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How to Tithe When It’s Hard

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Why do you tithe? Why give money away? Why donate when it means choosing to live with less? More importantly, what can we do when donating money is so hard?


First off, can we just say tithing is usually hard? Giving away hard-earned money isn’t a walk in the park. It takes a perfect alignment of stars, spiritual posturing, cash flow, and maybe a particularly good breakfast to wake up in the morning and joyfully part with our cash. “Go with God!” we say, after a second helping of bacon. But usually in my house, a donation comes with a full understanding of what that money could also do for us, and I’m here to tell you, it’s not always easy.

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God asks us to give money away. This is the simplest way of addressing the tithe. There are longer answers too, in words more eloquent than mine, that describe this request. Parting with a portion of our income teaches us spiritual and practical lessons about how we are to understand money, how we are to live within our means and how we are to approach the poor, our church and its ministry. The lessons are never ceasing; money is entwined in almost everything our world touches, and to deliberately follow God by giving money away is to loosen the entanglement of earth’s value system. Giving away money is a step closer to understanding God and his systems.

How to Tithe When It's Hard

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So what should we rely on when writing a check is hard? How can we continue to tithe when Christmas is over and we are left with credit card bills. Or when tax season looms? When giving money away means we live with less?

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I like to remember these few things as we give money:

  1. God asks us to tithe. As followers of Jesus, we are not in bondage to rules or slaves to commands. No work can buy us salvation, and no tithe can earn us a right-standing with God. Jesus did that for us on the cross, and we cannot add a penny to His sacrifice. In light of this glorious freedom, God desires for us to give freely, to be charitable, to trust Him with our money. Loosening our grip with our money does something internal; it says “yes” to God’s ways. We decide to trust Him to provide when we give away money.
  2. Tithing reprograms how we understand money. When we give money away, we reprogram ourselves to see money as a tool here on earth to do God’s work. Tithing is strange. A lot of people don’t do it because it’s hard! But when viewed through God’s biblical lens, giving away money almost serves as an invisible ticket to attend the show God is putting on in our world.
  3. Direct deposit, anyone? I like the idea of every month turning to our bank account and walking through the process of giving away money. But if it causes anxiety, may I suggest automating it for a bit? Set up your tithe for a monthly withdrawal. This may help you pass through the motions (without all the emotions) until giving is more habitual and part of your budget.
  4. Follow your money. We love going to our annual Young Life banquet because we get to see the ministry our meager donations help support. It’s an evening to celebrate the sacrifice. If you give money away, make it a priority to stay connected to the ministry and witness the change your money creates in the world.

If we’ve learned anything about Jesus, it’s that He can take what we offer (and I’m not only talking about money) and grow it for His purposes. Tithe your cash, tithe your talents, tithe your relationships, give your heart up to the Lord for His good. Money is one facet of our lives we can offer to God, but He can reach and receive whatever we offer. There is no guilt. Give what you have, whether it is a simple “thanks” for a meal, kindness to a neighbor or a donation to the church. And then trust Him to do great things with your offering.