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Ask Dave

Giving Beyond Tithing

Carrie and her husband tithe, but they're on Baby Step 2 and expecting a child in a few months. What do they do about giving beyond tithing?

QUESTION: Carrie in Los Angeles and her husband tithe, but they’re on Baby Step 2 and expecting a child in a few months. What do they do about giving beyond tithing?

ANSWER: There are two types of giving in the Bible that evangelical Christians see. There are tithes and offerings. The tithe is off the top before you do anything. That’s why tithing is on the first line of our budget forms.

After that, other offerings are almost impossible to find in Scripture until your family is first taken care of. What we suggest is, unless you feel very strongly that God is telling you to do otherwise, the normative storyline that we find in Scripture is that offerings are from surplus. While your family is in debt and you are cleaning up your mess, there’s no surplus.

Just because something pulls at your heartstrings or somebody puts you in an arm twist or you hear a toxic sermon or something does not mean you need to give offerings above a tithe.

Again, if you and your husband are just very sure and prayed about it and talked about it and are sure it’s from God, I’m not arguing with that. But if you just feel like you should support something, I would say no until you are out of debt. The reason is that you just can’t find it in Scripture. Every time offerings appear, they came from surplus, which comes after household is first taken care of. That would include cleaning up the debt mess and getting your family on a solid foundation.

Then you have the rest of your life to be very open to give. When you have no debt and your emergency fund in place, it’s easy to do other offerings. You can just have extraordinary levels of generosity—and you should, by the way. It’s fun. But while you are working your Baby Step 2, with few exceptions, the tithe off the top is all we do.