Consult God's Handbook

Wendy noticed she and her husband gave a lot of money to their church. What does Dave think about being so charitable when you're trying to get out of debt?

QUESTION: Wendy in Little Rock went over her business tax returns, and she noticed she and her husband gave a lot of money to their church. What does Dave think about being so charitable when you're trying to get out of debt? Dave explains it's a spiritual exercise.

ANSWER: It's a spiritual exercise. Let's check with God's handbook and see what He says because that matters; what I say really doesn't matter. As I have studied—for 20 years—and read lots of people who are smarter than me and so forth, I've learned a lot about this subject over the years. But basically here's the rule of thumb you can go by: Since Protestantism has come into play, evangelical Christians have taught and believed that the biblical model for living your life as a Christian is to give a tenth of your income off the top—that's called a tithe—before you do anything else. In Proverbs, it says "first fruits," which in an agrarian culture, you would turn over the first 10% of your crop. There are a lot of indications as to how that applies.

At the end of the day, Orthodox Jewish folks and evangelical Christians believe in giving a tenth of their income—a tithe—to their local church (in the case of a Christian) or a local synagogue (in the case of a Jewish person). That's off the top. Offerings are typically from surplus, meaning you get out of debt before you do a bunch of offerings.

Number one, it's not a salvation issue. Your getting into heaven is not contingent upon tithing. Number two, God's not up there with a scorecard going, "Oh, that one's a tither. I like them more." It's not about gaining favor with God. It's not about building your salvation or something. We're not going to get all caught up in some kind of toxic view of this, but it's real clear in God's handbook that we give a tenth before we do anything else. That would be of your net income—your net taxable income if you're running a business—not your gross. I'm not talking about taxes; I'm talking about gross sales.

If you're giving more than a tenth, I would back it down to a tenth. If you're giving a tenth and that just feels like a lot, I'd probably stay with it if I were you. The reason that God has us to give is He wants to turn us into givers. Givers tend to prosper.

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