Archives For tithing

       I’ve written a good bit of material designed to free people from the idea that the tithe is something they must do under threat of a curse from God. The giving standards in the New Testament are very different (and actually much more challenging) than those in the Old Testament. The teachings and example of Christ guide us into a mindset of giving that’s based on love for God and others – not just promises of blessings or threats of a curse.

       But I also understand why some people like to use the tithe as their standard of giving. It’s simple, straightforward, and gives you a guideline you can start using right away. (Assuming, of course, that you don’t try to set up a ton of rules to help you figure out how to tithe just right.) Freewill, sacrificial, generous giving motivated by love just isn’t quite as easy to figure out as a flat 10%.

       I came across a concept that I think can be helpful as a starting point – a way to think and pray about giving that will help you figure out what God wants you to do in your situation while also protecting yourself from lifestyle inflation. It’s called graduated tithing. The name aside, I think it can be a good way to think about your giving. Coming up with your own plan gives you an opportunity to consciously seek God’s will for your giving. Let’s look at it in more depth.

The Graduated Tithe

       I first came across the idea in an article that Craig wrote at Money Help for Christians. The concept of the graduated tithe seems to have originated with Ronald Sider in his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity.

       Ron explains it this way. First, you start with a base amount. His family decided on a base figure that includes the current poverty level for his family’s size, plus costs for Christian education and college expenses, plus taxes, plus genuine emergencies. His family tries to give 10% of that base amount. Then, for each $1,000 of income above that base amount, they give an additional 5%. An example will help you see what I’m talking about.

       Let’s say you choose a base amount of $40,000. Here is what your graduated tithe (or giving system) would look like:

Income % to Give $ to Give Total Income Total $ Given Total % Given
$40,000 10% $4,000 $40,000 $4,000 10.0%
next $1,000 15% $150 $41,000 $4,150 10.1%
next $1,000 20% $200 $42,000 $4,350 10.4%
next $1,000 25% $250 $43,000 $4,600 10.7%
next $1,000 30% $300 $44,000 $4,900 11.1%
next $1,000 35% $350 $45,000 $5,250 11.7%
next $1,000 40% $400 $46,000 $5,650 12.3%
next $1,000 45% $450 $47,000 $6,100 13.0%
next $1,000 50% $500 $48,000 $6,600 13.8%
next $1,000 55% $550 $49,000 $7,150 14.6%
next $1,000 60% $600 $50,000 $7,750 15.5%
next $1,000 65% $650 $51,000 $8,400 16.5%
next $1,000 70% $700 $52,000 $9,100 17.5%
next $1,000 75% $750 $53,000 $9,850 18.6%
next $1,000 80% $800 $54,000 $10,650 19.7%
next $1,000 85% $850 $55,000 $11,500 20.9%
next $1,000 90% $900 $56,000 $12,400 22.1%
next $1,000 95% $950 $57,000 $13,350 23.4%
next $1,000 100% $1,000 $58,000 $14,350 24.7%

       After you reach a total income of $57,000, you’ll be giving away 100% of any additional money you earn. If your income was $75,000, you’d be giving $31,350 under this system – a little over 40%. At $100,000, you’d be giving away $56,350 or just over 56%.

       To use the graduated tithe (or giving system, I just like that better), you’d want to update your base amount every year. This will help account for changes in your personal situation, taxes, and most importantly – God’s will. He may lead you to give more in some years by choosing a lower base amount or to give less by choosing a higher base amount.

A Few Caveats About the Graduated Tithe

       I share this idea with you not to enforce a legalistic standard but to offer an alternative that will help you focus on giving more and not becoming greedy as your income rises. If you decide to use the graduated tithe, you should be very careful if it makes you begrudge giving and takes away the joy of sharing. If you don’t have love and give cheerfully, it’s not going to matter how much you give. In that case, you’re going to have to seek God’s heart and ask Him to help you have His love develop in you.

       Also, you should use this example as a guide – not a law. If your family is in a situation where this can’t work for you right now, then adapt it to fit God’s will for your giving. You’ll need to go through this planning process with a lot of prayer and request guidance from the Holy Spirit, but it can be something that helps you give generously in your situation.

       I really want to emphasize the fact that you need to seek God’s will on this. You shouldn’t use the tithe, the graduate tithe, or any other giving system as a replacement for prayer and discernment. God will guide you as you seek to please Him. Make that your primary goal and He’ll help you figure out what the right amount is for you.

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of the graduated tithe? Let me know in the comments below!

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance as an editor’s pick!

       Today, a reader named Melissa shared this comment on my summary of tithing in the Bible. (I’ve edited it a little for clarity, but I did not make any drastic changes.)

       “I have been a faithful ‘tither’ for years, raised by parents who were faithful tithers. And there has been something about ‘tithing’ that has always had this ‘check’ within me, even when I was adamant about ‘wanting to tithe’ and knowing ‘God’s promises’ about tithing. I began researching about tithing to basically find out where the 10% of all my gross income should be going. Let me tell you it has led down a completely different path!!!! It has led me closer and closer to who Jesus is: GRACE. Jesus IS grace personified. Grace presented giving over and over and over!!!!! I WAS a cheerful and faithful tither…now I will allow grace to lead me to be a cheerful and faithful giver!!!! I appreciate the revelation that the Holy Spirit has given you and others about giving from the heart and not tithing from a pocketbook. God is NOT about numbers!!!”

– Melissa

       In my response, I thanked Melissa for her comment because it’s exactly for people like her that I wrote those articles on tithing. You see, some people accuse me of being greedy, stingy, or just trying to make excuses not to give because of what I’ve written about tithing. Because I don’t teach tithing, they assume that I don’t want to give – or that if I do then I don’t want to do it generously.

       Nothing could be further from the truth! If anyone spends just a little bit more time reading what I’ve written about New Covenant giving and generosity, they’ll see that I am actually trying to teach us to be even more generous than what those who teach tithing demand.

       The difference is that I’m trying to point us to the ultimate example of giving: Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of God’s will for us in all things, including giving. And while looking at Him and trying to follow Him, no one will be making excuses not to give. You can’t help but want to give to those in need in response to His grace, mercy, and generosity.

       We don’t need demands and obligations and curses to urge us to give if we will only look to Jesus and follow His example. Those who follow Jesus and abide in Him will have such overflowing love for God and others that you won’t be able to hold back their generosity. You don’t need to tell them to give 10% or be cursed and you don’t need to promise them riches and blessings to get them to give. They want to give because they have God’s love living in them!

       This is the real purpose of my articles about tithing. It’s not to excuse us from giving. It’s not to find a way to give less. And it’s not to destroy churches and make them go bankrupt (yes, I’ve been accused of that). The real purpose of these articles is to open our eyes to the truth about giving. And that truth is found only in Jesus Christ – not in the Law.

       I want people to see that tithing as it is taught today is far from Biblically accurate. I want them to understand the grace we have received from and in Jesus. I want them to experience both the freedom and the joy that comes from giving with a pure heart motivated by love for God and love for others. I want them to get past this letter of the Law stuff and focus on the Spirit. It’s about a transformation of going from “What’s the least I must do to fulfill my obligation to God?” to “How can I more fully express my love for God and for people? How can I please and serve God completely?”. I want us to let go of the shadow and take hold of the the One who came. I want us to let Jesus be our example for giving and fully follow in His steps.

       I pray that all who read what I’ve written about tithing will realize that it’s not just about arguing over words and trying to make excuses or justify ourselves. My goal is not to cause more division, strife, or arguing, but to open our eyes to the truth in Scripture and gain a fuller understanding of what Christ did for us, what He wants us to do, and how we can start living that out. I will try my best to be clear about those things, but it doesn’t always come through.

       So just know that when you read something I’ve written about tithing it’s not so we can keep more for ourselves. It’s so we can let go of the shadow, cling to Jesus, and be free to experience the relentless, irrational generosity that God has for us and to begin sharing that with others.

Have you ever wondered how much you NEED to give? Whether you are wondering about the standard amount of tithing or giving to charities, this is a very popular question. Regrettably, this question has been debated for decades (if not longer) with no happy answer. While I will work to answer this question, I want to point out that I don’t intend to give an easy answer. I won’t suggest that you should give this much or that much.

Should Giving be a Necessity?

The first thing I want to point out is that giving should not be a necessity. In my opinion, the question, “How much do I NEED to give?” is the wrong question to ask. In fact, it often misses the purpose of giving altogether. Let me explain. By asking how much do you need to give, you are looking for a set amount to satisfy some mysterious requirement. When we ask this question, as we often do, we are acting as if God wants us to give a certain amount away. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think God is about easy answers. The world that we live in is much more complicated than a simple black and white solution – It’s easy to see why this applies to giving. People’s financial situations are different for everyone, so how can there be a standard for giving?

More importantly, asking what is necessary to give away defeats the purpose of giving in the first place. Giving is suppose to encourage generosity and help for others. Asking this basic question, while it may be intended for good, is actually (at least partially) motivated by selfish desires to satisfy this false assumption of good. I know this to be the case for me. Usually when I ask how much should I give, I am trying to give the bare minimum to appease my conscience or guilt.

Giving Should Never Be Coerced

If you are asking this question, while it may be motivated by this desire to keep more money for yourself, it is moving in the right direction. Asking this question in the first place suggests that you recognize that the world is in bad shape and you want to contribute towards making it a better place. The simple fact is that no one is perfect. There is no ideal person for giving. If we wanted to, we could criticize everyone for being too selfish at times. The purpose is not point out everyone’s faults and therefore justify how we spend our money on ourselves, but instead move towards giving freely.

I should point out that giving should never be seen as a competition. The point isn’t all about just giving more, but changing the motivations behind our giving. After all, the widow’s offering shows us that it’s not the amount that is important, but the sacrifice.

Perhaps the question should not be how much do I need to give or even should I give… but instead, “Why Should I Give?” Perhaps when we begin to buy into this idea of generosity, we will move beyond these legalistic questions of how much or how little… Instead, we may be able to start making a difference in this world.

Why is Giving Important for You?