Christian Giving, Christian Tithing & Other Giving Strategies

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Some people just want to learn skills and techniques on how to increase their business profit.  Others want to know how to maximize their investment returns.  In an effort to learn those things, people go chasing after various techniques and strategies. 

Today, I want to introduce some common strategies for Christian giving or Christian tithing.   Some of these are teachings, and others are strategies and techniques on giving.

How Should Christians Give? Four Common Answers

The Christian Tithe: Give 10%

Since writing to a larger Christian audience, I’ve been surprised at how controversial the Christian tithe is.  I come from a background where ‘Christian giving’ and ‘Christian tithing’ was used interchangeably (though honestly I never heard the word ‘tithe’ very much).  However, I’ve come to learn that many people use tithing in a completely different way.

Notes on the Christian tithe

  • Tithes are not payments – I hear people saying they “pay their tithes” instead we should “give our gifts/tithes”.
  • Tithes are not taxes – There is a sense that you give a tithe out of requirement just like you pay taxes.
  • Tithing should combine a right action and a right attitude. 

I think God is honored when people choose to give 10% of their income.  In fact, I do think it is a good place to start your giving.  I’ve shared my thoughts on giving while in debt in case you’re interested in that topic. 

Proportionate Christian Giving: Give 10% Plus More Based On Income

Dorothy Day once suggested that, for all Christians, the tithe should be a starting point, but every Christian should strive for something she called proportionate giving. 

I’ve written about proportionate giving, so I’ll just touch on it briefly here.  

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11 NIV)

Proportionate giving means that we give according to how we have been blessed.  As such, if God has showered you with tremendous financial blessings, he has enabled you to be more active in the grace of giving. 

The Graduated Tithe: Give an extra 5% for every $1000 you receive above a base salary

The graduated tithe is a giving strategy for Christians who identify with the importance of proportionate giving, but who are still looking for some added direction. 

I’m a fan of the graduated tithe and, as a matter of fact, my wife and I agreed in 2008 to share in the grace of giving through a graduated tithe structure. 

Essentially, with the graduate tithe you choose a base salary and then make a covenant to give a large percentage out of every raise, bonus, or extra income you receive.  Typically, the graduated tithe is broken into blocks of $1,000 and you give an additional 5% of each $1,000 you earn.  Basically, once you start making $18,000 more than your current salary, you will give away 100% of everything extra you earn above that mark. 

You can read more about the graduated tithe

Give What You Want: Give From Your Heart Without Any Numerical or Percentage Guidance

There are some who feel like these other forms of giving are too legalistic or that they are not biblically based.  As a result, these encourage people to give what they want when they want.  They never suggest a percentage, but do speak highly of the joy of giving.  They think this best fulfills the biblical description of Christian giving.

Those who promote cheerful giving want to remove the burden and guilt of giving in order to make it a purely voluntary act.  This way, they think all people will be blessed by participating in giving.

Fighting, Christian Giving, and Christian Tithing

I’m deeply saddened by the dark, bitter, and hateful way I’ve seen people argue about different giving strategies (not this post, but others I’ve read).  There are some tithe crusaders and some anti-tithe crusaders, and together each has managed to stir up enough bad blood that this topic is extremely sensitive. 

I’m going to be very selective about comments.  If your comment is bitter or hateful, it will be deleted – regardless of your position.  If it is edifying, loving, and informative, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

 Which giving strategy do you use?  Why do you find that beneficial?  Is there a loving way we can accept others who accept a different giving strategy?

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve never heard of the graduated tithe. I don’t recall Larry Burkett mentioning it. I’d be curious where that came from. I like the idea.

    Every Christian should give something but not from guilt or fear. Give because you want to help others. God loves a cheerful giver. Give to your local church first. Give first, then save, then pay bills.

    I can tell you what I did. I started my giving at $20/week. It don’t sound like much, but if all Christians did this, how much money could be raised for kingdom work? Giving is a trust issue and a testimony that God owns everything, and he will supply our needs.

    • says

      Arthur,
      Ron Sider is the one who first introduced the graduated tithe. He has done some amazing inner city work and is really active in promoting the social responsibilities of the gospel.
      Thanks for sharing a little about your giving journey. I think that the important thing is that we start and then God will help us to grow from there.

  2. says

    You are so right, I’ve heard “pay my tithe” since forever and never really thought anything about it. Give sounds so much nicer, and correct actually. The right attitude is super important, God loves a cheerful giver. My parents trained me to give when I was younger, thats what allowance (for chores!) was for. So thankfully that never departed from me. I agree with giving above and beyond, we can’t out give God! :)
    .-= lencib: Falling into Favor´s last blog ..Not in Agreement =-.

  3. says

    I don’t really fall into any of your categories, Craig. The closest would be the fourth one – “Give What You Want”. But my view goes much deeper than that, and I’d say you have to arrive at some point where you decide on a number or percentage (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit). You then need to continually revisit that amount to ensure you’re still following God’s will. Finally, it’s not about giving what you want – it’s about giving what God wants you to give.

    Contrary to what some people think, it’s not an excuse to give less. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that all Christians (especially in America considering our prosperity) are to give generously and sacrificially. How can our response to God’s love result in any other kind of giving?

    I can get pretty heated when I discuss tithing versus generous giving, but it’s not out of a hatred for other Christians. I also try to refrain from bitterness and focus on speaking the truth in love. I just desire that we seek God’s truth rather than human teaching. I don’t want to argue with those who support tithing. I prefer to point to the life and example of Jesus. In every discussion of giving after the cross, Jesus is the standard by which we are to determine our giving. I just wrote about this in my article Tithing Is So Old Testament”.

    Thanks for bringing up an important topic, Craig!
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Records Do I Need to Keep for My IRA Contributions? =-.

    • says

      @Paul
      So you’re a whole different kind of animal, eh?
      I guess anytime you make boxes someone is not going to fit into any :).
      I completely agree that Christians are free to give an amount that is informed by the Holy Spirit. Some peple do need some guidance and in that case I will suggest they try 10% not as a legally binding activity, but as an experiment.
      BTW, I loved the title of your article – Tithing is so Old Testament.

    • says

      they could turn the tithe into money and spend the money and buy what they wanted and their hseouhold was to rejoice before the Lord in doing so, i won’t post the verses, read the whole chapter; so in that chapter HE doesn’t tell them to tithe off of the money HE tells them to spend it. The tithe was to be eaten just like you eat a meal, so i say if folk want to tithe then when you go grocery shopping take a 1/10 of your groceries and take it to the food bank and feed to hungry or help a poor widow or orphan child as it is written, and the Levite doesn’t doesn’t even exist today so we won’t even discuss them, but if someone wants to include them as being the pastors or church leaders of today then it says the levite didn’t have any inheritance, that meant land and houses, so any one pastors or church leaders that are receiving tithes should give up their land and houses because they actually should be in a needy position to recieve tithe..

  4. says

    The struggle I have with tithing 10% to my church is that there are SO MANY NEEDS outside the church budget that I want to help with… And I’m not sure that other giving “counts” against tithing. Can I send that last $100 of my monthly tithe to the pro-life ministry down the road, or must I give it to the church to pay the heating bills? Does my giving to secular charities count towards my “tithe,” or only my giving to religious-based charities? Or neither? What about giving to the church benevolence fund? You get the idea…

    I don’t ask this to be legalistic, but when people say “give 10%” they dont even define what they mean by it…
    .-= gn´s last blog ..Time Machine: Health Care in USA circa 2025 =-.

    • says

      @gn
      Good point about feeling obligated to give 10% to the church. While I was in North America I started doing most of my giving outside of my local church. Eventually I felt that if I was entrusting my spiritual life to this church body then I should also entrust our finances to that leadership.
      But, there certainly is no ‘law’ that says it must be giving to the local church.
      There are also unique situations where someone must be flexible. In my hometown there is an extreemly wealthy man. He does not give 10% to the local church becuase he feels as thought everyone would just depend on his giving.

  5. says

    Yeah, we can’t make boxes that will fit everyone. But I wasn’t giving you a hard time about it. :)

    I’m glad you liked the title to that article. I was finally able to say what I really feel in that article. I’ve spent too much time in the past focused on the errors of those who teach a strict doctrine of tithing for Christians. That post got to the heart of why I’m so adamant against such teaching, and I felt good after I wrote it.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Records Do I Need to Keep for My IRA Contributions? =-.

  6. Cedric D'Hue says

    Excellent discussion Craig,

    I am a traditional 10% of gross income is the tithe guy. I think God’s Word is pretty clear that tithing 10% is a biblical requirement. I also believe that if a Christian cannot tithe 10% cheerfully, don’t tithe until you can cheerfully give. Recognize what you are willing to cheerfully give and start there. Ask God to move in your heart and show you how to increase your giving over time to at least 10% of gross income.

    I think there is danger in accepting others who have opinions clearly contrary to God’s Word. A different interpretation is no problem and a thorough discussion of God’s Word benefits every believer.

    @Paul Williams, I read your article “Tithing is So Old Testament.” Per your request for a mention of Tithe in the New Testament, please review Matthew 23:23 “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” This is Jesus speaking to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. He states that they tithe: “you give a tenth of your spices.” He also states that they should continue to tithe: “you should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Paul, if you would like to correspond about this scripture in more detail please feel free to email me at cedric.dhue@gmail.com.

    @Craig, I’m not so sure about the “law of giving to the local church.” Have you considered I. Cor 16:2? “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” This is Paul speaking to the church at Corinth (and about what he told the Galatian churches to do). He asks the local church to gather together their savings in order to send their gift to Jerusalem. In conjunction with Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. . . “, my interpretation is we should provide our whole tithe to our local church in order to do God’s Work.

    @gn, have you considered talking to your local church about supporting some of the other needs of the community? Please check out Acts 6:1-3: ” In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”” These scriptures discuss how church members stepped up to take ministry roles to fill needs of the local community.

    I too believe that Tithing discussions can become very heated and unproductive. See Ecc. 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Some discussion and discourse is good though, right? Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another. I’ve tried to not be harsh, but I tried to base all responses and comments on God’s Word.

    @Craig! Don’t delete my post!

    • says

      @cedric
      Since you asked so nicely I did not delete your comment :).
      As per, 1 Cor 16:2 I’ve never read it in such a way so as to say that one must give 10% to the local church. Paul certainly could have been more clear if he felt like this was crucial.
      I do not think a person would be judged because they gave money directly to the poor.

  7. says

    @Cedric:

    Thanks for reading my article and for your comments. However, I wanted to note that I didn’t ask for a tithing verse in the New Testament. I asked for one that appears after Jesus’ death which is when the New Covenant began. I’ve discussed the verse you mention in another article called “Did Jesus Teach Tithing?”.

    What it really boils down to is whether you think we’re still under the Law of Moses or not. That’s basically what you’re saying when you say that the tithe is a Biblical requirement for Christians today. If that’s what you believe, we need to be discussing the book of Galatians rather than tithing.

    Thank you again for your comments. I did not take them offensively, and I did not mean for mine to be offensive either. As you said, iron sharpens iron.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Records Do I Need to Keep for My IRA Contributions? =-.

  8. Cedric D'Hue says

    @Paul Williams,

    Thank you for your response and additional article referencing Matt 23:23 and Luke 11:42. They are well reasoned. I am no biblical scholar. As a Christian (whether initially Jew or Gentile) I seek to follow Christ in everything including His spoken word. The bible is full of examples where Christ tells His disciples and others to follow Him, including what He says. For example, Luke 9:23: “Then He [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” Matthew 7:24-27: ” 24″Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.””

    I do believe tithing is a biblical requirement which first occured in Genesis 14 between Abram and Melchizedek (approximately 400 years before the laws of Moses). I believe tithing predates the laws of Moses. I saw in your second article the discussion of Jesus being born under the law as discussed in Galatians. For me, that Jesus was born under the law doesn’t change my belief to follow all of His teachings including His spoken Word. I noted your perspective that the tithe was food. That is very perceptive and I see where you are going. For a largely agricultural society, giving food makes sense. We are no longer largely agricultural and I think there are examples where the tithe was likely not all food. For example, in Genesis 14 I don’t think that all of Abram’s spoils of war were food.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed our discussion. I am happy to see that your perspective takes into consideration very relevant scriptures from God’s Word. Blessings upon you and your household, Paul Williams.

    @Craig. Thanks for not deleting my posts!!! :) Thanks for your response and for the great forum for discussion.

  9. says

    @Cedric:

    Thanks for your thoughtful and kind response. I have two comments to make in reply to yours.

    1. If Abram’s example of tithing to Melchizedek is the reason we should tithe, then why are we to tithe off of our income while Abram only tithed from spoils of war (which contained nothing of his own earnings/possessions)?

    2. The fact that the tithe was only food and never money has very little to do with Israel being an agricultural society. There were many Israelites who would not have been farmers (Jesus and his disciples for instance) and would not have tithed (unless they were doing it on their garden spices like the Pharisees). The tithe was specifically from food produced within the Promised Land and was a reminder to the Israelites that God gave them the land. Money was an available and widely used object during that time, and God could certainly have explained the tithe in those terms if He had wished. But you will never find a passage in the Bible where the tithe was supposed to come from monetary income. I think we need to stop, think about that, and research it in light of all Scripture rather than dismissing it as a convenience factor for an agricultural society.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..Do I Need to File a Tax Return? =-.

  10. Cedric D'Hue says

    @Paul Williams,

    I believe that the tithe is based on all increase. See Genesis 14:20: “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (NIV) “Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.” (NLT). I also don’t believe in the whole back tithe thing where if you were not tithing you have to “catch up.” I think Genesis 14 is a good example to just start tithing today.

    I also believe that God owns all (Ps. 24:1: “1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”). I also believe that Jesus teaches us to give to God what God owns whether it is food or money. For example: Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25 all basically state: “Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”” Whether we see financial increase through growing crops or raising animals or paychecks, the tithe is a way for us to honor God first by giving a portion back to Him before considering anything else.

    Hopefully I’ve adequately responded to your comments. I’ve enjoyed our discussion immensly. You have helped me put some of my beliefs into words. I respect your perspective and hopefully this discussion was beenficial to you as well.

  11. says

    @Cedric:

    I agree that everything is God’s. I also agree that it is good for us to give. But my concern is with teaching tithing as the giving standard all Christians must follow. We are given better principles and examples in the New Covenant and in the life of Jesus. The 10% tithe can too easily become another box to check off on our Christian worksheets. Giving under the New Covenant requires more time and prayer than simple formulas.

    In reference to what the tithe was designed for and how it was to be instituted, I’d ask that you consider all the verses about tithing in the Bible and consider them in their proper context. The problem with saying we should tithe because Abram did it is that it was Abram’s choice – not a commandment from God. Same goes with Jacob’s example. Consider the verses where God commanded a tithe from the Israelites, look at them in context, and then see how that fits with all the Scriptures we find in the New Testament about giving. We’re under a much higher standard than 10%, and it’s foolish to keep putting ourselves under a lesser, weaker law when we have something better.

    I appreciate the discussion as well. Even though I disagree with you, I still respect you. My comments are not an attack on you but rather an attempt to base teaching about giving on the Bible rather than man’s ideas.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..Do I Need to File a Tax Return? =-.

  12. says

    Love the title Craig! Definitely caught my attention. I agree with you in the fact that I’m saddened by the arguing that goes on around the subject of tithing and giving. I believe that we love and serve a giving God and he wants us to be just like him.
    From my experience in financial coaching for my church and speaking on the topic of stewardship over the last 7 years is that many people do not tithe & give because by the time they are introduced to these principals they are in such a bad financial situation that the thought of having another 10% + of there money go is scary!
    That is why I believe it is so important to teach our children the principals of tithing and giving early so that when they begin to earn money this will not be a problem for them because it’s already the first thing they do when they receive money!
    I might as well add (I’m sure you can tell by now) I’m a firm believer in tithing 10% of any gross income plus giving more on top of that. As it’s been said many times, in other comments, God is looking at our attitude and our paying tithes and giving offerings is a way for us to show that we trust, love and are thankful for all that he’s done for us!
    .-= Carlos Frank´s last blog ..To Tithe or Not To Tithe? =-.

  13. Vicky says

    Thank you so much Paul Williams. Your insights have been very helpful to me. I, too, have long shared the belief that we must give from our hearts as cheerful givers and not the Old testament ten percent tithe. I think many Christians are saddled with enormous guilt, and I have been one of them in the past, over those who push the ten percent doctrine. I choose to give monetarily, of my time, of my gifts, to the Lord. I give also in any other manner God sees fit to use me. I give to my church, my family, my friends, to charity etc. I am a willing and humble servant.

  14. says

    I’d say we fall into the proportionate Christians. While I understand the arguments against the tithe as a requirement, I also feel that Jesus set the bar much higher for us as Christians when he took away Mosaic law. The early church shared everything as much as possible. They were instructed by Jesus to freely and cheerfully give. I believe that the number isn’t as important as your heart and that you honestly and faithfully consider it God’s money.

    All that said, I do believe that people spending excessively and not being able to give at least 10% because of their lifestyle need to spend some time in scripture and prayer to ensure that their decision aligns with God’s desires for their lives. We view 10% as a minimum bar that God gave to us as a template for giving. Just as we were called to not just commit adultery but also to avoid lust…I believe in the call for us to give is greater in the New Testament than in the Old Testament and therefore our response should be greater. I will acknowledge that God calls each of us differently and if you can earnestly say that God is only calling you to give some amount less than 10%, then in my book you are doing right.

  15. Chris says

    We have all heard that we ‘must’ give our money to God first. The problem is that this is NOT the teaching of the New Testament.

    1 Tim 5:4 says we should ‘first’ care for our families…including extended families.
    1 Tim 5:8 says that if we do no do this we are worse than unbelievers.

    Jesus had the same argument with the Jewish religious practice called ‘corban’. He pointed out that our first obligation before God was to honor our parents…which includes supporting them materially if this is required…in accordance with the fourth commandment.

    There can only be one ‘first’ in regards to financial obligations. In regard to love and worship God comes first….but we demonstrate this love by obeying his command to care for our families ‘first’

    Chris

    • Scott says

      Chris you could not have said this any better. I would suggest to any christian concerning their money, time, materials, or words. Before you do anything the first thing one should do is search the word first and see what God commands. So many follow what man says and some what disregard the word of God or just don’t know what the word of God says.

  16. sloan says

    My question is not should I tithe but to whom should I tithe to? I do not belong to an organized religious group but I do want to tithe to God. As a follower of Jesus Christ can I give my tithe to a needy individual or group or even a minister, to whomever I feel that I should. For instance, we have a elder care apartment home and some of its residence do not have enough money to care for themselves and I would like to give my tithe to them. Is this acceptable or must I give to a church.

  17. says

    Agree on both the comments about the need to tithe and the fact that God loves more then we can. Starting out 10% can be a hard ask, but actually as income grows it remains hard until it is a priority.

    • says

      I agree that giving 10% will be hard until it is a priority – not matter ones income. Giving is a spiritual decision not a reflection of ones financial health.

  18. sila says

    Acts 5:1 – 11- Ananias and Sapphira his wife kept back part of the money from their possession that was sold. They lied to the Holy Spirit that they will give the rest but kept back part of the price. They did tempt the Holy Spirit and both died. We need not to tempt the Holy Spirit with our giving as they did.

  19. Ken Harwood says

    Craig, thanks for this article. I have a question. We have always tithed our 10% and beyond to our church but sometimes we give it or spend it on other things within our church, like the Awana Program or children’s church and simply tithe less on Sunday morning. Is there anything wrong with that? Does a donation to God’s work have to be sent through the church treasury? I understand the book keeping process, but some feel all funds should be decided where spent by a budget committee. Thoughts?
    Thanks, Ken.

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