Musings on Giving or Tithing While In Debt (Revisited)

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One of the most frequently viewed pages on this blog is my post about giving while in debt.  There’s also a lot of diversity when it comes to the feedback on that post.

Since it’s been over three years since I wrote that original post, I thought I’d revisit the question to see if my stance on the topic has changed.

In this post, I’m just going to share several thoughts that impact my views on the topic of giving or tithing while in debt.

Giving or Tithing While In Debt: Thoughts to Consider

God is not the God of the Calculator, but the God of our Hearts.

I bet I could give more to God if I saved every penny I earned, invested it, and then left it all to a charity when I died.

If God were the God of the calculator, he’d be pleased with that decision.

But he’s not.

The sum total of our contributions has little to do with the condition of our hearts.

Why is this important?

God wants our hearts.  God wants us to pursue him.  God wants our lives to be consumed and obsessed with him.  God wants every decision to be made in light of who he is.

Giving is one (of many ways) we give God our hearts.

Giving while in debt is a question of foundation.  Personally, my greatest fear would be that a person learns how to establish a balanced budget without any acknowledgement of God’s role in our blessing.  How difficult would it be to later go back and add more to giving?

My point is this: most often, people say they don’t have enough to give – even when they get in increased salary.

I think having enough to give is a spiritual decision, not an economic one.  Having enough to give is determined by prayer, not by a spreadsheet.

Do I trust myself to God?  Am I willing to walk by faith?

Giving is a blessing.

Paul calls it the grace of giving.

With the debt level of most Americans, it could easily take 10-15 years to pay off your debt.

If God gives us the opportunity to give, would we really want to overpass that blessing for a decade?

Prayer is a blessing, but sometimes I feel really busy.

Would it be wise for me to decide that I’m going to get my career started, and then in 10 years things will slow down and I’ll have time to pray?

I think that I’d be missing out on something essential for my spiritual life for too long of a period of time.

Sometimes not giving is an excuse, not a reason.

I’ve seen very few budgets where a person has made every habit change necessary, and giving is the only thing left to go.

We’ll often still have our conveniences and luxuries.  We’ll take our vacations.  We’ll eat out.  We’ll pay for a cell phone.

But sometimes we’ve become so focused on the giving that we think that is the reason why we can balance our budget.  Often times, if we kept the giving as a sacred non-negotiatable part of our budget, we’d find a way to cut something else.  Cutting always hurts, but when we cut something else and cling to our faith, we’ll find blessings (even if they’re not physical ones).

Turning Inward Negatively Impacts Multiple Areas of Life.

There may be more economics than theology to this point of consideration.

Dave Ramsey reminds us that giving is a fundamental part our lives.

When I turn inward, my heart mirrors my decisions.  Who wants to help someone who never helps anyone else?  Let’s say that your church asks for people to help move someone and a bunch of people show up, but you don’t because you’re too busy.  Then when it’s time for you to move, you ask everyone to help you.  It probably won’t go over too well.

An outwardly focused life with concern and consideration of others is always more likely to produce the fruits of the spirit than an inwardly focused life.

You’ll be more successful if you’re a giver.  You’ll be happier (blessed) if you’re a giver.  You’ll feel better about yourself if you’re a giver.  You’ll see more hope in the world if you’re a giver.

It’s counterintuitive, but our God’s culture is a very counterintuitive one.

If you’re just starting to get control, what’s there to lose?

If you were in my office and we were sitting down together looking at your budget and helping you take charge of your finances, I’d suggest that you give 10% of your income.  I’d ask you to challenge yourself in that way.  Even if just for a time.


I think that you’ll be grateful you did.

Now, you can’t start giving 10% and refuse to change habits in your life and expect positive results.  Your giving must accompany a new financial focus and a change of habits.

Always talk to someone who is outside your personal drama.

When life becomes dramatic or traumatic, we develop tunnel vision.  We don’t see life clearly, and we find it very difficult to discern the voice of God.

That’s were we need Godly mentors, feedback, and discernment.

If you’re giving serious consideration to starting or quitting giving, then please seek out a spiritual person in your local church and ask them to help look over your point in life.  My prayer is that their perspective will help you discern God’s direction in your life.

Must I Give 10%?

Must is a very strong word.  Must entails that God won’t be pleased with me if I don’t give a certain amount.  Thus, I don’t think must is the right word.

Should I give 10%? I’d say yes.  Will I be blessed if I give 10%? I’d say yes.

But, I’m not sure I can go as far as enforcing the word MUST.

Perhaps a person who has never given before decides to give 3% of his or her salary.  Good for you.  I think God will be pleased in the positive direction of your adventure into giving.  You’ve started this amazing journey of recognizing your blessings and sharing in the joy of giving.

But I hope you don’t stay there.

Even when you’re able to give 10%, I hope you don’t stay there.

God wants more and more of our hearts, of our lives, and of our passions.  As we give more of those things to God, I think it will flow over into our desire to give more of our resources to God as well.


  1. Wes Smith says

    Thank you for the good insights on giving. When I am faced with this question, I remember the examples of people in the bible giving FIRST. If I give first, then cell phones, cable TV, dining out, playing golf, etc follow if there is room in the budget.

    • says

      Doing it first is a great Biblical reminder. If we gave first perhaps we’d focus on cutting something else from our budget instead of our contributions.

  2. Art Ford says

    Often people are in debt because they buy today things they want, without having money on hand to pay for it (I understand that some have faced traumas not in their control). If that is the case, not giving while I am in debt would seem to be one more selfish act. At some point, I have to learn to put Jesus in the center of the plate rather than keeping myself and my interests there.

    • says

      An interesting point. Showing a lesser concern for your own wants and needs (as giving does) is a healthy action for anyone struggling with debt. Of course, that does primarily apply to ‘self-inflicted’ debt.

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