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