Should We Give Beyond Tithing?

Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is a time and a season for everything. There may be seasons of abundance in our financial journeys when we feel prompted by God to use that abundance as an offering to the church, to individuals, or to organizations. This is honoring to God when done in obedience to him.

There may be times, however, when we are pressed to give and we’re uncertain as to the wisdom of the timing because of our circumstances, or because we don’t know if it was actually the Holy Spirit prompting us or a professional fundraiser guilting us into giving. When uncertain, wisdom would tell us to take into consideration the long-term picture of our financial plan and to make decisions that fit into that plan.

Should We Tithe Before or After Taxes?

When referring to the tithe (a word that means 10%), Scripture uses the word first fruit, or first portion. While taxes are withheld from paychecks before we’ve had a chance to calculate tithe, taxes should actually be viewed as a secondary portion. Thus, to be considered a first fruit, the tithe would be calculated using the gross, before taxes are taken out.  Scripture further instructs us to bring the whole tithe to the storehouse—in our case, the church.

Ultimately, our attitude toward tithing reflects the posture of our heart towards God when it comes to our finances. Part of the spiritual discipline of tithing is letting go of the control of those tithes and trusting God with the money, as well as trusting him to provide for our needs. As if he knew we would need further convincing, God tells us in Malachi 3:10 to test him in this:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Is Having Debt A Sin?

While debt is not clearly labeled a sin in the Bible, it is discouraged in Proverbs 22:7, which reads, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

That’s because we’ve all been given a size at which God wants us to live, and debt is something that limits that size. It’s a sin to live smaller than God intended.

Rich’s Story of Holy Obedience

Rich Schoeck stood at the gas pump, staring at the beat-up car next to his, shaking his head. With $100 in his pocket and a clear prompt from God, there was only one thing Rich could say.

“God, there’s no way this is what you want.”

Saying Yes

Rich’s journey to that gas pump began a long time ago, during a childhood where faith was ritual and a relationship with Jesus was unheard of. But God, in His gracious way, kept coming back to Rich, drawing him through life experience after life experience, steadily calling Rich into a relationship through Christ.

One day, Rich finally said yes.

From that moment, Rich began seeking to develop his relationship with Jesus. A voracious reader, he began studying the Bible and other books about faith and Christianity. Soon, he set aside times for “relationship development” with Jesus – times of prayer and listening for God’s voice to speak, times to break down the walls around his heart.

It was during one of his most recent “relationship development” times that God spoke in a very clear voice.

“I had gone to the bank to get money for my daughter and son-in-law’s birthday,” he says, “and I hear, clear as day, Rich, I need you to get an extra $100 out. That’s an easy one, so I did it. I folded the bills up and went to put them in my wallet, and I hear, No. I want you to put that in your pocket. Another easy one.”

Rich walked out of the bank, got in his car, and heard God again.

I want you to turn down this street.

Is this just in my head?

Rich obeyed, expecting to run into someone to whom he could give the money. Instead, he found no one. He drove around looking for someone – anyone – to bless, desperate to fulfill the God prompt over the cash in his pocket. But he struck out. Dejected, he turned his car around, wondering if he had made a mistake, wondering if he had really heard God or was all this just in his head. He looked down and noticed that his car was almost on empty.

And that’s how he found himself at that gas pump, money in his hand, heart in his throat, scared out of his mind.

“I’m standing there at the pump, and in pulls this beat-up car. The driver is a young mother. She has a teenage daughter sitting in the front seat, and the cutest little boy sitting in a car seat in the back. They pull up, and I hear in my head, I want you to give that $100 to her.

“And my immediate response was simple: ‘That ain’t happening. That’s crazy – and creepy!’

“But God continued to press on me, and I continued to argue, until I finally just said, ‘Okay – if you want me to give this money to her, have her do something outrageous, something like buying on $5 worth of gas.”

Rich watched as the numbers on the young mother’s pump spun and spun until – plunk! – it stopped. And, to the penny, the pump reads $5.00.

“The woman gets back in the car, and her daughter walks up to the register to get something. And I’m still standing there saying, ‘I’m not doing this Lord. It’s just creepy.’ But as the daughter makes her way back towards the car, I hear God one more time, Give the money to her. And in my head I say, ‘Okay – but you’d better protect me.’”

He stopped the daughter and said, “Excuse me, this is gonna sound weird, but Christ just told me to give your mom this money. It’s $100.”

He handed her the money. The young girl stared at him.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Rich started backing away, apologetic. “I’m just a follower of Christ, and He said to give you that money.”

“Are you Him? Are you Jesus?” she asked.

Rich shook his head. “No.”

Tears began falling from the girl’s eyes.

“You won’t believe this,” she said, “but we just left the doctor’s office, and my mom told me the doctor’s bill for my surgery was more than she could pay for. We don’t have the money to do it.”

The girl looked at Rich. “Mom said, ‘I don’t even have enough money to get gas.’”

Rich smiled at her.

“All I was told was to give you the money.”

She grabbed him in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you!”

When she let Rich go, she ran back to her mother’s car – and Rich jumped in his and drove away, overwhelmed by the moment. And he had a thought.

“God, if she needed more money, I would have given it to her.”

And God said, This wasn’t for your glory. It was for mine. She will go and tell other people this story – about a follower of Jesus who gave her money when she was in need – and those people will say, ‘Well, how much do you need?’ 

And I will open the floodgates for her.

The Real Lesson

A few days later, the greater lesson from Rich’s moment of holy obedience became clear.

“I was in Kroger,” Rich says, “and there was this woman at the check-out line. She had her little boy with her, and she was talking on the phone, waving her hands in the air. I felt a prompt to walk over to her and ask her what was wrong.

“She said, ‘I’m trying to pay for my groceries, but my credit card doesn’t work.’

“So I said, ‘I’ll pay for your groceries.’ I pulled out my card and swiped it, and she grabbed her groceries and went on her way. She didn’t say thank you, I didn’t say anything about Jesus or being a follower of Jesus, but I just knew it was what I needed to do.

“And what I remember the most from this moment is the cashier, who saw this whole thing happen. He’s in his late 50s, staring at me, as if he disapproved of the woman leaving without saying ‘Thank you.’

“I looked at him, and I said, ‘It’s all cool.’

“And it was.”

How To Appreciate What You Have

Understand that no matter who your boss is on earth, God is your first and true boss. This will revolutionize your life and change the way you look at work.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24