Faith & Spirituality Finances & Money

Why I don’t tithe (in the traditional sense)

Tithe Definition from

tithe   [tahyth] noun, verb, tithed, tith·ing.


1. the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.
2. any tax, levy, or the like, especially of one-tenth.
3. a tenth part or any indefinitely small part of anything.
verb (used with object)
4. to give or pay a tithe or tenth of (produce, money, etc.).
5. to give or pay tithes on (crops, income, etc.).
6. to exact a tithe from (a person, community, parish, etc.).
7. to levy a tithe on (crops, income, etc.).
Ok, now that we’ve gotten the definition out of the way (without quoting scripture), here’s why I don’t follow along with the traditional sense of “tithing” (giving 10% of my income to the church):

I like to spread the wealth

While at year-end when I do taxes, I see that I haven’t given close to 10% of our income (pre- or post-tax) to charity, I think we’re doing pretty darn good. And each year we give out more and more. But I don’t like to just give to one place. I like to give to my church, to animal shelters, to rebuilding efforts, and also to friends and family (discussed in a bit).

I have a friend who insists he is a good Christian because he tithes 10% of his income before spending on anything. Good for him. However, I also know about his financial situation outside of his charitable donations and I also know about his charitable WORK because he’s told me directly…

It’s not all about the money

This friend of mine thinks that he’s following “the law” and giving his money, so he’s saved (well, in addition to going to church and not swearing or drinking. That’s about it in his mind). But let’s focus on “the law”. It’s great to give up a good chunk of your pay to your church, or anywhere, but to me, giving away money is the easy part. I want to know WHAT ARE YOU DOING for your fellow man? I’m a leader in a charitable organization associated with our church, and in that capacity, just this year, I’ve spent over 100 hours of my time rebuilding a home for a needy woman, unloading and selling hundreds of Christmas trees for our church, running charity dinners and more. When a neighbor asked for help to disassemble a weight machine and deliver it to a local Hispanic shelter for their gym, I was right on board. I even stayed overtime to put it all back together, although I crushed my hands in the process.

While I don’t like leading, when someone asks or I see someone in need, I will jump in. Recently another neighbor’s church adopted a family. They were calling for toys for the kids, but what the family needed most was rent money. I contributed 25% of their large rent bill and got the fellow neighbors to kick in for the rest. The kids got toys for Christmas, but more importantly, the family didn’t get evicted (for at least one more month).

So my question is when it’s time for action, what do you do? Are you the type to just throw money at it and walk away or do you jump in and see how you can do more? It’s not just about money. Tithing is just one part of the equation, and in my opinion, a very small part. I think DOING makes much more of a difference.

And where do you think your money goes? Ok, put it in the collection basket or mail it in, but do you follow up to see how it’s being used? Do you see it’s going to help support a soup kitchen? If so, do you offer up your TIME to serve at that soup kitchen? Follow the money and you’ll find there has to be someone at the end volunteering their time and they always need more volunteers.

When it’s hurting you financially…

Let’s get back to my friend. I already cracked down on his lack of DOING (because he thinks the financial donation is enough), but I also mentioned I know more about his financial situation. Sure, 10% “goes to God”, but what about his other 90%? They make good money, have 2 kids and a nice house in a outer suburbs of the D.C. region. The problem has always been, though, that he loves spending. They are so jacked up in debt, they can barely breathe! Now, I’ll put this out there that if they weren’t the tithing type, they would still be swimming in debt, so if they wanted to help themselves, they would have to pair up stopping tithing and enforcing control and discipline to reduce their debt.

Why am I picking on them? They make almost as much as my wife and I combined, but he has no college degree and he’s 9 years older than me. He cares more about shopping for deals at work than working, even though he works for a university AND SHOULD BE GETTING HIS DEGREE! (his boss and boss’ boss are pushing him to do it now). He’s still paying the minimum on his one car (Acura) and they bought a shiny, new Acura MDX last year. And, of course, they’re paying the minimum on that. They’re not really saving up for their kids’ college education because he assumes he’ll stay at the university and get a cheap education for them…but we all know that might not work out. What if he loses his job, what if they want to go elsewhere, etc. Lastly, they keep refinancing their house to use the home equity to pay down their credit cards and then rack up more debt! (And it costs money to refinance too, remember?).

Dumb. Just dumb.

Contrast that now with my wife and I. We have no kids. Our house is half the size, but twice as costly, but we have 25% of it paid off already in just 7 years (I’d do more, but I’d rather invest than sink it into a stagnant housing market). We have no credit card debt. We have no card loan debt. We have no student loan debt or personal loan debts. Just one mortgage and that’s it.

Does that mean we should be giving even more than 10%? In my opinion, and to close the article, I think we’re doing just fine with the combination of money, gifts AND time we donate to various organizations and individuals around us. I always feel guilty that I should do more, but I live with that and work with it. I do more when I can and pull back when I feel overloaded. I don’t and won’t just throw money at a problem and walk away. I dig into it and find out how I can do more.

So, tithe if you want and/or feel obligated to, but don’t just toss the money in the collection plate and walk away. Spend your time too. Do, don’t just pay.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Most charities need donations of both time and money, and there’s nothing wrong with giving just one. When I was in college, I did a ton of volunteer work. I wasn’t in a position to contribute much money, so I was grateful to the donors whose financial generosity allowed the other volunteers and me to do something good with our time. Now that I have a job with long hours and good pay, I can afford to make financial donations, but I don’t have a lot of time to volunteer. I am grateful to those who have the time to volunteer so that my money can be used for a good cause. Win-win. It’s great that you are in a position to donate both time and money, but not everyone is, and charities are happy to get whatever money and/or time people are able to give.

  • Tithing, according to the church I attend, includes both time and talents. At the end of the year we receive pledge forms for tithe and talents. Along with a form to submit a pledge, the church sends a list of ministries and volunteer activities that we can choose and also an amount of time we can give. Our church suggests 5% to them and another 5% to whatever charities we feel close to…very reasonable.

    You sound judgmental of your friend. At least he is contributing and doing what he can…and it sounds like he is prospering which is what God promises the faithful tither…I’m sure you are familiar with the verse in Malachi which promises abundance to be overflowing to one who gives 10%…

  • @Dave, that’s in interesting spin on tithing at your church, but it still sounds limited in how you can volunteer your time, unless I’m reading it wrong (I apologize if I did).

    As for my friend, I’ve known him well for 10 years and we’ve shared a lot of personal secrets and knowledge of each others’ lives, habits, and more. I am confident that his tithing is more related to the feeling of entitlement after giving 10% rather than the joy of giving. If you only read that one verse from Malachi as you presented it (out of context obviously), then all you have to do to be blessed is give up 10%, but we both know there’s a lot more to getting into the Kingdom. Good deeds, believing in Christ as your savior are, in my opinion, much more important than financial support. However, financial support, to me, falls under “good deeds”. I just don’t see the point in the number “10”. Why not 20% or 5%? Is God an accountant? Does God actually care about the final number or that you’re doing the best you can and pushing yourself to improve every day?

    These are rhetorical questions because we don’t and won’t know what God has in store for us at the end (unless you take Revelation literally, but even then it’s up to major debate).

  • Taking advantage of opportunites to improve yourself should be a given. Especially in this economy. Does your friend think that universites never have lay offs?

    • @Gina, I don’t think he’s very forward-thinking. Again, I think he feels he’s entitled to things rather than he should continue to improve to EARN things.

  • Hmm… Gutsy post, man. I like it!!

    Tithing and giving are obviously personal issues/choices. With that said, If your friend is a Christian and feels that giving 10% equals salvation, then I believe he is getting some bad doctrine – that is not what my bible says. But it does say to tithe, and tithe does mean 10%. God doesn’t need the money, but he asks for it as a sign of faith and worship. It is from that spirit that your friend should be giving, not to earn a gold star.

    In my opinion an understanding, that is separate and distinct from service and giving of your time.

    Putting aside the theology, all charitable giving (money and/or time) is good. There is clearly a lot of need in the world and doing what we can helps others in direct as well as unexpected ways. I believe that giving time or money changes us personally for the better as well. It encourages an external focus and purpose, instead of a selfish one.

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