Are you struggling with what to do when one of you wants to tithe and yet your spouse doesn’t? You might be surprised how common of a situation this is for married couples.
As Dr Larry Burkett said, “Because tithing involves money, it is a prime candidate for controversy between a husband and wife.” And it is. But the situation is about more than money —it’s about priorities and better understanding why tithing should be a priority.
Dr Burkett went on to explain the significance of the tithe by saying,
“It’s imperative to understand that tithing is not a law but, rather, an indicator of a desire to be obedient to all of God’s laws. Giving always should come from the heart. And, because the tithe’s purpose is to be an individual or family testimony of God’s ownership, it was never intended that everyone should give the same amount or even in the same way but that each should give bountifully and cheerfully” (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). (From the article, Tithing When Your Spouse Objects, Baptist Press, 7/31/2003)
The following is something else that Larry Burkett wrote, concerning tithing that you may find helpful:
Give to God what is already His —and you will reap the blessings!
-By Larry Burkett
In 1922, Howard Carter uncovered one of the most amazing finds in the history of archaeology: the tomb of the famed Egyptian ruler, King Tut. Among the treasures in Tut’s tomb was his funerary mask, made by hand from pure gold. Thousands of miles away in Peru, the Moche people also built elaborate royal tombs stocked with treasures, including gold and silver jewelry.
The tombs of both peoples are impressive because of the riches they contain, but they have an equally impressive characteristic that we shouldn’t overlook: None of their occupants took anything with them. Instead, they learned that God, not man, is the true owner of all things. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1, NIV).
Where We Fit In
As owner of all things, God entrusts each of us with various amounts of riches to manage. We are stewards of His possessions, but we are never owners. When we begin to see ourselves as owners, we start to shift our loyalties from God to money, and money competes with Christ for our devotion. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). We need to remember who the true owner is, and giving a portion of what we have back to God helps us do that. The minimum standard of giving in the Bible is the tithe, a word that means “tenth,” and it’s found as early as Genesis 14.
The practice of tithing results in blessings. When the Israelites neglected this practice, God encouraged them to renew their commitment to giving. He promised to bless them as a result. ”‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it‘” (Malachi 3:10-11).
Social Security and Tithing
Tithing itself is not a difficult concept, but it has raised some difficult questions as our society has grown more financially complex. For example, many Christians wonder if they should tithe on their Social Security benefits. Some people say that during their working years, they gave God a portion of the paychecks from which their Social Security deductions were taken. Therefore, they think they’ve already satisfied the giving requirement on their Social Security benefits.
If these people were average givers, they gave God about 3 percent of their income, according to research by Empty Tomb, Inc. Some may have given 10 percent. But regardless of what they gave, God still owned what was left. Bottom line, we can’t argue from a “your share, my share” perspective when dealing with God, because His share is 100 percent. Also, consider that the money contributed to Social Security is quickly exhausted. In my book, Whatever Happened to the American Dream, I noted that “the average Social Security recipient draws out all his or her contributions in the first four years of retirement.”
To illustrate this point, we created a fictional character named Jim, who plans to retire on his 66th birthday, December 31, 2003. Jim began his working life in 1960, after college. We based his annual salary each year on median income figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1960, Jim’s annual income was $5,434. In 2001, it was $40,136, and so on.
During his working years, Jim earned a total of $926,153. A certain percentage of his income was deducted for Social Security. We’ll use the current deduction of 6.2 percent, giving him a total employee contribution of $57,235. Based on payment calculators at Social Security’s Web site, Jim will receive a monthly benefit payment of $1,501.90.
At this rate, he’ll get back his entire contribution in 39 months, or three years and three months. Beyond that, he’s receiving money deducted from someone else’s paycheck —money that he has not given to the Lord. Jim could withhold tithing until 39 months have passed and deprive himself of the joy of giving and its attendant blessings. Or he could recognize God as owner and provider, and tithe on his Social Security income from the start. Without a doubt, the latter option is best. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
From Alimony to Insurance
As you might expect, Social Security isn’t the only tithing issue involving alternative sources of income.
Q: Should I tithe on alimony or child support from my ex-husband?
A: Alimony is part of your “increase” or personal financial gain, and you should tithe on that increase. But child support belongs to your children and isn’t part of your increase. If you desire to tithe on the child support, it would be good for you to tell your ex-spouse, not only to prevent legal ramifications but also as a personal testimony about your Christian commitment. If your ex-spouse strongly objects to your tithing on the child support, I believe you need to respect those objections. Since tithing is a matter of the heart, God will honor your desire to tithe even if you are not able to give.
Q: Should I tithe on my welfare benefits?
A: The Bible says, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). This includes income from sources like paychecks, welfare benefits, investment returns, and so on. A tithe on your welfare benefits may not represent much, but it is your love for God and your commitment to honor Him that counts.
Q: What about insurance payments received after the death of a spouse? Should I tithe on the lump sum or the interest earned —or both?
A: This question takes us back to the principle of tithing on our increase, which includes infrequent sources of income like insurance payments, inheritances and income from the sale of a house. If insurance proceeds are paid in a lump sum, a tithe should first be paid on the entire amount received. Afterward, a tithe should be paid on any increase received (interest, dividends) from the investment of those funds. If the proceeds are held in trust and distributed periodically, then a tithe should be paid on each distribution.
Elderly Parents and Tithing
Finally, let’s consider the question of using tithe money to help parents.
Q: Could I use money from my tithe to help my elderly parent or parents who are in great need?
A: In Matthew 15:5-6, Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ practice of consecrating their possessions to God while their parents suffered need. In light of this, if the tithe is the only resource available to help your parents, give it to them. But first, be sure there are absolutely no other funds you can use. This is something about which you need to pray and seek God’s direction. As you do, remember these words: “Each man should give what he has decided in his own heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
So, what about the situation where you’re conflicting over this important issue? And especially, what do you do when one spouse is a follower of Christ and the other is an unbeliever? That could cause even more conflict.
To address these questions and more, we have provided below, links to articles posted on various ministry web sites so you can glean from the counsel they give. You can then decide, as the Holy Spirit speaks to your mind and your heart, on what you should do in your marriage situation.
To read more on this subject please click onto the links below:
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.