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I grew up in the Church, and I have always been taught the principle of tithing. For years, I’ve faithfully given 10 percent of my income to church, but I was recently laid off. If I’m not currently working, and am looking for a new job, should I still give? What would that look like if I’m not taking in a paycheck?
Let me say first that I am overjoyed by your giving heart, especially in a time of trial. We need our churches to be full of people like you who are looking to give, not just get.
Tithing can be a controversial subject. There are plenty of discussions about how much you should give, where exactly you should give and what that looks like. But I think we can all agree on a few things: 1) That nothing we have is really ours, so our attitude and heart toward giving matters more than the exact method. 2) That just like anything else, the amount or consistency with which we give does not add to or detract from God’s love for us.
Now, it sounds like you’re on the right track. Your heart is set on helping the church, thus fulfilling the second part of the command from Apostle Paul that “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” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Now let’s talk about how to fulfill the first part of that command during your tough situation.
Keep Tithing on Any Income You Have
This is a tough one, but it’s how you’re going find out if you’re holding too tightly to your money.
Our culture’s attitude concerning income generally sounds something like “It’s mine and I’ll do with it as I please.” But Christians should take on a counter-intuitive financial philosophy.
James tells us that every good thing we have comes to us from God Himself. Jesus told us in Matthew chapter 6 that it is God who provides for us, just as He makes sure sparrows have food and flowers have beauty. In turn, we should see ourselves as stewards of God’s finances here on earth. While we certainly work hard to earn an income, it is God who has blessed us with the skills that earned our position in the first place. Our finances are not our own.
As you’re searching for steady income, you might be receiving unemployment or perhaps drawing from investment income. If you want to keep giving to your church financially, tithe on that money.
You may say, “Well, haven’t I already tithed on that?”
Concerning the investment income, you have tithed on the money that went in, but not on the capital gains. That’s increase—tithe on it. As for unemployment, it’s a type of insurance, not savings. You’re free to decide how and whether you want to tithe during unemployment (after all, there isn’t any direct command in the Bible concerning this), but tithing on unemployment certainly won’t hurt. It may be scary to keep giving when money is tight, but God will provide for you just as He has provided for birds and grass, neither of which work to earn anything.
If you’re like most people, giving will feel difficult, especially in a tough financial season. But it can be a great opportunity to dig into why it feels hard and remind yourself of God’s faithfulness and provision.
You’ve Got Some Time on Your Hands, so Offer to Help
I can guarantee that your pastor would love a phone call or email that says, “Hey, I’m laid off right now, and since I’ve got some free time between dropping off applications and resumes, I’d love to help out around the church.” They will find something for you to do, and will be grateful to have the help. Chances are they’ll ask you to come by the same day.
If you’re simply living off savings, volunteering is a great way to give God a tithe. In fact, we see in the Old Testament that tithing wasn’t limited to money. The Jews were instructed to give livestock and crops, as well. Time is as much (if not more so) a treasure as finances.
Give an Offering Anyway
Christians can love to argue about the percentage we’re called to tithe. And then, we often calculate the exact amount, down to the last cent. While that might be tidy and efficient, we see a vastly different picture in the first days of the church.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:43-47).
I have never seen anything like this in the modern Church. I hope it’s happening somewhere, but I know that I have to mature in my faith before I’m willing to take the seemingly extreme measures that the first Church took to care for one another.
But I’m trying, so I give above and beyond the tithe. It’s not much, but I can say with confidence that God has been faithful to provide above and beyond my own needs, just as He said He would.
I pray that you find a new job soon, but more so that God would use this time of lack to strengthen your relationship with Him.
Grace and peace to you.
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Joey is the Worship and Creative Director at Resurrection Life Church in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he also leads the church's college ministry. He loves folk music, fly-fishing and netflixing with his wife, Abigail. You can read more of Joey's thoughts at medium.com/@the_joeyc or follow him on Twitter at @the_JoeyC.