Is debt reduction a greater priority than tithing? P. 1

By Stew

For our next two posts, I am going to explore the question: is debt reduction a greater financial priority than tithing? The intuitive answer from a “good money sense” point of view might be “yes”. After all, isn’t debt the worst possible financial ill on the planet? Shouldn’t we be employing every possible financial means to reduce our personal indebtedness? For many of us, ten percent of our income (the tithe) might seem like a good chunk of money that could be used for paying down our mortgage or car loan principal. Mathematically speaking, think of how quickly our debts might disappear if the tithe were applied to our credit card balance? Look at all of the things that good stewards of money practice in order to pay down debt: shop second-hand stores, reduce driving miles, down-size our homes, save energy, cook our own food, make stuff, stretch stuff, use coupons . . . is the tithe only obligatory for people who have been blessed with extra money?

However, the answer according to Scripture – with one qualification – is a resounding NO! Here is the qualification: the biblical command to tithe is only for those who truly desire to follow Christ. In other words, those among us who are not interested in being a part of the kingdom of God are under no obligation to tithe or give any money to the church. Therefore, from this point forward, I will assume that the reader is a person who believes in Jesus Christ and is committed to submitting to His commands. I am also going to assume that a true believer will attend a true church that proclaims the true Gospel. Remember, that the commands for the believer are only found in one place: the Bible. So our discussion of this question will treat God’s Word as the final authority on this point. That said, here are four biblical reasons why tithing is a greater priority than debt reduction. We are going to look at three reasons today and a few more later this week.

The first reason that debt reduction is not a greater priority than tithing is:

Scripture includes no such exemption.

The Bible consistently maintains that the giving of the tithe is the obligation and first priority of the believer regardless of circumstance. If you have income and you are a follower of Christ, then you are to tithe on that income. From the time of Abraham and Melchizedek king (Genesis 14:20) to the time of Christ and the disciples (Luke 11:42) to the time of the writer of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 7:8,9), tithing was assumed to be a regular discipline and exercise of worship. God even says that a person who does not tithe is stealing from God. Malachi 3:8 states, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” There is no mention of the debt “loophole” in Scripture.

Furthermore, if we withhold that which rightfully belongs to God in the first place, is He not then justified in withholding His blessing from us?

Everything belongs to God anyway.

We can often make the mistake of treating money and possessions as ours when the reality is that God owns it all in the first place. He “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:5). Man can make the mistake of thinking that the money and possessions in our lives are the result of our labors. However, the reality is that everything we have was given to us by Him and He has the right to take it away whenever He wants. God is sovereign over all Acts 17:28 says, “for in Him we live and move and exist.”

As believers, we owe Him our lives – both now and forever. Debt might make our lives uncomfortable today, but debt is just a temporary part of this temporary life. The true believer is to obey the One who holds eternity (Matthew 10:28).

Christ compliments those who give out of poverty.

Christ actually takes the time to make special mention of a poor woman who gave to the treasury. He points out that her small gift was greater in the eyes of God than the much larger tithes from the rich. His words as recorded in Luke 21:3-4:

Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Poverty, deep debt or other types of financial stress do not excuse the believer from tithing. Give cheerfully out of a willing heart regardless of your circumstance! Our next article will focus on the blessings that come from tithing.



9 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Is debt reduction a greater priority than tithing? P. 1”

  1. Traciatim Says:

    100% yes. It’s the same reason you put your own air mask on first when you’re in an airplane. If you aren’t taken care of you can’t reliably take care of others.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Excellent post. I think the current economic climate challenges everything that we think about and hold dear, but if we take the view that everything belongs to God first then our priorities remain consistant. I think that tithing shouldn’t change.

  3. prasti Says:

    “However, the reality is that everything we have was given to us by Him and He has the right to take it away whenever He wants.” <– we really needed to embrace that wholeheartedly before we saw a complete transformation with our finances and spending habits.

    God has blessed us so much more once we made a true commitment to becoming debt-free. It's been such an encouragement, especially through the more trying times.

    Thanks for this post.

  4. Sun Says:

    If we are slave to the lender, doesn’t that mean we are conflicted in serving God and to a financial lender? Long term it seems we can give more to God if we are not paying interest to the banks.

    > is He not then justified in withholding His blessing from us?

    Does God really think in these terms of justification? He will bless us either way. It’s where your heart is and your resulting actions from that heart.

  5. Amy Hackmann Says:

    I don’t think we should rob God or give him the money that is His in the 1st place.

  6. Michael Says:

    While I appreciate the sentiment, and I agree that everything does belong to God, and we are just stewards of what is His, I would differ with you on a few points. First, while the tithe WAS obligatory, it is no longer for a Christian. In fact, II Corinthians 9:7 instructs us to not give under compulsion, which is the obligation of the Law, but give as one purposes in his heart. So, give, but don’t tithe.

    We also learn in the Bible, that they actually ate the tithe, yearly, but brought it to be stored only every third year. The tithe was to be shared with the Levites, the poor, and foreigners, so some were the recipients of the tithe, and some were the givers of it. So, if one is poor, you may be exempt.

    While Abraham tithed, it was only one time, from the spoils of war, which was customary. But, there is nothing to lead us to believe that he is an example for us, since there is no mention of him tithing from his income. Furthermore, there is no indication that Jesus tithed, or Paul tithed, or any other disciple. And there is no New Testament instruction for us to tithe. Christians did give, though. They gave to the poor, not to a church to pay salaries for full-time ministers.

    Lastly, the often-quoted Malachi verses were to the nation of Levitical priests. Chapter three is a continuation from chapter 1:6, scolding the priests for defrauding God by offering blemished sacrifices and offering only part of the tithe, not the whole.

    Bottom line, let each one give as he purposes in his heart, out of love, led by the Holy Spirit. Only then, when the giver benefit.

  7. John Says:

    Yes, tithing should happen even as people are paying off their debt. People need to be giving to God and his work – regardless of their circumstances. The Bible verses you chose were excellent!

  8. Judith Allwood Says:

    Above all of the debating – to tithe or not to tithe – I believe that the best way to know is to put it to the test. In fact, the Mal. 3 passage quotes God as saying, “Test me in this…” For all I know, a test can only pass or fail. After that let the tester take actions based on the results.

  9. Omoluyi Aimienwanu Says:

    Jesus clearly made mention of tithe in Matt 23: 23

    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

    The Pharisees were tithing according to God’s word, and he said they should have also exercised other matters of the law while tithing as well. I suspect the Jews (Jesus included) did not even consider discussing whether they should tithe or not a matter of debate. It was a minimum standard to support the synagogue and levites (priest tribe) before other types of offerings like peace offering, harvest, firstfruits etc.

    We now pay tithe and give offering towards the work of Jesus (who is in the order of Melchizedek the High Priest of God, who Abraham our spiritual father as christians, paid tithe to), mostly done through our local church. Read Gen 14:18 – 20 and Hebrews chapters 5, 6 and 7.