The main inspiration behind building this blog was my arguably nosy curiosity about other peoples’ personal finance lives in combination with my desire to help people with their finances. I built a tool to accomplish both of those things. You can bare your budget, and can ask me anything you want. You can see some of the questions I’ve answered here.
I can’t very well ask other people to put their finances out there without me being willing to do the same. This means sharing all of the normal financial stuff that you could probably guess anyway if you put some thought into it, like how much we spend on food, the cost of our kids breaking stuff, etc.
But along with all of that transparency comes the disclosure of something that is fairly personal. That thing, my friends, is tithing.
Isn’t tithing for suckers?
What is tithing anyway? Isn’t it some sort of weird ancient financial ritual? It does have ancient roots, but it’s not all that weird. Tithing is by definition one-tenth. It is freely giving one-tenth of one’s income annually (back) to God to support His work.
Tithing is something that is between an individual and God, which is why I feel a little uneasy putting it out there. I’ve never created or posted a meme, but I couldn’t resist. This is how I picture the world looking back at me when I post my tithing–which is often my largest expense–in my bare budget reports.
I’m probably being dramatic, but part of me worries that people will misinterpret my transparency with giving as boastful. The reality is, though, that millions of people pay tithing. It just means they are doing what they think is right and potentially trying to take advantage of one of the best deals (blessings) available to us (I know I am).
The promise of tithing
One of the most amazing promises in the scriptures is in the Old Testament book of Malachi. God basically dares us to test him by paying tithing to see if he won’t pour out blessings on us.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
That is a powerful promise. Some people pay tithing because the Bible says to do it, and some people pay because they expect to be rewarded. I do it for both of these reasons, and more.
Why I pay tithing
This is strictly why I pay tithing, and not necessarily why anyone else should.
Out of habit: For most of my life, the main reason I have paid tithing is mostly due to the fact that my parents taught me to, and I made it a habit. For a long time, the blessings were secondary.
But when I started working after college, and as my income increased, that 10 percent hitting my bank account no longer went unnoticed. 10 percent of $1,000 for some reason just doesn’t seem as substantial as 10 percent of $100,000. I had to ask myself if this habit really made sense.
Faith in promises: That’s when I started paying not out of habit but rather out of faith.
- We continued to pay tithing when I was back in school and we were in debt. Sure, we could have paid off my loans using that money, but we paid in faith, counting on Malachi’s promise. We still paid off the loans in less than 2 years.
- My wife and I argue just as much as any married couple, but we have never had any significant arguments about money. I believe that fact can at least partially be attributed to paying tithing.
- I lost my first job and was employed again within less than a month. That employer still welcomes all the side work I can give him.
Are all of these things a direct result of paying tithing? I choose to believe that they are. Choosing to believe helps to both prevent greed and increase faith. It also increases my peace of mind.
Paying tithing does not necessarily guarantee monetary returns. It guarantees whatever monetary and spiritual blessings that God wants us to have.
Perfection: It’s one of the few things I can do perfectly! Just think of how many imperfections we have. No one has perfect thoughts, words, or actions, but I can pay tithing without messing up. All I have to do is move the decimal two places to the left and write a check.
Financial implications of tithing
I have been thinking about making the mutual commitment with a friend to have 1 million dollars by the time I turn 40. We even have a slogan–$1M40. I’m thinking about making t-shirts. That might be a large number for some, but not so much for others. My son (who’s 7) said to me just last week “You know a million dollars really isn’t that much? It’s only like ten thousand one hundreds.” Even my 7-year-old is putting on the pressure!
It would definitely be a challenge for us given our lifestyle choices, but I think we could do it if I really made it a focus. But I’m partly afraid that if I were to commit to that type of goal that my focus would be in the wrong place and that I would miss out on life. I’ll discuss that another time. I only mention it here because tithing would have a huge impact on the realization of that goal.
To make it simple, say I continued to make about $120K for the next 8 years (until I hit that age that must not be named). If I were to save (rather than pay tithing on) that extra 10 percent (or $12K) for those 8 years and had an 8 percent return, that would amount to about $130K! That’s 13 percent of the 1 million I would need to hit my goal of $1M40.
But since I do pay tithing, I’d need to make up that $130K elsewhere. That is nothing to sneeze at. And if I projected out 30 years (rather then 8) to traditional retirement age, the savings would amount to $1.3 million.
Suffice it to say that the financial implications of tithing are not lost on me.
Is it easier to give when you make more?
I was recently reading a book called The Thin Green Line. The author describes the thin green line as the thing that separates the wealthy from the rich. He defines wealthy as people who live in financial comfort and the rich as what I described as a financial endomorph.
He describes a correlation found between people’s feelings about their financial situation and giving. There was a noticeable difference in how much an individual gave when income levels rise above $300K. Families making below $300K gave away 2.3 percent of their income while families making more than $300K gave away 4.4 percent.
Most people will not achieve a $300K income level during their lifetimes, which means waiting until later to give just isn’t feasible. If we don’t give when we have very little, it’s not very likely that we’ll give when we have more, whether our giving be in the form of money, time, or talents.
The bottom line
Tithing affects it, but it doesn’t matter. Some think that giving away 10 percent is a bit ridiculous, and that’s okay. I just wanted to talk a little bit about the “why” given that I publish it every month. I believe that if my family and I continue to make it a priority that we will always be okay.
Do you think it’s vain to discuss how much you give?