Monday, April 12, 2010

Can't Afford to Tithe? Try This...

Remember this post about tithing? An anonymous friend left the following comment:

I desperately want to get into this habit, I just don't know how to break the cycle. Every week we are short money to buy food and gas. We can never "catch up" we can never "Keep up". I'm at my wits end. I don't know what to do.
Ever since, her struggle has been on my mind. I hope that you are here, friend, and that some of the ideas I have may help you to take this step of obedience. But my advice comes with a warning label:

WARNING: Taking steps to obey God will require faith. Our faith is not built when it is not tested, so you need to know that this will not be easy. But you can also be completely assured that by taking steps in obedience, through faith, you will feel God's pleasure (which frequently results in untold blessings - both spiritual and sometimes right here in the physical).
My friend, I have 3 tips that will help you find a way to tithe when finances are tight:

#1 - Do you have a budget? I'm talking about an actual, practical, written plan for where your money goes. Because having a budget is a MUST.

Start by making a list on paper of all of your income and every expense. Make the list as exhaustive as possible - include things like home improvements and car repairs (even if you allocate $0 to them in your budget, you need to know that they are a possibility) and don't forget stuff like hair cuts and cleaning supplies.

If you are comfortable working in Excel, it's fairly simple to do up a spreadsheet that will help you track your income and expenses. If not, you can find many budgeting programs as free downloads online or you can even keep track on paper.

The important thing is to add a line for "tithing" to your expenses. For now, you can leave that line blank while you tweak the budget.

The goal of having the budget on paper is to help you see if there is a shortfall or a surplus. For the first month of your budget, get a receipt for every single thing you spend money on so that you will have a complete and accurate tally. At the end of the month, you will be able to see a few areas where your spending was higher than you expected; looking through the receipts with a highlighter will help you find purchases that were not necessities. (When my friend, Christine, taught me about budgeting - tip #1 is totally hers, by the way - she showed me that some areas that caught me were impulse purchases at the grocery store, using the convenience store for snacks instead of the grocery store, and late fees on movie rentals.)

If you don't have a budget and would like some help getting it set up, go ahead and contact me via email and I'd be more than happy to help. :)

#2 - Plan to tithe. Don't just think about it. Make a plan, commit to it, and stick to it.

In this context, I use the word "tithe" loosely. If you are currently not giving to your church or other areas where God is working (or are giving intermittently and randomly), the thought of jumping straight to 10% might make you nauseous. Find a number that doesn't make you feel like you're going to hurl, but is significant enough to make you tense. Perhaps $50 per pay cheque is that number for you. Maybe it's $100. Whatever the number, I encourage you to push it just a little bit higher than "comfortable." The fact is, being comfortable does not grow our faith. And tithing is not just about giving to God what is His (Matthew 22:21), it is also about walking in obedience and developing faith that doesn't waver when things look a little scary.

A couple things to help you stick to your plan. First, consider your tithe a part of your fixed expenses - like mortgage/rent, insurance, etc. One thing we did to help with this was to set up automatic withdrawal. Many churches now have the technology to directly debit your bank account for the amount you tell them, on the dates you tell them to take it. What I'm saying is this: pay God first, yourself second (that means groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. all come from whatever is remaining AFTER you have paid your fixed expenses).

Second, increase your tithe incrementally. If you start at $50 twice per month, for example, after two or three months push it up to $75. Keep going until you've reached an actual 10% - even if it takes a year or two to work your way up there.

#3 - Go ahead and ask God to show up!

When God gives us His directive to tithe, He actually tells us that it's okay to do it as a test. He tells us, "Test Me in this...and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!" (Malachi 3:10)

By taking this huge step of faith, you are telling God that you trust Him to provide for your needs. Ask Him to take care of those areas in your budget that are not looking so good, and when you ask - expect Him to deliver! I assure you that God is just as concerned with your financial well-being as you are. (Matthew 10:29-32)

I believe that you (and I) will never experience true financial freedom - that we will never be out from under the heavy yoke of greed and debt - until we are tithing. God calls His people to radical obedience, often when it doesn't make sense (Abraham and Noah are my two favourite examples of that), so that His Name will be glorified. One of the greatest ways for us to bring honour to His Name is to share how He transformed our finances once we began to walk in obedience with our (His) money.

One of the greatest traps that Satan catches us in is the one of our own "need." We believe that we cannot give regularly and generously to the needs of others - the church, sponsor children, missionaries, door-to-door canvassers - because we are not even meeting our own "needs." I have learned that the opposite is true. Our own needs (spiritual and financial) will NEVER be met until we learn to pour out generosity towards the work of God all over our world. (Luke 12:15-25)

May God bless you as you seek to act in obedience to His will!


  1. I am here. THANK YOU

  2. Excellent post! Tithing has been one of the most amazing blessings in my life. There have been times when our budget just didn't add up, meaning, if we tithed, we wouldn't be able to pay a certain bill. But each and EVERY time, God has come through. Sometimes it was an "error" on my part, sometimes it was anonymous money gifts from other believers, sometimes it was a random refund check or overpayment check, sometimes God showed us areas where we weren't using our money wisely.

    The biggest blessing is seeing God use our tithes to answer the prayers and needs of others. Wow. What could be better? After all, every penny that comes our way is God's money in the first place! Realizing that has been pivotal for me in being obedient.

  3. Having a budget is always a good idea. You can see where you may be wasting money...those little things add up. My trip to Pinkberry at less than $4 a cup added up to over 50 in a month!


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