Creative Ways To Tithe

Have you ever felt like your tithe money isn’t being put to good use after it is put in the offering bucket each week? Or maybe you are low on funds and there is a meaningful cause that you want to contribute to but can’t afford both the tithe AND to contribute to the cause. Is it such an unthinkable act to pay your tithe elsewhere?

While you may not be willing to admit it, isn’t it possible that it could be put to better use in a meaningful cause? I hate to say it, but wouldn’t God want you to give your first 10% to the most meaningful cause sometimes?

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creative ways to tithe

Why I Think It’s Okay to “Tithe” Outside the Church

You may think that I am a heathen for suggesting such a blasphemous thing, but I believe it is perfectly justified to contribute your tithe towards other causes. Most people take a tradition from the Old Testament to support the rigid idea that tithing has to be performed in a set manner. It’s a particular percentage and it has to given to the church. Yet, this ideal often fails to take into account the messiness of life.

I have been in seminary for some time now. It’s no secret that graduate students do not make a lot of money and are often just scrapping by on the part-time jobs they have. It was just a few months ago that a good friend of mine was trying to raise money to go to Africa. She was not going to be able to go without some extra money. Because my funds are limited already, I knew I couldn’t afford to help her AND also pay a percentage of my income to my church. I strongly believed that she was supposed to go to Africa and so I decided to give the money that I would normally tithe to her. If you ask me, there is something in this personal story that helps challenge the normal understanding of tithing. After all, it’s not like I was hoarding it away for myself, like putting money into my retirement fund.

More importantly, I don’t think that paying your tithe is about following a strict rule. While most would not be willing to admit this, I have difficulty believing in a God that wants us to abide by such rigid standards when it is too financially difficult to do so. I especially believe this when there are other meaningful services that need financial support. When I think of why God would want us to tithe, the most important reason, to me, seems to be to remind us that our money should not be hoarded for selfish reasons, but instead put to good causes. I’m not suggesting to completely get rid of tithing altogether, but to suggest that perhaps there are times in our lives where it is okay to give your tithe elsewhere.

Creative Ways to Tithe

If you are also wondering other ways to pay your tithe, here are some that I have found are meaningful replacements:

Sponsoring a Child: There are many sponsorship programs that all have similar features. Regardless of the program, I can think of fewer ways that are easier to impact a life than paying as little as $22 per month. For this small amount, a poor child gets a more comfortable living environment and a better education that helps them out of a systemic poverty.

Funding a Mission Trip: Similar to my experience, there are many people that hope to travel to make a meaningful impact and lack funding. Contributing to something like this not only has an obvious impact (they are able to travel), but often are changed for life.

Food Pantry: Regardless of where you live, there is most likely a need for food to be given to homeless and lower-income individuals and families. Being in that position causes enough stress; having to worry about where your next meal is even worse. If you are able to contribute towards such a cause, I don’t see God holding it against you.

Do you think it’s okay to find meaningful replacements for your tithe? What creative ways have you used to tithe?

This was an article by Wayne at Young Family Finance. He writes to help young families overcome financial challenges like paying your bills on time.

Last Edited: 17th January 2012

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  1. says

    Thanks Wayne. Yes, I don’t think the church is the only place to tithe either. There are tons of ways to be creative with the money God has given us.. and I don’t think we need to make it public either. One fun way thing we’ve done in the past is to ask a church secretary if they knew of anyone in the community or at the church who was really hurting and then hand over a gift card or money to the secretary to pass on to that person. This way it’s anonymous giving – which the bible praises.

  2. says

    I agree that the principle of generosity doesn’t require 10% to your church and that it’s acceptable to give elsewhere even if that means giving less to your church. However, I think that if one does not trust his church to use the offering well it’s time to get involved to change that or find a trustworthy church to attend and invest in.

    • says

      Hmm… I guess I never thought about it that way. For me, it isn’t a matter of distrust as much as feeling like it makes a bigger difference if I am giving directly to others. With that said, there is something to say for giving as part of a larger community. More people can make a bigger difference than just one person.

  3. says

    What your talking about is not tithing in the end.

    I totally agree with the importance of being charitable outside of tithing, but I dont think that you should do it instead of tithing. It is a hard line to look at and I know a lot of people will disagree with me on it, but I think you need to give 10% to the church first, then go and give additional in other places to help.

      • says

        I’ve heard both sides of this debate and understand both. For years I’ve said that we need to trust the leadership of the church to determine and hear from God as to where the tithes are to be spent, but recently my wife and I understood also that the church isn’t in the battlefields of life nor is it possible for them to be everywhere where there is a need. We’ve been blessed and felt it ok to put aside our tithe (doesn’t even have to be 10%) privately and give what we felt led to the church, then give to others personally, or organizationally that we felt led as well.

  4. says

    I love this post. I completely agree that the tithe can be outside the church. My wife and I have pray about it, and have determined that for us, half of our tithe goes to the church and half goes to Christian causes. This can be Christian missionaries, Christian support programs, Medical missions (as long as they are Christian centered). We don’t give to local food banks with out tithes, because they are not furthering God’s work in this world.

  5. says

    I thought this was an excellent post.
    We tithe on my husband’s paycheck to our church exclusively. But when there is ‘extra’ money – such as tax refunds, etc. – that tithe amount we will sometimes choose to support other Christ-focused organizations, such as Mercy House Kenya or Compassion International and even our local Rescue Mission that is solely a Gospel preaching mission and takes no state/federal funds. I love that God allows us to be part of other ‘hands & feet’ organizations to further His Kingdom.
    Blessings on the journey~

  6. says

    The heart of what this article is getting to is great: thinking through where the money ends up and considering how it could make the most impact. Like Emily said, it is a thought that may lead some church leaders to reassign church funds.
    I also tend to agree with Kyle though in recognizing that Christians may be drawn into many great causes such as a food bank that don’t share the gospel. These are great causes that show the effects of God’s grace on us to the world, but I don’t think they should come out of the tithe which should be reserved for God’s kingdom work. As a seminary student, I’m sure you’re familiar with the discussion/debate on what the scope of “furthering God’s kingdom” actually is. Maybe this question leads us to further prayerfully reflect on that question along with what is the mission of the church. Do you have a resource on this question? Thanks for your thoughts and reflections.

  7. John says

    I agree with Emily, and others, that giving charitably should not replace what you give to your church. I don’t see the New Testament calling us to a strict standard of giving 10% to your church. And that’s a good thing, because for some folks that will be too much (single moms, college students, etc.), and for some folks of greater means that amount will not really be generous or sacrificial. We are called to prayerfully consider what amount God is individually calling us to give, whether more than 10% or less than 10%.

    I’ve seen a lot of people use these types of excuses (that they are not required to tithe exclusively to their local church) just to give less overall. I certainly wouldn’t accuse Wayne of this, as this does not seem to be his heart or approach. But it’s obviously a pervasive problem that Christians give too little than too much. And I’ve heard these types of excuses before, as a reason to give little or nothing to the local church. I think I heard a statistic about evangelicals giving a little over 2% of their income on average? Don’t quote me on it, but if that statistic is even close to accurate, then I think we can all agree that that’s pretty pathetic.

    If you can’t trust the leadership in your local church to handle the money that God has entrusted to you, then you shouldn’t trust them with your soul (and the souls of your family) and you should move on to another church. Depending on the situation, the particular church leadership might be the problem, or the problem might be you.

    • Sherri says

      Appreciated your comments. I agree with you totally. I am on the Finance Committee and Board of my church and try to bring to the table how the church can be a good stewart of the tithes received. Sometimes I don’t agree where some of the money goes and I question and comment. Funds are needed to keep the local church going but sometimes we have to watch dept. heads and make sure they realize this money is a sacrifice from the people and we are accountable for it. As for supporting other organizations, I truly believe we need to help the less fortunate. Sometimes we need to give up a little something and make a sacrifice to have the extra. If we trust God and really desire to give and help, I believe He will provide the way.

  8. says

    We shouldn’t tithe in a legalistic way, but our motive has to be love, and a concern to see God’s purposes established through our giving.

    Even as 1 Corinthians 13 says, we can give all we’ve got, but it would still amount to nothing, if the motive for giving is not love. The same principle applies to the tithe. If God has our hearts we’ll give all we’ve got when he leads us to give not just the 10%.

    In the Old Testament, we read that the tithe didn’t just go to the Levites, it also went to support the orphans, widows and strangers, this principle still applies today.

    We should give to our church family, so that the house of God, and its ministers will not suffer lack; and our churches should give to the projects outside the church through the giving that goes on.

    However, we also have to remember that even though we have a corporate responsibility to give, which we do through our churches, we also have Christ living in us, and his spirit urging us on to live the Christ like life… to be a blessing to our world… so we also give on an individual basis.

    God has made it so that our money follows our hearts. If you are not giving to your church then you heart is not in it. If you do not feel comfortable giving to your church, follow your heart, and find a church where you really fell you could support their vision and mission.

    Finally I would like to address the issue of saving up for the future. I believe it is prudent to do this. It is diligent to invest in assets now, that would help fund the Gospel and the seasons of life when we are less able to work. The bible tells us about the Ant, and urges us to learn from it. It prepares in the summer of the winter. This too is the wisdom of God.

  9. says

    I am 110% in support of supporting child sponsorship, missionaries, food pantries. For those looking for information on this, Google Compassion International, Mission to the World, OneVerse, and Gospel for Asia. These are some great organizations to support.

    This being said, I would have to disagree with you about the nature of the tithe. The tithe was originally instituted for the point of supporting the Levite. All the tribes of Israel were given an inheritance in the land except for the Levites who were fully dedicated to temple service. With no land you can have no crops, no vineyards, no flocks, no herds, and no trade. This means that you have no means to sustain your own life appart from the gifts of others. The Levites were to have God as their inheritance and live from the gifts of God given through his people.

    Jesus did affirm the legitimacy of the tithe in Matthew 23. Though he rebukes the Pharisees for extreme precision in law-keeping (specifically tithing) while neglecting the weightier matters (justice, mercy, faithfulness) he does say, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

    Of course, here Jesus is affirming the legitimacy of the Pharisee, a Jew, keeping this law. As non-Jews who have no Levite to support, I don’t think there is a technical requirement for us to tithe.

    However, there is an obvious parallel to the church life. You have vocational ministers who have often spend years and 10,000s of dollar to be trained, often at a grad school level, for ministry, abandoning the much more profitable industries that they could have directed their studies and efforts towards in order to serve you. Although the Apostle Paul took no advantage of it, he makes it clear that “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

    These vocational ministers are not unlike the Levite, and thus it makes sense that 10% remains a good figure. It means that for every 10 tithing families, you can support 1 vocational minister at a salary that matches the average tither. This may be a bit low, because in most congregations the average doesn’t have a graduate degree and the loans associated with it. However, since a more realistic figure would be that there are maybe 50-100 congregants per minister there should be some surplus which can be budgeted elsewhere for ministry purposes whether supplies, facility costs, or outward missions and strategic ministry opportunities.

    So it makes sense to me for your tithe to go directly to your church, and to give above and beyond to additional ministries that you support. If you think that your church is untrustworthy with money, directing your tithe to outside organizations will not be the answer you need.

    If you cannot trust your church with money, you need to have a meeting with your pastor and let the concerns be known, and perhaps their expenditures will make much more sense coming from the horse’s mouth. If they are still untrustworthy, find a few others in your church who agree with you, pray that you will be humble and not intentionally divisive, and bring those into a private meeting with the leadership. If they still refuse to repent of their sins with money, you need to find a different church. If you are a member, you should renounce your membership and be transparent about your reasons for doing so. Jesus said that you cannot serve God and money, and therefore if your ministers are serving money and refuse to change, you can be certain that there is no worship going on and it is time to leave.

    Thank you for the blog and I appreciate the attention you gave to tithing and noble causes for financial gifts. I am thankful for your efforts as a seminarian and hope that you will be a huge blessing to the church or organization where God sends you. Thank you for serving us in this financial blog as well.


  10. Chris says

    I’m blessed to work for a good company that will match charitable contributions (but not to churches), and I attend a church that gives a large amount to various charitable organizations each year. I often find it to be more financially responsible to give directly to the same organizations my church supports in order to double the amount they receive.

  11. Peter Pilt says

    I understand your thinking behind this, but you give your tithe to someone else not the local church and then you go to church on Sunday and enjoy the worship – that someone else paid for the electricity, the lights, the projector, the stage. You get ministered to by the preaching – that someone else paid for the pastor so he can study. When you are going through a tough time – you received the pastoral care and follow up – that someone else paid for.

    So basically you are a free loader on the local church using the resources that someone else paid for.

    And that’s just sad really..

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