A majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. This includes an astounding 51% of those who earn over $100,000 per year. Many of those in this situation find themselves struggling to pay their bills. But a common question lingers for many people of faith: “Should I be tithing if I can’t pay my bills?”
Only about 5% of church-goers regularly tithe in America. In a nation as wealthy as ours, I find that to be an appalling statistic. Each generation also tends to give less than the one before it as well. Baby Boomers give on average about $1,200 per year, GenX $732 per year, and Millennials only $481 per year.
I believe that many Christians would like to give more, but feel like they can’t. Financial stress is a big part of what holds them back, including debt, lack of savings, and no budget.
But the question still remains about whether those who can’t pay their bills should be tithing. Let’s walk through some of the details about tithing and what I believe the Biblical answer is.
What is Tithing?
Under the Levitical law system, all of Israel was required to give 10% of its gain to support the priesthood. The Levites did not own land. Rather, the tithes from the other tribes would be their inheritance (Numbers 18:21-28).
There were a number of tithes under the Old Testament Law. We won’t go into all the intricacies of them. But just know that, for our purposes, the principle was that one-tenth of one’s gain was given to support ministerial work.
In the modern church, a tithe is something that many congregations aspire to (or at least, they claim that aspiration).
We are no longer under the Old Testament Law, but rather are under the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). We do not abide by the sacrificial system and the ceremonial requirements it had. Though our method of salvation remains, as it always has been, by faith and grace alone, and not by works.
At the same time, we are strongly encouraged throughout Scripture, in both Testaments, to give generously.
But if you can’t pay your bills, what then?
New Testament Passages on Money and Giving
Giving is still a practice that Christians have as a calling. There are several passages in the New Testament that point to this.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.Luke 6:38
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.2 Corinthians 9:6
Further, in Philippians 4:10-20, Paul writes about the generous giving that the Philippians demonstrated toward his ministry. Tithing and giving are clearly important precepts in the Old and New Testaments.
What Scripture Says About Paying Our Bills
But on the other hand, we also have household financial obligations. And Scripture calls us to fulfill those obligations as well. Perhaps one of the most on-point passages comes from 1 Timothy.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8
Ouch. Those are some pretty strong words. The point is that we have an obligation to provide for our household and that this is a high-level responsibility.
Earlier, Paul further wrote about the importance of having order within one’s own household for those in positions of church authority.
For if a man knows not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?1 Timothy 3:5
Christians have a calling to have order in our household, from our finances to our children. But sometimes things are chaotic and we don’t know how to get it all under control. What then?
Reconciling Generosity and Paying Your Bills
The first thing to remember is that there is no conflict in Scripture. All things are internally consistent. So let’s work to reconcile these things that, sometimes, seem to conflict in the application to our personal lives.
My take on this subject is that we are not required to tithe under the New Covenant. As stated before, the New Covenant did away with the sacrificial system and substituted Christ’s sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).
So if you are not tithing right now, you are not in danger of “losing your salvation.” If you can’t pay your bills and feel like you can’t tithe, lest you fall behind, you are not jeopardizing your position with God.
That said, if you cannot practice tithing or other forms of giving, the mentality I would encourage you to adopt is along these lines.
“I am going to increase my income by serving others in greater ways. That way, I can give more.”
“I will give more of my time to my community and church in acts of service during this season.” (But don’t just stop volunteering when you can give financially!).
“I am going to work as if it all depends on me, but pray as if it all depends on God.”
These statements will wire your subconscious in an unprecedented fashion. Instead of being in a position where you feel stuck, it flips the paradigm. You recognize the difficulties you are in now, but that you will not be here forever. That mentality changes everything.
It’s time to look for more earning potential by serving others in bigger and better ways. As a result of serving others at a higher level, you can earn more, pay your bills, and practice tithing.
Closing Thoughts on Tithing and Paying Your Bills
At the end of the day, God doesn’t need our money. He is the one who ultimately owns everything, anyway.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…Psalm 24:1
What God wants more than our money is our heart and soul. It is our repentance and acceptance of salvation by the substitutionary atonement that saves us. Not tithing.
So if you can’t pay your bills, rest assured that your salvation is not at risk. We are called to give, absolutely. And my take on this is that this calling ought to be a motivation to get our financial lives under control.
When we have our debt under control, live on a budget, and work with excellence, we seem to have more money available to us. By confronting our problems voluntarily on our terms, things often don’t seem to be as bad. We can see the hope for a better future when we take up that burden by choice instead of by circumstance.
You can have this kind of financial freedom. You can be free from bill collectors and debt payments if you set your mind to it. With this freedom, you can pay your bills and practice tithing. And along the way, also build up wealth for yourself and your descendants.
To start your journey to greater financial freedom, and tithing to your church, book your free Discovery Session now!