For all the encouraging tithing testimonies that I hear from readers, I occasionally get people emailing or commenting something like this:
- “Tithing didn’t work for me”
- “I tithed for a while, but didn’t see results”
- “I quit tithing because I didn’t notice any change”
I have wanted to write this article for a while addressing this, but I have been hesitant because there aren’t any one-size-fits-all answers.
And if there are, I definitely don’t know what they are. I have some thoughts and maybe some humble suggestions for you to take to the Lord and ask for clarity, but no solid answer.
I also want to say that this article is written with much prayer, humility, and love backing it.
I believe as you read this, the Lord will lead you to your answer even if there is not even a hint of it in the article below.
But I did my best to address some of the common reasons why some people don’t see results tithing and a few other thoughts as well that I will share below.
I am going to assume that you read our article Tithing in the New Testament & Old that explains why it is not a “have to” thing, but rather a “get to” thing and answers a whole lot of common questions about tithing.
Before we get to a few questions we can ask ourselves if we aren’t seeing results from tithing, I want share a little of our story of all the years when we were tithing and seemed to not really be getting anywhere.
My tithing challenge
I tend to be a pretty all-or-nothing type of guy, so when I first got ahold of Malachi 3:10 I dove right in and went for it.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse … Test me in this, 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.”
Actually giving the 10% wasn’t as challenging for me as patiently waiting for the second half of that promise to be fulfilled.
You see Linda and I have always had a dream in our hearts to be greatly used by God to give lots of money to fund the Kingdom of God.
When we were dating, we would talk and dream of what it would be like to be able to buy cars for people in need, to simply write a check and feed thousands of starving kids, and use our money to support evangelistic work all over the world.
But the reality was that we were so financially strapped that it was difficult to find money to buy a gift for a friend’s birthday party.
After we got married, we joined forces and decided to pay off all our credit card debt, and then things got even tighter.
We decided to NOT stop tithing while we were paying off our debt. And then we felt like God was leading us to actually give more during that phase.
At first I was arguing with God a bit. “Come on, we barely have 2 nickels to rub together, should we really give more?”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that He wasn’t trying to take money from me, but He was trying to help us get the debt paid off faster.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Cor 9:6
Just like any farmer knows, the more seed you sow, the bigger your harvest will be.
In hindsight it is easy to see that’s what He was doing, but at the time I had no idea why He was calling us to give more while trying to pay off our mountain of debt.
Meanwhile at work…
I was beginning to realize that I had entered a low-paying career-path that had very little room for growth.
I had always been a hard worker and even though I hated my job I continued to work hard but always felt like a mediocre performer because it wasn’t suited for my giftings.
And then our company got bought and our entire department got notice that we were no longer needed.
If it hadn’t been so discouraging, it would have been laughable.
Starting a side-business
And like many new businesses, I didn’t see results right away. In my first 6 months I made a total of $110.
The earnings were increasing each month, but when I was officially laid off we were barely making $100/month from the blog.
And then I felt God leading me to NOT look for another job, but to work on the blog full-time.
I thought “Um God, you are joking right?”
I had spent a year working on the blog to only be earning $100/m – how in the world is this ever going to be able to support my family?
And then my faith got tested again…
Within weeks of getting laid off, I got a job offer paying 2x as much as my previous job doing work I would have loved.
I thought, “This is God’s breakthrough!! Finally, we are seeing some progress!”
As soon as I was about to accept the position, I could just sense God telling me that I was not supposed to take the job.
I wrestled with this for days.
After all the financial and career struggle we had been through, it almost seemed like a cruel trick to dangle that out in front of me.
And it was.
But it wasn’t God playing the trick.
The devil was tempting me at a critical crossroads in my life.
In Luke 4 Jesus was tempted by the devil, and he was trying to knock Jesus off the path of His calling by tempting him with lesser things.
In the moment I didn’t realize that taking that job would have derailed God’s plans for my life, but years later, it is clear as day that it would have.
It was so difficult to pass that job up, but I did and continued to do what God had asked, to work on the blog full-time.
Where was my breakthrough?
During all those years, we faithfully tithed and even looked for opportunities to give more whenever possible.
I struggled every day wondering where my breakthrough was. I wondered if I was doing something wrong or if i had missed God’s direction at some point.
But, looking back, the truth is I think I was right where i was supposed to be. God knew where I was and He wasn’t going to let me be forgotten.
Breakthrough came in unexpected packages
Part of my problem was that I was looking for the breakthrough to come via my job.
I was more or less assuming that the ONLY way God could provide was through a raise at work or a promotion.
Additionally, I assumed that Phil 4:19 would mean that He would provide money. But that’s not what the verse says.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19
It says he would provide for our needs, and there are many other ways to do that OTHER than money.
In our case, even during the times when it looked like we weren’t seeing results tithing, He was providing AND in increasing measure.
These are just a few of the ways I can recall:
During those years I learned many great ways to save money that freed up many hundreds of dollars each month.
I could have gotten a raise at work that might have yielded an extra $100/m which would have been great, but instead we reduced expenses by probably $500-$700 month by making some simple changes.
The bottom line is that we had hundreds more in our pocket each month.
I call that God’s provision.
Unexpected sources of income
We did have some unexpected sources of income during that time.
Two big ones I can recall was the severance package that I got from my employer as well as the retention bonus for agreeing to work until the last day.
Getting debts paid off
We then used most of those funds from my employer to pay off many of our debts. This just reduced our monthly expenses even further.
I can’t even begin to list all the gifts and items that people gave to us during those years.
From wedding gifts, to couches, to tables, to lamps, everywhere we looked we saw God’s provision.
At one point we looked around our apartment and almost everything had been given to us.
During this time I hadn’t quite yet discovered our current strategy for traveling free, but God still provided some awesome vacations.
A super-generous family in our church had a beach house that they allowed us to use for free any time we wanted. We probably stayed there 7-8 times in those early years of our marriage.
All that travel would have cost us many thousands, but God provided it for us.
Then some of the bigger harvest began
As awesome as all that provision was, over the next few years we really began to see the fruit of all that tithing and giving.
By nothing other than the miracle working power of God, my blog began earning more than my old job in less than a year.
And over the next couple years, the business earnings and other provision just continued to grow until we felt like we were experiencing Luke 6:38:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap…”
It was a little overwhelming at first.
I had never been in a position where I had more than enough. We decided to basically cap our standard of living and just keep sowing (giving) the rest.
This eventually led us to start giving our age as a percentage of our income.
And all these years later God has continued to provide all our needs.
I love this quote by RG LeTourneau:
“I shovel (money) out and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.”
A few questions to ask
If tithing doesn’t seem to be working for you, here are a few questions to honestly ask yourself.
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t have your answer, and there isn’t one answer to this question.
But my prayer is that as you ask yourself some of these questions and ask God to show you, you will get some revelation for your specific situation.
Are you viewing tithing as a turn-key system instead of an act of faith?
The act of Tithing is NOT a turn-key system or a money-machine where you simply put in a dollar and it spits out a dollar.
God (rightfully so) refuses to be reduced to a simple formula like this.
But, it is more of a general truth that requires faith in GOD and a trusting that what He says, He will do.
Matthew 6:33 (NASB) states that we should, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
It should be no surprise that God wants our hearts, and for us to simply “give to get” and view God as a divine ATM, is missing the mark.
If we truly understand how much we have been given we will find ourselves desiring to “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” Pro 3:9 (NLT).
While having a trusted advisor proof this article, he left this comment and I thought it was just too good to leave out…
“…In our minds, the tithe/blessing graph normally has an x axis (give) and y axis (receive) and we see the relationship as cause and effect. But, I think there’s a third access that we could call “heart” that is indicative of what God is doing IN us during the journey. The heart axis adds a third dimension whose fruits are mysteriously intangible but so beautiful as God carries us across spiritual milestones in the path of our lives.
When we get hung up on why tithing isn’t working, we’ve probably missed the question of why we tithe in the first place. We’re not called to be obedient SO that we experience tangible blessing; we’re called to be obedient so that we experience heart-peace, and tangible blessing is icing on the cake. The beauty of the blessing that follows obedience is that heart-peace is achievable regardless of circumstance when we loosen our grip on our own perceived control of our lives and our expectation of what God’s timeline should be in those specific circumstances.”
Is it possible that God has provided in ways that you weren’t expecting?
Like in our story above, provision doesn’t necessarily mean money.
In my case a whole lot of God’s provision in the first few years of tithing wasn’t money, but Him providing for my needs nonetheless.
Are you actually giving the amount you think you are?
Just like with budgeting, if you don’t track it you don’t really know what is happening. And I don’t want to get too hung up on exact percentages, but I know in my own tithing experience when I found out that I wasn’t actually tithing when I thought I was – we decided to get exact with it.
And as soon as we did, we realized we didn’t have enough to cover our monthly expenses. But guess what, God came through for us. It was almost like he was looking for the opportunity to be tested.
Are you expecting results too quickly?
In the example above, we did see almost instantaneous results from making that change. But, over the years most of our breakthrough took a while.
Think about it, when you plant a seed, you don’t get to eat the fruit the next day – right?
It takes time for that seed to sprout, the seedling to grow into a plant, and then for fruit to develop and ripen before you can eat it.
Sowing into God’s Kingdom is no different. It takes time before we can reap the harvest.
And the length of time seems to be different for every tither you ask. I wish I knew why, but the bottom line is that these seeds we sow into His Kingdom will bear fruit, we just need to hang on to Galatians 6:9:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Have you actually received financial increase and not noticed?
I don’t know about you, but before I began using a budget to control my spending I would get raises from work and never really feel any financial impact. I would just go about spending like normal and spend until the bank account ran out of money.
When you live like that you very well might not even notice the provision of the Lord. Without using a budget it is very difficult to feel a financial increase of 5% or even 10%. And for some people even a 50% increase could go unnoticed.
Are you giving cheerfully or out of compulsion?
You should not be giving because you feel pressured to. See my tithing article on this for more, but this is an opportunity that we have to trust God and watch Him move in our lives.
2 cor 9:7 says:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
If you are struggling with that cheerfulness with giving, ask God to help you with it – He will!
Are you obeying him as he is leading you?
God could be leading you to do something that would provide those blessings and provision. And if you don’t obey, you might be missing out!
Read this passage from 1 Kings 17 (during a famine).
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”
5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
What if Elijah hadn’t obeyed God?
When God called me to step out in faith and work on the blog full-time, it didn’t make any sense. In the natural it looked like it would take years to even get back to what I was earning at my day job, but by His miraculous grace within a year the business was providing far more than my old day job.
If I hadn’t obeyed him in that area I would have missed out on those blessings.
It may just be that your blessing and provision is on the other side of obedience.
If you find yourself not seeing the results you expected from tithing, I would encourage you to pray and ask God to reveal to you why.
Walking something out in faith and not seeing results has been one of the toughest aspects of the Christian life for me.
I have been there so many times and I will say this: because I have seen this pattern play out over and over with God, it is getting a little easier to step out in faith.
But it still is hard.
As I write this I am dealing with a pretty big faith test that I will tell you about once I am on the other side of it, but in the meantime I will keep trusting God and wait (as patiently as I can) for my breakthrough.
Let’s do it together, shall we?
P.S. If you need more inspiration check out these Bible Verses about Giving.