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Tithing is a difficult topic for many believers and for many reasons. If you struggle with giving the tithe – or giving any amount to the church – you are not alone. But these 10 easy steps to generous giving can get you started with honoring God in your finances.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the tithe, I’ll summarize briefly:
- The word ‘tithe’ means 10 percent, and if often is translated as such in modern Bible translations.
- The tithe is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:20.
- Specific directions for giving the tithe and other offerings are included in the Law (Leviticus & Numbers).
- The most cited passage about the tithe is found in Malachi 3:8-10.
- Jesus mentioned the tithe a few times and never taught against it.
- The tithe was meant to remind God’s people of the fact that all blessings come from Him and therefore 10% is returned to Him as recognition of that fact.
I have often struggled to give the tithe. When money was tight, I resented my husband for giving anything – let alone a tithe! Then there were the times that money was more abundant, but I wasn’t walking close to the Lord – and neither was my husband. No amount of money seemed to be enough. We were drowning in debt, upside-down in a too-large and too-expensive house (that I hated), and tithing just seemed silly. Giving away money we could put on our debts?! Seriously!
But gradually, we came back to the place of trusting God more. We started giving the tithe again. God started blessing: we got out of debt, sold the upside-down house, found good jobs, and got involved in church again.
Today, we faithfully give the tithe and frequently give above the tithe. For most of the last 8 years, we have routinely given well over the tithe despite multiple changes in our finances – most to the negative! Without a doubt, giving to the Lord is the best thing we do with the money He lends us. With that said, let’s dive in to how you can easily embrace generous giving.
The Foundation of Generous Giving
God owns everything. That fact – and your understanding of it – must form the foundation of your handling of money including spending, saving, and giving.
When you nail down this basic truth, giving becomes so much easier. You can experience a great sense of freedom and comfort once you understand that none of what you have is truly yours. It all came from the Lord, and He can take it away just as quickly (Job 1:21). When you learn to give – and give generously – your trust in the Lord inevitably grows.
Step 1: Have a Budget
You are far more likely to give the tithe regularly if you have a budget. That is, of course, if you stick to it. If you need help making a budget, a simple Internet search will yield plenty of resources. Below are the basic steps to take:
- First, track your expenses for a month or two. Be as detailed as possible. Before you can make a realisitc budget you must understand where you money is currently going.
- When you begin to create your budget, start with your gross income.
- Then calculate your tithe (or less/more, see # 2 & #3).
- Next, take your net income and subtract your tithe. The remainder is what you have to work with. Your goal is that everything else adds up to that same amount – thus, income equals outgo.
- Start your budget calculations with the essentials: mortgage or rent, utilities, car loans & expenses, debts, and food.
- Next, list the non-essentials: clothing (beyond the basics), entertainment (including cable & streaming services), eating out (including fast food & lattes), hobbies, gifts, decorations, and ‘shopping for fun.’
- If your expenses are more than your income (minus the tithe), start cutting from the non-essentials list until they two lists are equal.
Step 2: Start Small
The tithe, as stated above, is 10%. That is what the word literally means. If you do not give anything, don’t get hung up on the 10%. Yes, you should give 10%. But I believe that God honors our hearts when we take small steps toward obedience.
If giving 10% seems impossible, give 5% or 8%. But give something. I suggest that you not go below 5% because sometimes small is just too small. As the Lord proves Himself faithful in honoring what you do give, stretch your giving until you eventually reach 10%.
Once you’ve given 10% for a while and it has become your normal practice, you can begin to stretch yourself to give more. I once heard a sermon from a traveling preacher where he said that he and his wife started by giving the tithe – but now give 90% and live on the remaining 10%. Oh, and they had 12 children! God is more than able!
Step 3: Go Large
Should you give more than 10%? That question misses the point, but we’ll get back to it in a moment anyway. The question shouldn’t be ‘should you give 10%’ but rather, ‘how much of God’s money do I keep and how much do I give back to Him?’
In light of that perspective, when you consider the ‘should you’ question, you may decide to get out of the “tithe box” and give 11% or 12% instead of 10 %. Stretch your faith, and see what God will do. If 12% is too easy, go for 15% or 18%. Challenge yourself to continue to grow in your giving every year.
One last thought, wherever you are in your giving journey, try to always round up. It’s a small thing, but it can take your mindset out of the “God demands 10%” idea (or even “I owe God 10%”) and reframe it to “Giving is a privilege.” With this mindset, if your tithe equals $364, choose to give $370. Those small amounts aren’t usually enough of a difference to be felt in your budget, but they stretch your giving muscles.
Step 4: Pray for Faith
Just like in other areas of faith, giving generously and cheerfully is a practice that grows easier the more you do it. But when you first start, there is no doubt that giving is a challenge. And giving the tithe faithfully is even more of a challenge.
But, just as in other areas of faith, the obedience of giving the tithe is made easier from the first day by prayer. Pray for the strength of faith to keep your commitment. Pray for miracles to meet your needs (not wants!) as you learn to live on 90% while honoring God with 10%.
God honors prayers that honor Him. And since He is the One who said to give the tithe, praying that you’ll be faithful in doing so is a prayer He will surely answer.
Step 5: Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Think back to step 1. Do you remember that list of non-essentials I asked you to make? Even if you didn’t write it down, you probably have a start on such a list in your mind. Those are the expenses to cut. Ask yourself hard questions – and answer honestly: Do you really need another pair of shoes? Is a daily latte a need or a want? Does your 1-year-old phone, which still works fine, really need to be upgraded? In fact, how long can you make that phone last before upgrading?
When you spend God’s money on yourself, you are doing no less than stealing from God (Malachi 3:8). Be honest with yourself about needs versus wants, and cut back on fulfilling your every whim. Waiting to get something is good for your character! And you might just find you can live without it.
Step 6: Automate Your Giving
How many bills do you have on autopay? Utilities? Mortgage or rent? Streaming services? Car loan? Student loan? Why not set up your tithe on autopay?
This is a great way to force yourself to put giving to God first. By paying the tithe before any other bills, you force yourself to adapt, to live on what’s left, not give what’s left.
If you decide this is a great option for you, set it up so that the payment is made the day after your paycheck is deposited. This approach gives you no time to ‘accidentally’ spend what you meant to give.
If you’re afraid that putting tithing on autopay will make it just another bill instead of spiritual discipline, determine to spend some time in prayer and praise when you notice the payment has cleared your bank – whether that’s once a week, once a month, or something else.
Step 7: Decide Together
If you’re married, then giving needs to be a joint decision. Decide together how much you will give to your church. Decide together how often you will give. Decided together which missionaries you will support or what organization will be part of your giving.
In most marriages, one spouse will be more gifted in handling finances than the other. Possibly one partner will also be more naturally (or supernaturally) generous. If this sounds like your marriage, use those gifts to make giving to the Lord more of a blessing and less of a stress. Remember, “it is not good for man to be alone.” God put you together on purpose. Lean on each other’s strengths.
Step 8: Confront Yourself
Are you aware that you need help not just with giving but with finances in general? Or that as a couple, both you and your husband need help, instruction, guidance? If that hits close to home, be honest and do something to fix the problem.
One way you might be able to do that is by taking a financial management course, such as Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace or Crown Ministries courses. Perhaps your church has a mentorship program for younger couples where you can learn from godly older men and women. Maybe you need to go a step beyond and find a ‘money coach’ who can hold you accountable on a regular basis – weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The worst thing to do is to admit to yourself that you need help and then be too proud to ask for it.
Step 9: Downsize
If your lifestyle is larger than your income -and you aren’t able to give because you have too many debts and are juggling bills every month, maybe it’s time to make some really hard decisions.
If your car payment, credit card debt, or house payment is forcing you to cut back on your giving, try downsizing by trading your car for one with a lower payment, selling excess stuff on eBay, or selling your house and getting a smaller one. Getting a handle on your finances – which means giving the tithe regularly – is far more important than having a great house or new car.
Step 10: Embrace Accountability
Accountability was mentioned in step 8. But maybe you need even more formal accountability and help. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay for a financial counselor, this step may be necessary if you find it too hard to make difficult financial decisions. If that’s you, do the hard thing and seek one-on-one counseling from a Christian financial counselor.
Your church may have counselors available for free or other free or low-cost resources to help you. If your church doesn’t have those resources, a larger local church may.
Finally, Christian financial ministries such as Dave Ramsey’s ministry trains counselors to help believers around the country and around the world. Most have free referral services. Just make sure that you choose a financial counselor that is committed to God’s Word & Biblical principles of money management as well as living by those principles.
Conclusion: You Can Give Generously
That’s it! Ten simple steps to help you become a generous, cheerful, and faithful steward of the money you’re entrusted with. Start with a commitment, then make a budget, and step out in faith. God is waiting – not for your money, but for your heart.