Christians seem to thrive on debating the topic of tithing, squaring off on such issues as if tithing is a New Testament teaching, if people should tithe while paying off debt, or if people can’t afford to tithe money, is tithing their time a good substitute?
I believe these discussions are healthy.
Open-minded debates where contestants seek truth and leave their egos in their hip pockets should help us all sharpen each other, “as iron sharpens iron.” (see Proverbs 27:17)
It is with this attitude that I want to discourage the concept of tithing time. The argument I hear about tithing time sounds logical: “I just can’t afford it. Every penny is spent before the month begins. Wouldn’t God understand if I were to tithe my time instead of my money?”
While I don’t believe this is a black-and-white issue, I do see some problems with this mindset.
1The Bible Doesn’t Teach Tithing of Time
Biblical tithing always requires some sort of valued exchange (often grain or livestock) – not time.
2God Wants 100%, Not 10%
Romans 12:1 challenges us to give our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. He doesn’t want four hours a week (10% of 40); he wants 168 hours a week. The danger of tithing time is to smugly think, “Well, I have given God his share. The rest belongs to me.” Not true.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Joe, couldn’t people make the same mistake when tithing money?” Yes, they could. But they would be just as wrong. Why? Because God wants 100% of your money just like He wants 100% of your time.
The proper attitude about tithing money is not to pat yourself on the back, thinking you have “paid God what you owe him.” Bad theology. You should be thinking, “It all belongs to God. How much does He want me to keep? 90%? 80%? 50%?”
3Tithing Time Could Lead to Sloppy Money Management
Why do you want to tithe time in the first place? Because you can’t afford to tithe money?
OK. Why can’t you afford to tithe money? I realize many people have legitimate financial hardships. God understands that too. But if you don’t budget, make no effort to pay off debt, and continue to spend money you don’t have, you shouldn’t allow “tithing time” to perpetuate your bad money management.
Here is a thought: take that “extra time” to find extra work so you can get your finances under control and honor God with them.
Tithing money allows God to change your heart.
4Tithing Actual Money Allows God to Change Your Heart
I, for one, am a naturally selfish person. I work for my money and I like to keep it. However, over the years, as I have learned to open my fist, God has been slowly changing my heart to make me less selfish and more giving.
If you wait until you feel warm and fuzzy before you open your wallet, you probably won’t ever open that wallet. God’s way to change your heart is for you to give when you don’t feel like doing so.
5You Have Limited Ways for God to Bless You
Malachi 3:10 makes this challenge:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. – Malachi 3:10 NIV
I have seen this passage fulfilled in my own life and in others’ lives many times over; when people faithfully give, even during tough times, they will receive blessings. It may be a job promotion, a friend who helps them fix their car, an unexpected insurance refund, or an anonymous gift, but God intervenes. If they had not been tithing, they could have missed this blessing.
Some people have legitimate financial hardships that severely limit how much money they are able to give. God understands their struggles. However, even in these cases, I don’t believe tithing of time is a good plan. A better plan is to serve God with 100% of your time and give financially as you are able.
Have you ever tithed your time? How did it go? Do you find tithing your time as a good long-term plan or is it a stopgap plan as you are working toward giving more money? Any other thoughts on tithing of time? Leave a comment!