I still remember like it was yesterday.
I was 16 years old sitting in my youth group on a Wednesday night when my youth pastor began to do what he always did at that point of the service. He grabbed an offering bucket and began to walk around the half circle of chairs laid out in the small room.
When he got to me, he stood and waited for me to put something in, I hadn’t given much thought to my offering that night, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to give anything so I reached into my pocket hoping to find a few dollar bills to throw in the bucket. I was out of luck, no cash only a few coins, so I shuffled them around and gathered them together to give in the offering. My youth pastor did something no one had ever done, and I’ve never seen done since. He looked at me and said, “Keep it. God doesn’t want your spare change.” A preacher turning down an offering, go figure.
I’ve never forgotten that night, and those words, “God doesn’t want your spare change.” My youth pastor was not saying God only accepts dollar bills, we know because he considered the widows coin extremely generous. What he was saying, was either give your best offering because you want to give it and God deserves it, or don’t give it all. God is insulted by thoughtless leftovers, and why wouldn’t he be. He doesn’t need our money anyway, he just wants to be our priority, and make no mistake God is not your priority if you won’t give Him your money.
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Ever since my youth pastor said those words to me, “God doesn’t want your spare change” I’ve made it my mission to make sure God comes first in my life, especially in my money. Not everyone agrees with me though. Over the years, as a pastor, I’ve heard many different reasons why Christians shouldn’t or don’t have to tithe. To be clear, I agree, you don’t HAVE to tithe, but I’ve never met a single person who has prioritized God in their giving and isn’t better off because of it. God gives us the opportunity to tithe because he wants something for us much more than he wants something from us.
So let me give you the 6 most popular reasons people give for not tithing.
1. I can’t afford to tithe
This is by far the most popular reason given for not giving generously. I’m not making light of anyone’s financial struggles; I know it feels like you can’t afford to tithe, but it’s not true. The truth is you can’t afford your mortgage, or your car payment or your lifestyle. God asks for the first 10% of all your income which means when you get paid you give first before you spend anything else. You don’t tithe because you choose to spend the money God asks you to give on other things you believe are more important than what He asks you to do. It doesn’t mean you’re “wasting” money on an extravagant lifestyle, but whether it’s for gadgets or groceries when you choose not to tithe its because you feel something else is important.
2. Tithing is not in the New Testament
In my experience, the people who want to debate if tithing is biblical are lifelong church people looking for loopholes. You can disagree, and I understand the New Testament doesn’t say as much as I wish it did on the topic of tithing, but I decided Matthew 23:23 was good enough for me to feel confident,
You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
I came to a conclusion: “if I’m right, I’ll be obedient and blessed, and if I’m wrong, I just missed out on more steak dinners and retirement investing.” I will ALWAYS give time and conversation to someone who is searching for truth and trying to understand and apply scripture, but you can tell the difference between the people who want to debate for kicks and giggles and those who are genuinely seeking to understand God’s word.
3. The church just wants my money (and it already has plenty of money)
I know preachers have a bad reputation for being greedy and wanting everyone’s money, but honestly, in all my years of pastoring and knowing pastors, nothing could be further from the truth. Every pastor I know would love nothing more than having enough money in the bank to never have to ask anyone to give a penny. Here’s the problem, giving is not about providing money for the church. Giving is about obedience; If every Christian in the world stopped tithing God would still provide the resources his church needs. I can only speak for me, but I don’t want anyone’s money, what I want is for every person in my church to realize that more money won’t make them happy and that obeying God is better than new car smell or a vacation at the beach. If you don’t trust your church, find a church you trust, but every opportunity to give tithes and offerings is not about what’s in it for the church it’s about what’s in it for you… a chance to obey God.
4. I would rather use my money to help poor people
This is a tricky one because hopefully, you are part of a church who uses a percentage of the tithes and offerings to help those in need, if not I would encourage you to find a church that does. This is an excuse that feels noble because you see a direct connection between the money and the impact. Tithing, though, is not about efficiency first and foremost, it’s about obedience. Your church leadership will be responsible for the way they stewarded the gifts of those who obey God. I hope you’re tithing and giving to those in need around you. My experience with generous people is they give above and beyond because they have experienced the joy of giving. It’s also my experience that those who don’t tithe because they give to the poor, don’t give away anywhere near 10%.
5. I will tithe when I have more money
False. That’s not the way it works. What you do with what you have now is what you will do with what you have later. You may give a larger amount of money when you make more money, but you won’t give a higher percentage away. Greed has nothing to do with amounts it has to do with contentment, and giving away $100,000 after you pay taxes on a million feels too risky for someone who couldn’t give $10 after paying taxes on $100. I wrote a blog about the illusion of greed here.
6. I like to give my money to several different organizations.
I do too, but not at the expense of God’s request to bring him my first 10% by giving to my local church. It’s God’s responsibility to provide for all those he wants to resource; it’s your responsibility to be obedient. Again, hopefully, you’re a part of a church who allots a percentage of money to help other organizations and ministries, but when you give to other ministries and don’t tithe to your church your saying in essence, “God I have a better plan than your plan.” God’s plan for generosity starts first and foremost with giving the first 10% of your income to the local church. Not because He couldn’t do it without you, but because His heart is for His Church that He is building, and he wants your heart to be where his heart is.
The truth is you don’t want to tithe because you want to keep your money or feel you need to. I understand. The point of this post is not to somehow guilt you into giving your money to God; He doesn’t want that anyway. He wants you to believe He can bless you with more than you could ever save by keeping what belongs to him. The rich young ruler didn’t want to part with his money either, neither did Ananias and Saphira, Cain, or anyone else? Don’t ever believe God wants something from more than he wants something for you. That’s what the bank or the debt collector wants, but not God. He wants you to experience life free from the bondage of greed. He wants you to lay in the bed at night and experience the contentment that only comes from knowing God is in control of your resources; you gave him permission to be in charge when you decided to bring the first 10% back to Him.