Three Destructive Dangers of the 10% Only Doctrine

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There was a time in my life when I gave 10% of everything I earned.  It’s what I was taught to do.  I think it is an important stage in learning to give.

I’m thankful that I was taught how to give.  I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn to give with a cheerful heart.   Still, it can be dangerous if we believe all God ever asks, wants, or requires from us is 10% for the rest of our lives, forever and ever, amen.  End of story.

I call this belief the 10% Only Doctrine.

To be clear, I think the Give 10% (tithe) and 10% Only Doctrines are different.  Some people teach giving 10% should be a starting point for all Christians, and eventually they’ll grow to give more.  Others teach that God has no minimum amount he’s wanting us to give, but we should always grow to give more.

Honestly, depending on circumstances, I think both have merit. (I know people hate the fact that I won’t pick a side in the to-tithe or not-to-tithe debate.  Heres’ my thoughts on different giving strategies.).  I think that conversation is less important than the one that’s happening now.

Is there a place for giving more than 10%?

I don’t think many Christian teachers are teaching the 10% only doctrine.  But, I know some of us are misunderstanding things, and we think that 10% is the God-ordained amount for every Christian to give for all time.  I know, because I’ve seen your comments and read your emails.  There are indeed some Christians who are content to give 10% only for the rest of their lives.

  • When I talk about giving 10% only, givers say, giving ten percent is clean and easy.  No need to complicate things by asking if God is looking for more.
  • When I talk about giving 10% only, givers remind me that ten percent is for God and 90 percent is for us.  It’s God’s way to guarantee a bigger cut each time we get a salary increase.  10% is consistent for everyone (like it’s some type of a fair tax agreement between God and man).

All I can say is that I wish that were true.  My Christian life would be a lot simpler if I knew that I was glorifying God if I kept a calculator handy every time I got paid to ensure that God got his cut.  That would be so simple!

However, I can’t even begin to see how that mind set or teaching has any place in the Bible. 

To be clear, I’m not talking about tithers vs no tithers.  That’s not the issue today.  There are people who tithe and give more.  There are people who give a part of their income and refuse to call it tithing.  The question today is, do you think God would ever want, expect, require, or ask a person to give more than 10%?

If the answer is yes, we’re called to be constantly vigilant about what we are giving.

If we are new or young Christians, I think we may need to develop the habit of giving.  We may need to experiment with giving.  We may need to learn how to give.  For some of you, giving 5% would require a huge faith commitment.  May God bless you as you develop the spiritual habit of giving.  I’m not talking about changing the 10% to a different higher percentage and pronouncing 10% is out and 15% is in.

I’m challenging all Christians to take inventory of their blessings and respond appropriately.  That may mean giving more than 10%.

If you were to wake up in 20 years earning $500,000 a year, do you believe you’d be honoring God by writing a check for $4,166.666666666666 every month?  If you say yes, you’re a 10% Only giver.  If you say, “I don’t know, it would depend on what’s happening at that time”, then you’re open to God using you in a greater capacity.

The Three Dangers of the 10% Only Doctrine

The 10% Only doctrine is dangerous because it easily leads to complacency.

I think the Gospel inherently brings tension with it.

In so many aspects and avenues of our lives, the Gospel Call refuses to let us off the hook.  God wants us to constantly be transformed and molded into the image of Christ.  At the point I start to feel proud about the fact that I’ve never committed adultery, I’m asked to look into my heart and wonder if I’ve ever looked at a woman lustfully.  There’s always too much me and not enough Christ in my heart.  I suspect that battle will continue till the day I die.

The Christian stakes are always higher.  The process of sanctification is never complete.

The 10% Only doctrine is dangerous because it ignores the uniqueness of our incomes, skills, gifts, experiences, and more.

God has blessed our family with a unique experience by allowing us to live here in Papua New Guinea.  This experience has changed us and continues to change us.

I think God wants us to respond appropriately to what we’ve seen and heard.

God has blessed our family with additional monetary blessings.

I think God wants us to respond appropriately based on what we have.

On and on we could go.

I think if I were talking with someone who had a lot of debt and to someone who had five million in the bank earning $1 million a year, I wouldn’t advise each to give 10% and call it a day.  I believe that the more we are blessed with, the more God expects from us (Luke 12:48).  That Biblical teaching leaves little room for the give 10% and forget it mind set.

The 10% Only doctrine is dangerous because it limits our giving, and thus, our opportunity for more blessings.

Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than receive.

If we teach people to feel content giving 10%, then we’re helping them miss out on a part of the blessedness Christ intended for them.

What if we taught people that God will guide our giving up to or beyond 10%?  God will use us for his Kingdom as long as we put him first.  What if we grew to maturity to a point where we were not willing to attach a set percentage of what God asks or every Christian?

So, what’s a healthier giving ‘system’?  I’m a fan of both proportionate giving and the graduated tithe.

What are your thoughts about the 10% Only doctrine?


  1. Thomas says

    Wow, Craig. What a great post!

    I think you hit the nail right on the head when you said that the 10% doctorine can make us complacent in our giving. My wife and I usually setup our budget one to two months in advance, so we can see where we are going. It’s so easy to just take our monthly income, multiply it by 10%, and adjust our giving/tithing categories to match the 10% mark. Then, all we have to do is cut checks on the first of the month to various charities and our church and proceed with life as usual, treating the other money as “available for us” money. Sure, it’s great that we are giving to our church and a couple other Christian organizations, but after that initial decision is made to give to these causes, the “cheerful giving spirit” is removed and the whole process becomes automated.

    That said, I think the 10% doctorine can, in fact, be a dangerous one. And I definitely see some changes coming my way in the future!

    Thanks, Craig for the encouraging words!

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