn’t own land (e.g. Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows). The poor were permitted to glean food from other people’s land because they were POOR. They had nothing to tithe from!
Many leaders today are oppressing the poor by telling them that they have to ‘tithe’ before they pay their bills, when in fact God commanded the third tithe to be GIVEN TO THE POOR. These leaders use slick phrases like “You can’t afford NOT to tithe” and “Give until it hurts” to convince poor people to tithe. How evil of them.
God didn’t command the poor to tithe because they couldn’t afford to and they didn’t own any land. God is AGAINST leaders who oppress the poor by telling them that they have to tithe (Malachi 3:5). It does not matter if some of the money is being used to help the poor. You do NOT oppress the poor in order to “help the poor,” “spread the Gospel,” or pay the church’s bills.
3. Telling people to “keep tithing and trust God to provide” sets a poor example of Christlike leadership.
Jesus said that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many.
The Lord did not put His needs before people who were in need. He selflessly put the needs of others before Himself. This is “the mind of Christ.”
Elders are suppose to demonstrate the mind of Christ and set a godly example for God’s flock by serving selflessly like the Lord.
Telling someone who is in need to give 10% of their income (to an organization) does not serve them in any way, shape, or form. But rather, it serves the organization and sometimes leadership.
Some of these organizations are well-off. Yet they feel comfortable telling single parents, widows, college students, and poor families to “pay their tithe” and forgo paying their bills. This is selfish and the exact opposite of serving like Christ.
4. Telling people to “keep tithing and trust God” oppresses the poor.
While some Christians testify that they “tithed” before paying their bills and their needs were still met, many others testify that they “tithed” before paying their bills only to sink deeper in debt, get evicted, lose their home, lose their car, and go without electricity, heating, air conditioning, running water, etc.
This oppression of the poor is the dark side of ‘tithing’ that many people don’t hear about.
The purpose of the tithe was not to oppress the poor and put them in the predicament of deciding whether they will tithe or pay their bills. One of the main purposes of the tithe was to feed the poor and RELIEVE them of their burdens.
One of the reasons why God told the Levitical priests that they were “cursed with a curse”in Malachi 3 was because they kept the best of the tithe for themselves and didn’t put it in the storehouse, thereby oppressing the poor, the fatherless, and the widows.
The Lord said that He would draw near the Levitical priests for judgment and to be a swift witness against them. This is the part of Malachi that many religious leaders skip over during tithes and offering time.
“‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:2-3)
5. Telling people to “keep tithing and trust God” teaches Christians to be financially irresponsible, which sends a poor witness to unbelievers.
Financial responsibility is a part of our Christian witness.
By taking care of our household, we demonstrate love, discipline, honesty/integrity, and maturity.
Sending 10% of your income to a religious organization while your household goes without basic needs and sinks further into debt sends a message that Christians are financially irresponsible, gullible, lack integrity, and do not keep our agreements.
Integrity means keeping our financial agreements by paying our bills and paying down our debts if we owe anyone. Scripture speaks against not paying people when we have the resources to do so.
I am not saying that being in debt is sinful. I understand that we can fall into the trap of making poor financial decisions and unexpected expenses can take us by surprise. But it is irresponsible to incur debts and forgo paying your bills if you have the funds to pay them off.
Some Christians will forgo paying their bills and ‘tithe’ and “decree and declare” financial prosperity, and hope that God will make a way out of no way instead of simply paying their bills on time and paying off their debts.
Some have given dozens of thousands of dollars (or more) in ‘tithes’ to organizations instead of taking care of their household, paying off their debt, and leaving an inheritance for their children. This does not make any sense whatsoever. Monetary ‘tithing’ and positive confession are no substitute for good old fashioned financial responsibility.
Rather than telling struggling saints to “keep tithing and trust God to provide” — religious leaders should take their own advice by trusting God to provide for their organizations and tell poor congregants to use the money that God provided for them to pay their bills.
If God truly called someone to minister and start a church, He will sustain it HIS WAY (through cheerful giving) without oppressing the poor through false teachings.
Click here for the next article in this series.
If you are struggling financially and you attend a church where the leaders are more concerned about receiving your “tithe” than you paying your bills, that may be a sign that it’s time for you to find a new fellowship.