Graduated Tithe to the Rescue | How it Helps to Curb Your Desire for More

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Early into my blogging adventure, I discovered two elements that I felt were important characteristics of Money Help for Christians:

  1. The journey – I intentionally positioned myself as a person experimenting, exploring, and searching for answers within the field of Christian finances.  I’m still clearly on the journey, though thankfully many things are clearer to me now than they were three years ago.  I’ve always wanted to write as a person who was learning, not an expert.
  2. Self-disclosure – Money Help for Christians is where I share my stories, experiences, successes, and failures with money.  From the very beginning, I wanted to chronicle what has been happening with my own finances – both good and bad.

However, the journey and self-disclosure elements have left me in an awkward place with a lot of personal tension.

The Tension

Jesus teaches that giving ought to be done in secret (Mt. 6:1-4).  If I post on this blog about my giving, then perhaps I’ve nullified any blessing that God intended to allow me to enjoy through the process of giving.  Perhaps you’d think I’m blogging just to toot my own horn.

Yet, on the other hand, how do we spur one another on in giving?  How do we share the real stories without divulging elements of our giving?  Is it more appropriate for a person to write about how he made his first million than it is to be encouraged by a person who gave his first thousand?

The Graduated Tithe

In December / January 2008/2009, my wife and I prayerfully agreed that we’d adopt the graduated tithe (a giving system in which you set a salary limit where you give more and more of your income as your income increases).  We did it at a time when we were missionaries and clearly never thought we’d earn “x” dollars that was $18,000 more than our current salary.

A year ago, I was teaching a class based on my book, Transforming Your Financial Diet.  In the class, I challenged students to prayerfully consider the graduated tithe.

One student found it humorous that I was suggesting he (or anyone else in the class) would eventually be earning $18,000 more than they were on the day of the class – especially in a recession.

I think the question was intended to challenge people to focus on saving more (in this economy) than challenge ourselves to give more.

Because people think that way and experience that on a daily basis, I felt like it would be valuable to share our story as a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

For the first time in our lives, this year (2012) our household income has already surpassed our graduated tithe limit.

Three and a half years ago I never, never, never would have imagined that within four years of committing to the graduated tithe we would earn our limit.

But, I’m so thankful we did. I often wonder what would happen with our income if we hadn’t already pre-committed surplus income to God.

If I had two words to describe how we’re feeling, they would be ‘excitement’ and ‘responsibility’.

  • Excitement – We’re excited because there are a lot of really neat things we’ll be able to do with our money to help other people.  We’re excited about trying new ways to give and finding new ministries to support.
  • Responsibility – When we gave 10%ish of our income, almost all of our giving went to the local church and a few selected missionary efforts.  It was simple.  But now there are more decisions to be made.  With extra financial blessings comes extra responsibility.  With extra responsibility comes a greater time commitment to determining how best to use God’s resources.

Please understand I did not write this post to toot my own horn, but as a testimony of the many unsuspecting ways God works and as a challenge to each of us to think about the responsibility to which God calls us.

Have you taken the time to set a graduated tithe limit?  Do you know how much is enough?  Have you determined at what point God’s blessings in your life are more than you could possibly keep for yourself?

If not, set a time to do it soon because you never know what God has in store for you.


  1. Kathy says

    I see nothing wrong with talking about graduated tithing. If you have ever heard pastor Rick Warren talk about tithing, he doesnt boast, but but tell him how you can never out to give god and how she is now a weaver spider giving 80 percent of income as a tithe. It is an inspiration the way he presents it.

  2. Mark Bussert says

    Craig — I enjoy your posts and have saved quite a few of them. Your struggle with “giving in secret” is an important one. I find that in the churches I serve (I am Director of Stewardship for three congregations) people often use this verse to object to “pledging.” But that is missing the point. In context, Mt. 6:1-4 isn’t about how we give, but about how we ACT about what we give — that is, we shouldn’t be proud or self-righteous about it. It IS appropriate to set a good example for other believers (1 Timothy 4:12). I think we should all be honest and open about our giving — just being careful to not act superior to others, and give the glory to God (which you do).

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