Graduated Tithe: A Giving Strategy

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There are lots of people who introduce strategies for getting wealthy, saving a million dollars,  or for getting out of debt.  I want to introduce you to a helpful giving strategy.  For people who do not need be concerned about tithing while in debt the graduated tithe challenges them to give more.

The graduated tithe was a concept I was introduced to by reading Ronald Sider.

Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America

The concept is simple:  As your income increases, so also should your giving.

What typically happens when we get a raise is we raise our standard of living. The old adage is proved correct by our daily actions – enough is never enough.  Here is what typically happens: you get a raise and you go out and buy a HD TV or take the family on a vacation to Disney.  There is no problem with either a HD TV or Disney vacation; however, these illustrate that our spending capacity often is limitless.  Consider professional athletes as an example.  In an article entitled NBA Player’s Financial Security No Slam Dunk the Toronto Star reported, “It was said that 60 per cent of retired NBA players go broke five years after their NBA paycheques stop arriving.”  This shows us that our capacity for spending is limitless.

The goal of the graduated tithe is to help you decide when enough is enough.  Typically as we get older our income increases.  Many 20somethings could not imagine making $75,000 household income.  Yet, many 50somethings have difficulty paying all their bills on $75,000 per year.  This is because our expenditures have increased in line with our increase in pay.

How does the graduated tithe work? (Remember, there are a ton of variations and I encourage you to implement this in a way that is most beneficial to you).

1.  You set a starting amount or a base salary.  The amount is often your current salary.  The assumption is that if you are currently living on your income you should be able to give away a larger amount of any increase you receive.

2Commit to increasing the percentage of your giving each time you get an increase in your salary.  The easiest way to do this is to increase your giving for every $1,000 you earn beyond your base salary.  Again for simplicity, you can give an extra 5% per $1,000 you make above your base salary.  Per $1,000 annual increase you increase your tithe by 5%, then 10%, then 15%, then 20% …

Here is an example:

Let’s say your starting amount is $45,000 per year.

You would give 10% of your amount for a total tithe of $4,500

Then, in 2010 you received a $1,000 raise.

You would give

10% of $46,000

5% of $1,000 (the amount of your raise).  Your total gift would be $4,650.

Then, in 2011 you get another $2000 raise.

10% of your total $48,000

5% of 1,000

10% of 1,000

15% of 1,000.

Then each extra $1,000 income you receive you increase the percentage of that $1,000 gift by 5%.

If you want to play around with the numbers or see how this would calculate in your own circumstance take a look at this excel document where I have posted the [download id="14"]

Advantages of the Graduated Tithe:

  • Puts a system in place that curbs against the natural inclination of selfishness and greed.
  • The plan is pre-established allowing you to make a more honest decision if you ‘come into’ a lot of money that you did not expect to receive.
  • Brings joy in your heart because you know that you are growing and increasing in the gift of giving.

Disadvantages to the Graduated Tithe:

  • Some people feel like it stifles their giving because it is preplanned, premeditated, and becomes a legalistic regiment rather than a gracious act of the heart.
  • There is some work (math) involved in setting up a graduated tithing plan.
  • Perhaps the giving plan is not as aggressive as you would like to be.

Interested in the graduated tithe?  Suggestions and ideas:

  • If married, make it a joint decision.  Mark off an evening on your calendar to pray about the choice.  The heart with which you make the choice is a tremendous element.
  • Consider tweaking it to fit your personality.  The graduated tithe seems to work best with younger couples.
  • Always use it as a guide.  Emergencies may come up or situations change where you need to revise or even discard the graduate tithe plan.  That is alright.

Proverbs 22:9 (NIV) A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.


  1. CB says

    Good morning. DOesn’t God already have a “graduated tithe” system when we pay our 10% devoted to him. (Malachi 3:8-10; Leviticus 27:30-33) That automatically adjusts to our income.

    • Craig says

      Thanks for you comment. The graduated tithe post provides a beneficial tool for those who wish to increase their giving beyond 10%. It even provides a system where someone could grow into giving 10% if that seems impossible to them right now. Some Christians recognize a need to increase their giving, but do not quite know how to implement that decision. Some simply want to enjoy the many spiritual blessing that come with giving, but need some structure. Personally, what the graduated tithe does for me is it allows me to mark a point where I can say enough is enough and I don’t need any more money. I need such a system because of greed and selfishness. Remember, this is not a legal guide, but a tool to be used by individuals who feel called to adopt a procedure to help them fulfill their convictions about giving. Hope this feedback helps!

  2. theresa rubin says

    thanks for the information on “graduated tithe, it was very helpful and eye-opening. My husband and I will consider together our responsibilty to a commitment to this activity.

    thanks and blessings,

  3. TioT says

    Hi Craig -

    Thanks for the post. My wife and I are currently reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider and needed some clarification on the graduated tithe. This did the trick, especially the spreadsheet you created.

    FYI, the worksheet you’ve shared might have a few typos in the Income column equations. I believe they should be referring to cell B3, the *Base income, but in some they reference the cell above. If there is no mistake please let us know!

    Anyways, thanks again for the time you put into this.

    To giving,


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