Ethics: Pastor Says Tithe Even If You Can’t Met Monthly Expenses

What would you do Wednesday!

This week’s ethics post is inspired by Dave Miller’s recent post The New Testament Standard of Giving at SBC Voices.

A couple from church have been missing for a few Sundays. You wonder where your friends have been so you give them a call one Sunday afternoon.

Your friends tell you that they have been struggling financially and have not been able to give 10% of their gross income; their tithe. They have fallen on financial hard times. The economy is down, the husband took a pay cut, the wife was injured in an accident and is unable to work.

They are $300.00 short every month from being able to pay their tithe. In other words, if they pay their full 10% they will be $300.00 short of paying their bills. So, they’ve stayed home as they struggle trying to figure out if they are in sin for not tithing. They are also debating on finding another church.

You know your pastor is strong on tithing in the church. He preaches that Christian should give 10% of their gross income.

Surely, you think that he would be understanding about this couple’s situation. As a friend, you schedule a lunch with your friends and the pastor – hoping to help counsel them through and ease their worry.

At lunch, the pastor says that despite their circumstances the couple needs to trust God will provide and give their 10%. He tells them if they give that God will provide the extra $300.00. If not, they will continue robbing God and be in sin.

What would you do?

  • Encourage your friends in agreement with the pastor.
  • Disagree with the pastor and challenge him with Scripture.
  • Agree with the pastor, but ask him for some grace.
  • Disagree and tell the pastor you will be finding a new church along with your friends.
  • Ask for full disclosure of all the pastor’s records to make sure he’s paying 10% across the board.
  • Or…



tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Theodore A Jones February 13, 2013 at 10:47 am

The wolves are in a sheep’s clothing.

2 Bill Mac February 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

Find a new pastor. Seriously, that may be a bit extreme, but his advice is unconscionable.

3 brig February 13, 2013 at 11:16 am

One of the purposes of the tithe was so that everyone could eat and be satisfied — the Levite, the poor, widows, orphans, even outsiders. If a pastor makes more demands of his flock than they can bear, how is that any different than tyranny? If the principle is violated, I think the practice needs to be examined across all Scripture. The one with the power of the deacon who says “God will provide!” is the same as the one who tells the hungry and cold “Be warm! Be fed!”

4 Ajay Pollarine February 13, 2013 at 11:46 am

I’m trying to not make a gross assumption, but as someone who has actually lived so far below the poverty line that eviction was a regular fear, and chosen water staying turned on but not gas because going to the bathroom in four shirts is preferable to not being able to have drink of water, and being forced to eat at places offering free meals and sleep in a car on more than one occasion; I can say I likely have a unique perspective on this particular subject.

I have given to God even when giving made no sense monetarily. I have chosen to throw that 20 bucks I needed for buying enough stuff to make it through the week at work during lunch. I have chosen repeatedly to give God the literal last dollar in my bank.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the times I did that with a cheerful heart (and yes you can be malnourished and rejoicing) were the times that God most certainly did provide.

But, this is a spiritual discipline, if my friend cannot do it then I’m not going to pressure them to. I am going to say, give what you can cheerfully give and then pray hard to God. The Holy Ghost will make what’s what clear.

The Pastor needs to also recognize his responsibility to encourage joyful and cheerful giving, not make demands that others might not be ready for. Is there a spiritual blessing for those who give beyond what they think they can? Yes. Is every Christian capable of that yet? Not likely. It’s his job to help prepare them for that level, if he’s pushing them past it then he needs to go before God and let the Holy Ghost give him the what for.

5 tithing February 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

First off, i don’t believe that tithing is commanded in the first place. Even if i did how can one place one evil better than the other? Is it OK to rob God’s left pocket to put it in his right pocket? So how can you justify paying God over paying bills. Are they separable?

6 Mark February 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for the perspectives. Interesting that no one has showed up to agree with the scenario since I did pull it from a real life story.

tithing, I don’t quite understand your comment. What are you referring to as evil?

7 Robert Vaughn February 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm

It is a little hard for me to relate to this question, since I am a pastor and have never preached tithing and never been in a church that strongly advocated tithing. I think my first reaction would be to “Disagree with the pastor and challenge him with Scripture.” Eventually, if he had no grace and no scripture to back up his position, I would move on to “finding a new church.”

I wonder if pastors who preach tithing have become more sophisticated than they used to be? I can remember hearing a lot back in the 60s and 70s that if you didn’t pay your tithe, God would take it out of your income some other way — hospital bills, car problems, and other unexpected expenses. I don’t hear that much anymore, but maybe I’m just not around the right people. I hope it has mostly gone away. Over the years, despite “testimonies” to the contrary, I learned that both tithers and non-tithers get sick, go to the hospital, have flat tires & engine problems, and in general find themselves having bills that they did not expect.

8 NotAPastor February 13, 2013 at 9:28 pm

If tithing on gross income leaves the couple short of paying bills they OWE (rent, mortgage, car payment, insurance, etc.) and which they MUST pay because the money is owed, then the pastor who would insist that this couple continue to tithe on that gross income is asking them to steal. If tithing on their new, lower gross income means not feeding their children adequate food or taking them to the pediatrician when they are ill, he is asking them to abuse their children. If, on the other hand, the tithe money can be paid by cutting out luxuries — cable TV, newspaper delivery, junk food, and the like — they might be able to afford it. Otherwise, they should give what they can give to their local church, without stealing from others. If that isn’t satisfactory to the pastor, they should go elsewhere to church, where the pastor doesn’t demand what people don’t rightfully have to give.

9 Ken Cook February 14, 2013 at 3:03 am

I would say that the pastor is irresponsible at best, and downright unfit for his office and in deep sin.

First, There is no command in the New Testament to tithe.

Second, There were several Tithes in the OT, and to pay them NEVER meant a simple 10%, it would have been closer to 20% ( FIrst Tithe Numbers 18:21, Second Tithe Deut. 14:22-27 and then the tithe for the poor ( which as I understand [knowing there are several views] was 3% every 3rd year, or about another 1% per year ].

Moreover, The Tithe is the Law of the Old Covenant. If you failed to Pay the Title you Were in sin. For a Pastor to Force the Law back on someone as a needed part of the Christian Life. Consider Gal 5:1 Gal 3:18, and perhaps more important for this pastor I would say he does not understand Gal 2:14.

10 DanO February 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm

What an interesting case study and responses!

Ajay, I hear where you’re coming from, brother. My life has had (and is having) the tough stretches you describe. God does provide and sometimes He is stretching our faith and the faith of those charged with helping. You are certainly correct that giving is a spiritual discipline first. God wants our hearts not our cash. Yes, how we use our finances reflects where our affections lie but if our hearts are not right then we need to get that straightened out and give from a proper attitude. Like Paul said, “not reluctantly or out of compulsion.”

In such a case as the OP presents, this economic disaster that this family experienced did not happen overnight. If church leadership is just now finding out what has happened they need to look at how the shepherding is taking place in this congregation. These people need help. If I were sitting there with the pastor across the table from this couple, I would be figuring out how to get them some assistance by the end of the day. As NotAPastor says, they have entered into a new financial realm, one where they probably will have to make serious adjustments to meet basic needs. If they already have made such changes, then we need to look at how to help them pay their power bill, the new medical bills, get gas for their car, etc.

As it says of Jesus in Matt. 12, “a bruised reed He will not break,” this family is wounded and limping along financially (not to mention emotionally). While they DO need to be directed to trust the God who will never leave them, they also need a helping hand. If I were one of the deacons meeting with them I would almost be forced to conclude that the Lord brought us there to help these folks. If this family had already stopped attending, they need to get back into fellowship. That is where the Lord is going to provide not only material support but also spiritual and emotional support.

To answer the question posed, I probably would disagree with the pastor in private and try to help him understand that, as many said earlier, we are not under the OT tithing law. It actually wasn’t only 10% but closer to 23%. The model we DO have is the early church in Acts where the more wealthy gave freely what they had, even to the point of selling property to help out the less “well-off.”

As far as disagreeing and challenging the pastor, I’d be careful here (actually a good topic for a separate blog topic). Pastors are people too. This pastor (admittedly hypothetical) is probably operating out of a sense of fidelity to Scripture. I would assume the benefit of doubt that this is how he understands Scripture. This pastor is still growing in the knowledge and application of the Lord, just like I am, just like the other deacons are, just like this hurting family is. I sincerely believe insisting on 10% of this family’s gross income (before the pay cut and wife’s accident) is the wrong counsel. Hopefully, I can communicate with the pastor my perspective, even though I might not be a deacon or other member of leadership in this church. I would hope I would not have to look for another church to attend. Seriously, do we really agree with the pastor on everything? The spiritual discipline of giving is one part of many things taught and practiced in the church. This particular pastor would have to be hammering the 10% tithing rule pretty hard for me to conclude I need to leave. But that’s just me, I’d have to talk to the wife first 🙂

11 David February 16, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I agree with Ken that there is no commandment in the New Testament to tithe and the tithe really exceeded 10%. However, giving in the New Testament was often sacrificial and involved more than tithe-level giving. I don’t have the exact Scripture on this but recall my former pastor mentioning it in some of his messages.

The elder who is currently leading my church gives an interesting perspective on giving that I had not heard before: “I will never tell somebody to give out of guilt. The NT says we should be cheerful givers.” I grew up in a household where giving the tithe on gross was emphasized more than almost any other aspect of the Christian faith – even getting the gospel right. So hearing the elder say this was refreshing and seemed much more Biblical / more emphasizing the new covenant than the old to me.

For the record, I’m in my late 20s and single. I had moderately (and progressively higher) paying IT jobs over about 5 years after college. I would give about 10% of my gross income to my church, a church plant that needed the money (our pastor was full-time and being paid a part-time salary). I had to leave my job about a year ago for reasons that aren’t relevant to discuss here, and decided to go into business for myself. Since this is also a career change, I have spent more time studying my new field than doing paying jobs in it. My income during a great week still does not exceed 10% of my former weekly income yet. I’m helping my church find a pastor too, and that’s turning into almost an unpaid part-time job in itself.

Yet I still try to give to my church. My budget has nothing but these things in it now: car insurance (which last year’s tax refund is paying for), bills for my business, gas (and I drive a lot less now – mostly just to church and into town), health insurance (the cheapest I could find), my Compassion sponsorships, some money to give to the church, and a small budget for eating out with friends from church (which often overlaps with ministry). I don’t remember the last time I made a discretionary purchase; even Christmas money from relatives went toward just these items so far. I continue my Compassion sponsorships because I realize my situation is temporary and I can get out of it more easily than my sponsored kids can.

Because my church doesn’t have a pastor now and many people have left, it needs all the help it can get. Most Sundays, I try to put $10 or $20 into the offering because I am one of the counters and realize that our giving has taken a big hit since the pastor left. I’m not saying this to put myself on a pedestal, just to give an example.

Would I mandate this to others in my situation? No. But I would say this: pray about it and examine how you can give to support your church and/or other work for the kingdom of God.

It really is a case-by-case heart issue. I would say this: examine what bills you need to have in your budget, try to get down to the bare-minimum set of bills (like I’ve done), and see what you can give to the church. Many of the things that you think you need, you do not. In the case of the original post, both parents were working at the beginning. They likely do have “needs” that they can slash from their budget, or could consider moving to an area with a lower cost of living, etc.

So what would I do from the original options? A combination of disagree with/challenge the pastor, and ask him for some grace. If he won’t give it, I would be praying about whether I should find a different church.

I would not ask for full disclosure of the pastor’s records; this isn’t necessary. The issue doesn’t start with whether this pastor is obeying Scripture; it starts with the person who says they can’t afford to give.

12 Robert Yocom April 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

I can sympathize. I had been agnostic for most of my life and always belived in God I guess but never pursued until 7 years ago. Our world is full of fraud, lies, half lies and half truths, the majority to obtain one’s money. Imagine being from a secular or agnostic background, seeing all the lies in the secular world then arriving at church and the pastor says I owe him at least 10% of my income.Disgusting.

13 CR Tolbert April 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I’d probably have to respectfully disagree and challenge the pastor with Scripture. New Testament Christians were never commanded to tithe. 2 Corinthians 8 is where we are instructed as to how the church is funded – the cheerful giver.

14 Robert Yocom December 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Tell the reprobate pastor to get a real job and stop trying to rob people.


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