The Importance of Easter Tithing: Should You Donate Money Even if Your Savings Account is Empty?

Most people who regularly attend a church or a temple understand the importance of donating money to their place of worship. The Bible is filled with passages imploring people to tithe, (to give 10 percent of their income) to God. In fact, the Israelites were required by law to do so.

Today, tithing is considered to be more of a suggestion, though many churchgoers try to fulfill the 10 percent rule as both a personal and religious obligation. Church donations in the form of tithes and offerings also help keep churches afloat.

But should you still donate money if you’re faced with tough financial times? What if you’re in debt? According to the Christian Post, people tithed an average of 2.38 percent of their earnings in 2009, far below what the church requests. In this economy, is it any surprise?

As much priority is placed on church tithing, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, when you’ve got to sacrifice you own savings account to do it. Is giving more important than saving, or should your own finances come first? Some financial experts (you’ll be surprised who) say that tithing comes above all else. Others advise taking care of money obligations first.

With some discipline, you can do both this Easter 2013.

Church Offering Comes First …

… says Dave Ramsey. One of our most beloved financial experts, Ramsey gives some Christian perspective on his opinion of  church offering and says that it shouldn’t be paused, even during tough financial times.

“The Bible does not mention anything about ‘pausing’ tithing. Neither does it say that we will go to Hell if we do not tithe,” says Ramsey on his website.

So if failing to tithe isn’t a sin, why does Ramsey say we should, above all else? “Tithing was created for our benefit,” he said. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people.”

Ramsey makes the observation that people who can’t live off 90 percent of their income can’t live off 100 percent — the 10 percent difference shouldn’t be hard to donate to your church.

Other reasons to tithe no matter what, courtesy of Crosswalk:

  • God says so. “He knows that tithing is for our own good and that is why He tells us to do it,” writes the Christian publication’s Cortni Marrazzo.
  • The lost and needy rely on your financial aid. Your tithed donations may be used towards any number of outreach or missionary projects that can help others in need — it’s a need that can’t depend on parishioners’ personal finances. “If Christians stop tithing then the church won’t be able to afford the resources to reach these people,” she said.
  • Tough economic times call for God’s blessing the most. The position taken here is that by tithing, God will look out for you in your toughest times, fiscal rough patches, or periods of unemployment.

Putting Faith in Your Savings Account

Another way of looking at it could be a matter of placing faith in your own abilities to improve your budget and donate at the same time. Here, tithing becomes an extension of your natural ability to save money. Careful budgeting can make it easier to set aside that 10 percent of your income towards church charity.

As Dave Ramsey has said, if you can’t live on 90 percent of your income, an extra 10 percent won’t make much of a difference. Add up your bills each month — what do your necessities, like groceries, rent or mortgage, gas and insurance cost? Are there lifestyle expenses, like premium cable TV or eating out, you can reduce or eliminate completely?

Once you’ve made those considerations, how can you build your savings account if it’s at zero? Try putting some money into a high-yield savings account or a CD. With a budget and a sure method to earn investment dividends, financial responsibilities start to become a whole lot easier — including tithing.

When Church Tithing Isn’t Possible

In the event of true financial crisis, your primary obligation is getting your finances in order. The quicker you can make this happen, the faster you’ll be able to fulfill your 10 percent tithing commitment … and more, if possible. If debt, bankruptcy or the risk of losing your home or assets truly stand in the way of keeping a roof over your head, charitable donating is just not possible.

In the meantime, what can you do this Easter in lieu of tithing?

  • Volunteer. It can be volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter or ushering at mass. Your charitable time and services can say more than any monetary donation ever could.
  • Donate goods. Many thrift stores, like Goodwill, are church-sponsored. Giving them your unwanted clothing, furniture or other goods is a generous and selfless act. Does your church hold a canned goods drive? Adding to the collection surplus takes just a few dollars out of your budget.
  • Attend services. The best form of support is by being present at your place of worship, even if it’s without tithing until you feel financially comfortable doing so.

The very people you seek to help by tithing could be you. Reach out to your house of worship — they may be able to help you with church offerings and financial support until you’re back on your feet, according to Erik Folgate of Money Crashers.

“There should be no ‘guilt’ in not tithing,” he said, “but rather, it should be done out of the generosity and willingness of your heart.”

(Image Courtesy Church Planting)

  • I think the important thing about tithing is that it should be giving without grudge or obligation.