Tithing is a subject that many Christian couples either have learned about, misunderstand, or have chosen to ignore. There can be tension when spouses disagree on how much to give God. Or if only one spouse is a Christ-follower, how do they practice a tithe when their spouse sees no purpose in it? Let’s start with some basic understanding of what a tithe is and isn’t. This won’t be a full treatise on it, but a quick overview.
When asked about their priorities many couples will say, “ God, family… “ and they the will add other things. You never hear someone say, “Well, my first priority is myself. I take care of me, and then my job, then spouse, family, and then God.” If we were to ask the two of you that question, you would probably start with God as well.
Here’s a test that God has put in place to better ascertain his place in our lives. It’s a standard that comes with a promise of greater blessing and favor on our lives and finances as well. Ready? Answer this question:
Have the two of you made the decision to give God the first portion of all your income?
Throughout the pages of the Bible this first portion is called a tithe, which means a tenth.So tithing means to give God the first tenth of our income. Tithing was not instituted by God because he is somehow underfunded in accomplishing his Kingdom work. It was established by God because it reinforces to us that HE is first in our lives.
Through Moses God established that when the farmers would have produce they were to bring the first portion to God as an offering. Exodus 34:26 says, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” This was an act of worship. It was declaring that God comes first and didn’t deserve whatever we had left over. Jesus reinforced the practice of the tithe in Matthew 23:23 as well.
God is very clear that the first tenth belongs to him. The good news is that we can do whatever we want with the other 90%! In fact, he tells the nation of Israel that when they withheld the tithe they were robbing him! God challenged the Israelites and said to test him in the tithe…and see if he didn’t abundantly provide for all their needs. You can read it in Malachi 3:6-12.
It is a spiritual principle that tithing opens us up to receiving God’s blessings on our lives. When you and your spouse choose to spend what belongs to God on yourselves, you remove yourself from God’s blessings. Those blessings can include the pouring out of his Spirit on your marriage with greater peace and unity, your own spiritual growth, spiritual impact on your children, protection on your property, and sometimes financial blessing as well.
What if my spouse isn’t a Christian?
Have grace toward your spouse as their perspective won’t be based on the love of Jesus that you have. They love you and their decision will be predicated on that.
Talk to them about your desire to honor God with the first portion of your income. You can either explain what the tithe is or have them read this article. Don’t let it become an issue of contention between the two of you. God knows your heart and your desire to honor him. If your spouse isn’t willing to tithe, try to come to an agreement on a percentage that you can give. If you both work outside the home, perhaps you can tithe on your portion of the income.
Also, pray for your spouse to be willing to tithe. We have a friend whose spouse isn’t a Christian and initially they were firmly unwilling to tithe. Our friend prayed about it and after several weeks their spouse agreed to tithe on the sale of some property. For them it’s a start, and a big step in the right direction.
We’re in debt. Where do we start?
We’ve heard people teach that if you are in debt or new to tithing, figure out where you can begin and then increase it 1% each month. We don’t agree because that kind of incremental giving isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. We believe you should begin at 10% and see how God provides for you. It’s a faith journey and a financial discipline practice. You may be quite surprised at how God provides for you!
Do we tithe off the net or the gross?
Financial teacher, Larry Burkett, used to respond to that question asking, “That depends on where you want God’s blessing…on your gross or your net?” We believe the first fruits should be calculated from the gross income, before the taxes and other deductions are taken into account.
What’s the difference between tithes and offerings?
A tithe is the first 10% of income. Offerings are anything you choose to give beyond the 10%.
Where should we give?
In Malachi God said to bring the full tithe into his storehouse. Today that would refer to your local church. So at the very least the vast majority of your tithe should go to the local church, though you might choose to give a smaller portion to other causes that are Christ-centered and furthering God’s purposes. Your tithe should not be going to various charitable causes that are not aligned with Christ. That would be simply giving to charity which should be above and beyond your tithe. If you have children in Christian education, your tithe should not be used for your child’s tuition–that’s simply diverting God’s resources for personal priorities.
Take the step of honoring God with the resources he has entrusted to you by faithfully and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7) giving God your tithe. As you do, you will experience his blessings on your marriage and finances, and you will build your marriage.