Many of us are going through some financial struggles right now, and that may make it difficult to find it in your budget to tithe regularly, or at all. Instead of feeling guilty or like you're failing God, I've got some tips on what to do when you can't afford to tithe.
I’ll be honest – I struggle to tithe the full 10% on the regular. I’ll do it consistently for several months, and then life happens, the budget gets tighter, and I start to drop the ball.
And lately, the budget has been extra tight. Gas prices are at an all-time high, which also means groceries are more expensive, and the cost of living is just more expensive. It’s hard enough to stretch our paycheck to cover bills and essentials.
If you’re feeling this as well, I’m here to offer some practical tips and encouragement. (And no, I’m not going to tell you to “tithe anyway and just trust God to fill in the blanks”.) Read on…
What the Bible Says About Tithing
A tithe represents a tenth of whatever God blesses you with. It’s meant to be given back to God as a gift to repay Him for His blessings. For the Israelites, they were commanded to tithe their livestock and their produce, taking it to the Levitical priests as an offering to the Lord.
There are loads of scriptures referencing tithing in the Old Testament. After the Israelites were brought out of Egypt, God gave them several hundred laws, many of which had to do with what to give back to the Lord.
I was raised to believe it was my Christian duty to tithe a tenth of my income to the church, but I’ve often struggled with giving a full tenth. Times get tough and sometimes it just isn’t in the budget.
Also, as I’ve learned more about scripture, I have come to realize two truths:
1 – The law commanding tithing was an Old Testament construct. Jesus fulfilled the law, and reminded us that the two most important commands are to (a) love God and (b) love people. We can do that through tithing, but not only through tithing alone.
2 – Tithing isn’t just meant to be a monetary gift back to the Lord. It can be a gift of whatever we have to offer that is an overflow of our blessings.
A quick note about monetary tithing:
Please don’t get me wrong: tithing your money is very important, and if you are able to tithe with your money, please do so. Tithing financially does two important things:
1- It teaches us to trust God with our finances.
2 – It reminds us that money is not our “god”. It’s a gift from our God.
Again, tithing your money is awesome, and I firmly believe God blesses you financially when you give Him a portion of your income. But I want to share this post to remind you that you can still be faithful with your gifts even if you’re struggling financially.
How to Tithe When You Can't Afford It
I mentioned a moment ago that tithing is meant to be a gift to God that comes from an overflow of His blessing in our lives. Most people consider tithing as a financial gift to the church or a charity.
And while that is the primary means of tithing, there are other ways to give back a portion of what God has given you.
Tithe Your Time
Here’s the bottom line: we all waste time on something. Instead of wasting time binging a show on Netflix, scrolling social media, or mindlessly wandering the aisles of Target, how about give that time to the church or a charity?
I’m sure your church is a lot like mine in the fact that they desperately need more volunteers to help in various areas of the ministry. Find out where you can plug in and serve. Perhaps you can be a greeter, make coffee, help out with the children, or anything else the church needs on Sunday mornings.
Also find out if they need help during the week, if your schedule allows. Our church has a very active youth program and children’s program on Wednesday nights and they are always looking for people to help wrangle the kids or serve meals.
Your time is valuable, but it is also a gift. Give some of your time back to the Lord by serving wherever you can.
Foundations of the Bible
Study the Bible as a whole, see connections between the Old & New Testaments, and see the Bible as a cohesive story of Jesus.
Tithe Your Talents
This goes hand-in-hand with tithing your time, but instead of just filling a gap, think about something that you are good at, or really enjoy, and offer that service to the church or a charity.
For example, I’ve been blogging since 2010, have built several websites, managed social media accounts, and taught email marketing. When we started going to our current church in 2018, I offered those services to the church. Interestingly enough, they were looking to hire a Communications Director to do all of those things, but they couldn’t begin paying for a few months. I did the job for free as a form of tithing.
There are a host of opportunities for you to use your talents to help the church. Consider these ideas:
- Gift of music? Consider singing or being part of the worship band.
- Are you very organized? Offer to declutter and reorganize several areas of the church.
- Are you artsy? Offer to help with stage decorations, updating the children’s area, or any other place that can use an artistic touch.
- Do you enjoy teaching? Find out if there is a class that needs help, or perhaps consider starting one.
- Are you a good cook? Offer to handle meals for midweek activities, bake cookies to hand out to visitors, or help out with church functions.
- Good at logistics? Help out with organizing events and managing communication for large groups.
Tithe Your Stuff
If you really want to give a financial gift to the church, consider selling some of your unused items and donating the money to the church as a lump sum.
Alternatively, you may have items that the church could use, so consider cleaning out closets and donating things to the church directly in lieu of money.
I know our church is always happy to accept things like:
- kitchen items: serving utensils, dish towels, plastic or glass storage containers, coffee mugs
- books: specifically children’s books, extra Bibles, Bible study books
- home decor: baskets, plant pots, or any decor item that can dress up the church, especially seasonally
- clothing: If your church has a clothes closet for those in need, donate your used but good quality clothing
Before I close, I want to say something to you, and I hope you take it to heart:
God doesn’t care what or how you give. He just cares about the heart behind the gift.
So please don’t beat yourself up or feel unworthy if you can’t afford to tithe financially right now. Do your best with what you have.
Remember the widow Jesus observed:
Share your thoughts. Any ideas for tithing that I missed? Any that you’ve personally done?