You Aren’t Limited To Giving
Only A Tithe
But You Should Know How To Calculate It
Although many practice tithing, they don’t all agree on how to calculate the tithe, or more specifically, on what portion of their income should be included in the calculation.
- Some give a tithe (ten percent) of their gross income (pre tax).
- Some pay tithes only on net income (after tax).
- Some exclude more than taxes, e.g. pension contributions, before calculating their tithe.
I tithe on my net income. Read on and you’ll see why.
In thinking through the issues, it’s important that we try and avoid emotional arguments. Any idea that punches in the gut is probably not a good one.
- Those who tithe on their gross income do so either casually, “just because” (glib), or adamantly for unstated reasons (legalistic), and both justify the practice with emotional arguments: “do you want God to bless all your income or just part of it.”
They also point to people who are extraordinarily endowed with the gift of giving, such as Randy Alcorn who gives far more than a tithe, to make their argument.
These examples, however, if not correctly represented, argue against tithing and suggest we should give much more, although we can’t be sure exactly how much.
Truth? If the millions of Christians in the world who don’t fit the “Randy Alcorn” mold would simply tithe, the impact would be much greater than that caused by the excessive giving of a few Alcorn types.
No disrespect intended toward Randy. We applaud the Randy’s of the world but realistically can’t expect everyone to follow suit.
- Personally, I tithe on net rather than gross because many of the services provided by the Levites are covered by taxes today.
The Levites provided judicial services. They were the judges, lawyers, law enforcement agents, and even managed the penal system. They also provided educational services throughout Israel and organized all the festivals (which were religious in nature but nationally observed).
They even took care of medical services. For that reason, I also deduct medical expenses (insurance, consultation fees, medical procedures, and prescriptions) before paying tithes.
One person might break it down a little differently than the next but these guidelines provide a rational framework for calculating your tithe.
- Those who exclude retirement investments plan to tithe on it later.
That makes sense but you still need to keep track of the contributions you make, how much the investment grows, and how you manage disbursements. That isn’t impossible to do but it is something to keep in mind.
- Some people exclude tithing altogether.
And that’s OK if they would at least give the practical rationale behind what they do. Do they give at all? If so, how often do they give? Do they calculate it at the end of the month or at the beginning? What do they exclude? Where do they give, how much do they give, and more?
These are reasonable questions.
What is sometimes lost in the discussion is the fact that money comes with no instructions and requires detailed management. We work hard to earn it and then work hard to manage it. The management part doesn’t come naturally to every person. Even balancing a checkbook can be a source of blood-pressure-raising frustration for some.
The multiple approaches to tithing reinforce the idea that we must be thoughtful. If you aren’t deliberate with your money, you may or may not be right.
The problem is, all these different approaches also create confusion for those starting out and generate arguments among tithers. Anti-tithers freely use the disagreement to fuel the debate over the relevancy of tithing for the New Testament.
For this reason, tithing is not an issue about which we can be superficial or casual.
That doesn’t mean we must be overly rigid but it shouldn’t be sloppy either. It must be defined with enough clarity and flexibility to be applied to every person’s financial situation.
The important thing to remember is that Tithing is the right thing to do but it doesn’t need to be legalistically observed. If we’re trying to do the right thing, God will bless the effort.
In Tithing: Test Me In This (Ancient Practices), Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. He doesn’t present the same old arguments, the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he claims to be “no theologian or exegetical writer,” Douglas has found an intriguing way to cut to the real heart of the issue. He shares the experiences of eleven different couples and one lone Monsignor, all of whom practice tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.