Topical Tuesday: Tithing? Really?
We continue a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers. You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post. Today’s question comes from “Anonymous” (not his real name…I don’t think). You can read the full question of “Anonymous” here. But here’s the edited version:
If I give 10% of my income every month, that leaves very little to go into savings. As the head of my household, isn’t it my responsibility to provide for my family? As a husband and father yourself, can you share anything that you have learned through the years that might help navigate these types of decisions?
Anonymous, I’m going to quote a past president on this one: Walk tall and carry a big stick.
Oops. Wrong past president. I meant to say: I feel your pain. (Lip clenched. Thumb protruding slightly. Big Mac bulging from coat pocket.)
First, a disclaimer and a few key thoughts. Disclaimer: most of these lines in this blog were stolen from Dave Ramsey. Key thoughts: tithing is not your “I Hope God Will Love Me More” card. God’s crazy about you already. It’s not like he’s sitting in heaven warming up a lightning bolt that’s directly tied to 10% of your W-2 form. (He saves that for bigger sins like watching The Bachelor.)
But you asked my opinion, and that’s what you’re going to get. As a Christian, I believe that I have a mandate to give generously (Malachi 3:10, Deuteronomy 15:11). Further, the Summit teaches “grace giving.” In other words: 10% is the floor, not the ceiling. Merriem and I have practiced tithing throughout our marriage, and in recent years we’ve been able to add “grace giving” to the mix. Is it easy? Nope. Is it convenient? Nah. Fun? Pain-free? A walk in the park? Nyet, nada, no way Jose’.
But it’s a step of obedience. And our obedience has resulted in the fact that we’ve never had a need. Oh, we’ve had our share of wants – right now, I want a car that has working AC when it’s 142 degrees outside (that convenience happened about three weeks ago just in time for pitting out season). But our needs have always been met.
Don’t hear this as a health-and-wealth message. I didn’t say that if you give God your Honda, he’ll give you an Escalade with a built-in espresso maker. I’m saying that when I took a step of faith and gave God what’s rightfully his, he’s taken care of me. Sometimes he’s freaked me out while he’s doing it, but he’s always come through.
What I think you’re talking about, Anonymous, is a situation of priority and focus. I fully agree with you that you should provide for your family (1 Timothy 5:8). I also think that there’s tremendous wisdom in having money set aside in savings (Proverbs 21:20, NIV). But I think that it’s possible to work towards those things and still give as the Bible describes.
I’ll tell you my journey in a nutshell: a couple of years ago we got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Although we didn’t have a balance on our credit card, we did have a sizeable payment on a vehicle that was dropping like a rock in value. And so we followed the plan of the aforementioned financial guru Dave Ramsey: we set aside 1000 bucks in a starter emergency fund (that took a few months). Then we aggressively paid off the vehicle (that happened a couple of months ago after two years’ worth of pretty decent sacrifice). And now we’re building a full emergency fund of three months’ worth of expenses, while at the same time saving to purchase a replacement car with cash (let’s hope our rate of savings whips the rate of crappiness on the car). During that time we held off on contributing to retirement (some people said we were stupid) and there were lots of “wants” we did without. But we were focused, and now we’re realizing the reward of that focus by not having the payment from H-E-double-hockey-sticks looming over us.
And throughout that time, we’ve attempted to give generously. Holding back our tithe would have meant that we could have easily paid off the car or built an emergency fund much sooner. But it would have also meant that we weren’t engaged on the heart level in what God is doing around us. And before any readers get self-righteous and make a snide comment about what kingdom engagement means, check out Matthew 6:21.
Anonymous, the two resources that I’d recommend to you are The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, a great little book that will rock your financial mind. I have a few extra copies and would be happy to give you one. I’d also recommend my friend Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. (I’ve never actually met him, but since I’ve quoted him several times in the blog and just tried to sell a copy of his book, I’ll bet he likes me. Maybe I’ll give him a ride in my A/C-free car. This winter, of course.)