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Ask Dave

Tithing Feels Like a Tax?

Ben wants to get his wife on board with tithing. Ben's wife sees tithing as a tax rather than giving. Dave explains that this is more of a spiritual discussion than a financial one.

QUESTION: Ben in Indianapolis is making about $200,000 a year, and he wants to get his wife on board with tithing. Ben’s wife sees tithing as a tax rather than giving. Dave explains that this is more of a spiritual discussion than a financial one.

ANSWER: This is not a financial discussion. This is a spiritual discussion because what she is saying is perfectly logical from her perspective because her perspective is not one where God is the Lord of her life at this stage. That’s not calling her names or calling her out in any way. If someone is not a person of faith, to ask them to tithe—it is a tax. It does feel like that. This has to do with the level of faith that she has and the maturity of that faith. In other words, God is not in charge of her life right now.

We’re back to asking someone who’s not a Christian to tithe. I think she’s approaching her faith. She’s beginning to feel it out. She’s wondering about it, but she has not embraced it completely yet. And when she does that, then tithing will come from a different discussion because a tithe for you and I—we understand God owns it all, and He’s asking us to give a tenth of what He already owns. He’s in charge of our life—you and me. But if He’s not in charge of somebody’s life, then it’s weird to them to tithe.

I would not argue with her about tithing. I might come to some compromise and just say, “As a part of my faith, this is very important to me. I want to do at least this level,” because tithing, as you know, is not a salvation issue. It doesn’t get you saved, and it doesn’t make God like you more. It’s just His instruction to us as believers to be givers. The tithe is the baseline—the plumb line—for that. It’s the starting point. But God’s not mad at her over this or you if you don’t give a full tithe.

I would be a lot more concerned with attending a church where faith is attractive for her and her to be there in a situation where she can meet God in a really deep way. Then the tithe will be the result—the byproduct—of that. I’ve never met a lady whose husband said, “We’re going to start tithing because I demand it,” and they say, “Oh, okay. I love God now.” That doesn’t work.

Your wife’s a bright lady. She made big money, and she’s going to intellectually approach her faith as well. She’s going to want to argue through some of the tough questions regarding faith. It’s going to be a great journey for you all as she approaches it.

I would put the tithe on the back burner as a discussion instead of it being a barrier to her sticking her toe in the water about faith. I would remove that barrier.

I think the goal is five years from now, she has a deep and abiding, thriving faith that is intellectually and spiritually based that would be appealing to someone like her that she comes to in a proper way. Then the net result of that is the two of you walking together naturally decide to tithe. That’s how I would go at it. I would go at it from the bottom up, so to speak, instead of the top down.

It’s a good discussion. The tithe is a lot of times a spiritual discussion. It was with me. I didn’t grow up in church, and when the preacher said he wanted a tenth of my income, I went, “Right! You’ve got to be kidding me.” That was my first reaction. It’s kind of like your wife, really. Then when I actually accepted the Lord and said, “Okay, you’re in charge now,” and then I said, “What’s the handbook say?” Oh! That’s what it says. Okay, we do what the handbook says. It was a natural reaction for me even as rebellious and tough and grouchy as I am sometimes. But that’s how I approached it, too. It was tied into my faith.