Why American Christians Don’t/Barely Tithe…
Ahhh, one of the most difficult/uncomfortable topics for pastors to teach on. Money. Below are some thoughts, shared in love and humility, on why many American Christians do not give 10% of their annual income to the local church which they attend. Please know that I personally have believed ALL of these points below at one time or another (and I still wrestle with some of them!). We are all in this together! 🙂
(please click on the Bible chapter/verses below to read the actual Scriptural text)
1. We don’t have enough money to tithe!
-Yes, if we wait to give money back to God until all our bills/”needs” are met, there is often nothing left over. Just as a family tends to fill the house they live in regardless of the size, most people tend to subconsciously find ways to spend the money they have, whether it’s “a lot” or “a little.” But that is why God instructs us to give Him the “firstfruits” of our income–that is, to give Him our tithe BEFORE we start paying our other bills. My wife, without realizing it, does this with food: she ALWAYS makes sure me and the children have our portions and then, at the end, takes some for herself. What a sacrifice (especially when it comes to dessert)! Let’s choose to give God the “firstchips” of our income: when we open up the bag every two weeks, let Him get the big round ones at the top instead of the smashed crumbs at the bottom. [Please don’t bring up Pringles because that ruins my illustration! :)]
-Furthermore, many Christian families don’t realize the amount of money we inadvertently waste each week/month/year either unwisely or on recreation (non-essentials). Many of us would be VERY surprised, if we were to take the time/energy to track every dollar we spend in a given month, at where the money actually goes (plus, the fact that many of us DON’T know where all of our money goes each month makes it very difficult for us to accurately state that we don’t have enough money to tithe). My point is, for many Christians families there IS enough to tithe IF we are willing to really deny ourselves some of the treats we think we deserve and which we think are essentials. On Black Friday 2013, Americans spent nearly TEN BILLION DOLLARS on stuff. IN ONE DAY. And that was a DECREASE over previous years! Though you personally might not have spent any money on Black Friday, many of the people shopping were Christians, and many of those Christians (at least statistically) do not tithe because they “don’t have enough money.”
2. We will tithe someday when we have MORE money leftover!
-Jesus responds to this reason powerfully and succinctly: “Whoever is not faithful with little will NOT be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). How we use the $10 we have now will show how we would use the $1 million we might have someday (Crown Financial).
3. Tithing was only for people in the Old Testament–the word tithe doesn’t appear ONCE in the New Testament!
-That is true…but also keep in mind that the examples that we DO have in the New Testament of Christians giving their money to God have believers giving WAY MORE than 10%, not LESS!
Acts 4:33-35: people sold extremely valuable possessions to make SURE that there were no Christians in poverty! Look at that again: THERE WERE NO CHRISTIANS IN POVERTY in the early church. WOW! That was so because people gave generously…and because people realized that giving was tied to God’s grace not to God’s law (e.g. we don’t tithe because we HAVE to, we tithe because we GET to!).
Luke 21:1-4: Jesus commended the widow not for the amount she gave (two copper coins) but for the % she gave: 100%!!!
John 6:1-15: The young boy with the five loaves and two fish didn’t give a loaf to Jesus (and he certainly didn’t offer the fish heads!)–he gave Jesus EVERYTHING!
Romans 15:26-27: we who have been blessed spiritually should also then bless others materially.
2 Corinthians 9:11: the reason WHY God has given us so much–so that we can share with others!
Bottom line: We ought to be careful if we use the New Testament as the reason we don’t have to tithe at all.
4. Deep down we are afraid the local church will misuse the money!
This is a very legitimate concern–there are MANY local churches and Christian organizations that have misused the funds entrusted into their management/care. But there are also MANY local churches and Christian organizations that DO manage God’s money wisely (please click HERE for a list). You don’t stop dining out just because you get food poisoning at a particular restaurant; same is true with tithing. Furthermore, this underscores the importance of choosing to attend a local church that IS financially transparent and Biblical–if the leadership of a local church cannot be trusted with money (earthly things) how can they be trusted with God’s eternal Truth (heavenly things)? (John 3:10-12)
5. Deep down we (often unwittingly) believe that the money belongs to us–we worked HARD for it!
God is VERY clear in Scripture that EVERYTHING belongs to Him–the cattle on a thousand hills AND the hills themselves! We are not owners of what we have, we are stewards/managers of what God has given to us–just like a friend who lets you stay in their vacation house for a week: you are free to enjoy the house, but you are also to take care of it and remember that the house does not belong to you.
6. We look at tithing as something we HAVE to do instead of as something we GET to do.
Instead of getting mad when it rains and ruins our outdoor plans, it’s wise to remember that we need rain for food/plants/trees to grow! So what about asking God to help change our perspective on tithing as well? Instead of thinking that we HAVE to tithe, what about thinking that:
-We GET to partner with God as He shares His love and grace with the world!
-We GET to trade in perishable/earthly treasures for imperishable/heavenly ones!
-We GET to experience Jesus’ statement that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)
7. Because we forget that spreading the Gospel around the world requires money.
-Romans 10:12-15: sending people out with the good news of Jesus’ love and grace costs MONEY! Now of course some of the methods for using money to spread the Gospel are better/more effective/more efficient than others, but money is still important. Prayer is ALSO important (arguably MORE important), but money is still PART of the equation. Jesus was able to devote HIs entire 3 year public ministry to teaching and healing because some wealthy women supplied His needs! (Luke 8:1-3)
8. Because we think that our little bit won’t make a difference.
-The average American Christian gives about 2.5% of their annual income to God through the local church. Keep in mind that the average American Christian today is the richest average Christian in the last 2k years. Wow. We have more than we’ve ever had and give less than we’ve ever gave. Sigh. There are statistics that show that if American Christians gave just 10% of their annual income to God through the local church we could literally wipe out many of the following ailments around the world: please click HERE.
-The little boy with the five loaves and two fish gave everything to Jesus even though that boy knew that it wasn’t enough to feed the thousands of hungry people. But he gave everything to Christ and JESUS did the miracle of stretching it to feed the multitudes. We would NEVER have that amazing miracle to learn from if that little boy had thought, “What difference will my small amount of food make?”
9. Because money is possibly the BIGGEST idol for American Christians.
-there is a reason that Jesus talked about money MORE than He talked about heaven and hell combined! There is a reason that Jesus warned that if we don’t serve God we WILL serve money. Rick Warren has stated that the only way he and his wife have learned to have control of money is to give it away. Wow. Money, while morally neutral (it can be used for good and for evil), is extremely powerful. We should handle it with extreme caution (like a lit piece of dynamite).
-there are A LOT of goodies that can be had in the United States with money, there are ALOT of ways with money that we can have pleasure/treats that “take the edge off” living in this sin-filled world. We literally live in a giant candy store in the U.S….without realizing it, we use money when stressed to participate in “retail therapy” (shopping to make us feel good) or we pray “in the name of Visa.” If we view money as our main life-raft/preserver in the stormy seas of life, of course it will be hard to give away/let go of it! But God wants to teach us to turn to HIM when we are stressed, not money; this lesson is VERY difficult in the short run but MUCH better for us in the long run (money runs out–God NEVER runs away).
10. Because we really don’t understand what Jesus has done for us (i.e. how much it COST Him to offer us forgiveness/eternal life!).
-We are able to GIVE anything because He first gave EVERYTHING. Jesus is always our role model—we don’t just do as He says, we do as He DID/DOES! He set the example for us—He didn’t just TELL us how to give…He SHOWED us how to give by giving everything–Himself (Philippians 2:5-8).
-Luke 7:36-47—“Whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.” Wow. The way we love God and others is directly tied to our understanding of how much HE loves us; the amount that we give to God and others is directly tied to the our understanding of how much HE has given us. If you ever need motivation to tithe or do anything else that God asks you to do, soak in the Bible verses that talk about Jesus’ suffering (Isaiah 53, Luke 22:47–23:49). Immersing ourselves in those passages will help to soften the grimy/caked-on portions of our heart, just as a pan left in warm/soapy water is easier to clean the next morning.