I’ve heard many excuses as to why people don’t give a 10% tithe to their local church.
“They don’t spend the money right.”
“I can make sure it is used better if I give it to charities myself.”
“10% is too much money to give to one place. It’ll do more good if I spread it out.”
While all of these may have aspects of validity that could be debated, that is not the purpose of this article. Rather, we want to discuss the central issue that most anti-tithing messages are rooted in: the giver’s heart isn’t invested in their local church.
Most people who don’t tithe have a church problem, not a generosity problem. It is only by obedience to tithe that we can fix this misalignment.
The Bible says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”. This is such an important principle in giving, yet one that almost everyone who doesn’t tithe has backwards. What is the principle?
Treasure leads, heart follows.
If you are waiting for your heart to stir and lead you to something that God has already asked you to do out of obedience, you’ll likely be waiting a long time!
There are many requests in the Kingdom that are unique to each believer. God has put distinct passions and giftings inside each member of the body so that collectively we will move in response to His unfathomably deep heart for the world. That we’ll be His hands and feet. By listening to our heart, we will find our place among the body and meet those particular needs that we’re passionate about. It is a beautiful freedom of service and is collectively extremely powerful.
However, tithing to our local church isn’t an optional practice that we are to wait for our heart to lead us in to. It is a command. Jesus never abolished tithing but called us to an even higher standard than the old covenant demanded. It is a practice and principle that all believers should follow. When we don’t, consequences ensue.
Why are many churches so weak? Pastors struggle to get members engaged to serve one another and the community. Small groups shrink and weekend attendance rarely expands. Unity is rare and dysfunction is normal. Many churches bear little resemblance to the community and generosity of the early church.
While there could be many reasons for these symptoms, I’d suggest one of them is found in these statistics from Non Profit Source:
- Tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a normal congregation.
- Churches that accept tithing online increase overall donations by 32%.
- Only 5% tithe, and 80% of Americans only give 2% of their income.
- Christians are giving at 2.5% of income; during the Great Depression it was 3.3%.
- Only 3-5% of Americans who give to their local church do so through regular tithing.
- When surveyed, 17% of Americans state that they regularly tithe.
- For families making $75k+, 1% of them gave at least 10% in tithing.
Note that in the above, it is likely that many consider “tithing” to be any giving to their church, not an actual 10% as the word “tithe” defines. This may explain some of the apparent discrepancies in the various statistics.
It is clear that even among church going Americans, faithfully giving 10% of one’s income to the local church is very rare.
Going back to Matthew 6:21, we must remember that “treasure leads, heart follows”. The reason many people don’t want togive to their local church…is because they don’tgive to their local church!
When you start faithfully and obediently giving 10% of your income to the place that you worship each week, suddenly your view of church changes. You aren’t so critical of the preaching, because you love your pastor. Volunteering isn’t a burden, because you love your community. Showing up for small group isn’t something you do begrudgingly, because you love your community. Suddenly your heart is invested in the same local church that you so easily judged before.
What’s the result of this? Blessings upon blessings!
Blessing for you as you function under the covering and with the support of your church community and leadership. Blessing for your church as they prosper financially and grow out of the creativity and wisdom of their congregants. Blessing for your community as every member excitedly brings their friends and family to the place you can’t stop talking about. Obedience is always followed by blessing and the grass grows greenest where your water it.
Giving above and beyond your tithe to foreign missions, political efforts, and other worthy causes should absolutely be part of your generosity. However, these should be built on the foundation of your investment and participation in a strong local church…and that starts with investing your treasure there first.
“But I can’t afford to give 10% to my church and still support the causes I’m passionate about as well!”
This statement is made out of fear, not faith. It is our carnal minds being mathematical and not obedient.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Maybe you’re right that today the math doesn’t work out. Having a budget and a plan is important as generosity must always be paired with good stewardship. That doesn’t mean, however, that the math can’t change. Faith is the first step that empowers God to move in His provision and power.
If you’ve made pledges or monthly commitments to organizations outside of your church, I’d encourage you to honor those while also increasing giving to your church to 10% of your gross income. While it may seem impossible, you will likely find that in your budget if you’re willing to make some sacrifices. It is best to honor your word and also be obedient. Over time as those pledges and promises are fulfilled, perhaps you don’t renew them unless your budget allows. More likely, you’ll find that somehow that 15% or 20% giving isn’t really that hard and that God is increasing your resources in response to your obedience. It is amazing how God responds when we trust Him!
If you haven’t made formal pledges or commitments, start scaling back on your offerings (giving above the tithe) to allocate more to the church while staying in proper balance of saving, spending, and giving.
I walked through this same process several years ago. I was making decent money and wanted to give 10% but wasn’t convinced that it all had to go to the local church. Instead, I gave 7% to my church and 3% to various ministries and missions. When God began to speak to me about His heart on tithing and why He wanted me invested in my local church, I decided to increase my true tithe to 10% (to the church) while still honoring the monthly commitments I’d made. This brought up my total giving to 13%.
While it took some faith, what happened in the following years was evidence of God’s blessing in every area. My income doubled as I received multiple promotions. I was given opportunities to speak and teach on platforms I didn’t seek. I became involved in the small group where I gained not only friends but met my eventual father-in-law! God opened the windows of heaven and poured out His blessings. My wife and I are still trying to figure out how to manage it all, as there certainly isn’t room enough to store it. We’ve been able to increase our giving beyond what I even imagined while I was doing my 7%, 3% split.
I’ll leave you with one last picture before we close. Imagine there was a billionaire and they decided to solve the homeless problem in their city. They build the best shelter, pay the best staff, and serve the best meals to get all of the people off the street. Maybe they even hire the best counselors and doctors to treat the underlying issues of the homeless population. They could have a tremendous impact, but ultimately it would only go as long as they provided the funds to sustain it. They provided an answer but not a solution.
Now imagine instead that a community decided to solve the homeless problem in their city. They each give of their funds, donate their time and expertise, and invite the homeless in to their homes to see what healthy community and family looks like. Business owners have grace enough to give homeless people job opportunities. Teachers give education to equip rather than money to sustain. Rather than a movement being sustained by the money from a single billionaire donor, it is sustained by the church body. Rather than a single lifeline, there is a sinuous and strong network of passionate and invested individuals working together to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.
This is a picture of when believers are invested in their church through tithing. It is so much stronger than any one person. While the financial obligations may be met when 10% of a congregation gives 10% of their income, the long-term impact and Kingdom growth will never be what God intended. Tithing is about so much more than money. God is after His children’s hearts, not their pocketbooks.
In closing, I’d encourage you to respond in obedience to God’s command to give 10% of your increase to your local church. He wants you to be invested in your church and community in order to receive the blessing He desires in all areas. We can only do this when our hearts are fully “there” in our local church. Whatever else He may call you to, it is only designed to be done from the foundation of, submitted to, and in partnership with your local church.
For His Kingdom and Glory,