Money Mic: Why I Tithe—and How You Can Too

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why titheIn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one man shares why he gives 10% of his income to his church—and explains how it can be possible on any budget.

Some things in life just cannot be explained.

One of the mysteries in my wealth management practice is the glaring coincidence that a large majority of my wealthiest clients are some of the largest givers and tithers I have ever met. For those not familiar with tithing, it is simply the practice of giving a tenth of your income to your church or mission, or to charity. It’s a simple idea but not so easily accomplished; only an estimated 5% of Americans actually tithe.

Countless clients, friends and family members have asked me why I passionately believe in tithing. The story begins with a legacy of grandparents and parents who faithfully tithed and taught me at an early age to do the same. Even before owning my wealth management company, I remember interning at a financial firm at the age of 14 and observing that the families who seemed to enjoy the most blessed lives were those who were faithful and obedient. Not all of them were wealthy, but they had everything they needed.

I discovered wealth comes in many forms other than financial. Money can buy you a house, but it won’t buy you a home. Money will you buy you a bed, but it won’t buy you a good night’s sleep. Money will fill the offering plate, but it won’t fulfill you or save you.

Those early experiences helped frame my world perspective on placing a priority on tithing.

The easy answer to “Why tithe?” is because it works and God tells us to do this in His word in Malachi 3:10. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” quotes the Bible. “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

When I First Began Tithing

When I first started tithing, I thought it was crazy. I worked so hard for every dollar, dealing with unruly customers and picking up spitballs under the table at a local Denny’s, only to give 10% of it away to the church.

Even today, everyone in my peer group knows me as the “cheap guy” (although, I prefer the term “frugal”!). I have been teased that I squeak when I walk. Yes, giving 10% was hard at first, but so is anything worthwhile in life.

Back then I was making $10 an hour. However, I chose to tithe because, in addition to be commanded to be obedient, I felt grateful to be able to give. Sure, I may have sacrificed things along the way—possibly a new wardrobe or a new car. Instead, I traded worldly things, which are temporary, for things I believe to be eternally lasting. Luckily, I didn’t succumb to those selfish luxuries because I had already learned a valuable lesson: Live without some things now and invest in things that will live forever.

RELATED: Why Most of Us Do Charitable Giving All Wrong

Not Every Client Finds It Easy

Giving 10% of your income is a huge leap of faith for anyone. How do you start something great like tithing?

Zig Ziglar once said you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Could you start tithing a full 10% of your income overnight? For many families, that’s not so easy. As a personal wealth manager, I have found myself helping my clients roll up their sleeves and get dirty with their cash flow and budgeting to squeeze out inefficiencies in their financial plan. The key is to start and draw a timeline of how and when you will be able to fully tithe.

  • Joanne Peterson

    So true! We have regularly tithed to church/charity. What a person spends money on is what is important them; the checkbook shows their priorities. You can look at it as giving back to the community, paying it forward, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, etc.

    The church, community, world at large needs money and time to function and make the programs usable to those who will need them. Yes, donations are important too, like items to Goodwill, Bethesda, Salvation Army, a local food pantry, and a myriad of other charities, but money is also needed to keep the lights and heat on, salaries, job training, addiction counseling, vouchers for rent, etc. to help those struggling, or disaster relief. These charities also go through a process for financial accountability, or are willing to.

    Even if you are not a church-goer, on the whole, charities manage money so much better than the government and give back in a very large way to the community, to fill the real needs to the community. You as a person are richer for it knowing you are helping someone else you may never meet.

  • Mark

    Thanks for the article, LV! I appreciated the effort to bring a more holistic tone to your articles!

  • Emily L

    Thanks for the article!
    My father made a point every Saturday to write a check for his tithe. It’s his worship time, to be thankful to provide for three children as an immigrant. My husband and I have implemented this as well, no matter how tough times are.

    Both of us have lost our jobs this year. But he had a severance and I had a disability, so I had disability pay. But with practice of “artificial environment of scarcity”, we faithfully made available our tithe.

    When we bought our house, we took a loan on our 401k for first time buyer. When we lost our jobs, we needed to repay ~$7500 in 90 days. God is more faithful than we are faithful! Because I made significantly less taxable income, and we still tithed our federal tax return was ~$7500! Not only that, our state refund was more than enough to pay for our tithe for the taxes!

    Of course we had to be frugal, faithful in our budgeting and tithing. But it’s only because of God’s provisions that we were able to work when we can in the first place. HE gave us the ability, physically and mentally. And we have faith He will provide a new job for my husband! Yes, He already prepared a job for me with hours I wanted!

  • Lordess

    Thank you so much for this great article. God bless you!

  • kay

    I think tithing is a great way to give charitably for some people, it is also a great tool to teach financial responsibility. Some people are not financially responsible and no amount of tithing is going to change that. I have seem people tithe and then get into financial dire straits and request help from others (who may also be tithing and struggling) That does not make sense. So essentially, the fiscally challenged are not tithing, their friends and family are doing it for them in the form of bail-outs. Additionally, “charity begins at home”; some people give money to others in need via additional support of offspring and/or children. To imply that some people just are in denial because they do not give to a church (not everyone belongs to a church), is self-righteous and condescending. Plus it is difficult to give to support a lifestyle for others that you aren’t even close to enjoying. I will continue to pray in my closet and not feel the need to point out how charitable I am, I prefer to take care of my own and not ask others for things and…give to those in need without the middleman. Good for you though, it sounds as if you have learned to be financially responsible.

  • SpeedyGK

    Completely disagree with this article. Way to go on bringing practical budgeting advice, LV.

  • Bob

    Totally disagree with this article. If people want to give, thats fine, but I don’t believe giving money brings money. Work and effort bring income. I do not believe in organized religion and it only takes one quick look into the lives of some of the largest churches to see where the wealth of the money goes, and its not to the poor. Its into the church leaders bank accounts. Members of church’s who struggle to pay bills, give to the church so that the leaders earn millions? Where is the logic in that?

    • Jen

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, requires it members to pay tithe. The clergy is also, all by volunteer. They own a food store house for its poor members. They own cattle ranches to provide for the food store house. It’s tithe done the Lords way.

      • Bob

        Here is a view of what member tithing pays for the leadership. How many of those tithing can afford a housekeeper for 20 hours a week, or music dance lessons, etc for their children? The LDS church is one of the most non-transparent regarding their financials. Here is a page from their “leaked” handbook with continual reminders that they are NOT to report the funds they are given as compensation. http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2013/01/how-much-does-a-mormon-apostle-make/

        • Jen

          There are plently of references to tithe:

          Abraham gave tithes of all he possessed to Melchizedek:Gen. 14:18–20; ( Heb. 7:1–2, 9; Alma 13:15; )
          All the tithe is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord:Lev. 27:30–34;
          Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase:Deut. 14:22, 28;
          The tithe of all things brought they in abundantly:2 Chr. 31:5;
          Will a man rob God? Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings:Mal. 3:8–11; ( 3 Ne. 24:8–11; )
          He that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming:D&C 64:23; ( D&C 85:3; )
          The Lord’s house will be built by the tithing of his people:D&C 97:11–12;
          The Lord revealed the law of tithing:D&C 119;
          Tithing shall be disposed of by a council:D&C 120;

          • Bob

            There are lots of references in the bible, and many of them are conflicting. To be required to give to a church when you are struggling to feed your family, is wrong. There are many religious leaders that are rolling in the dough, while their parishioners are hungry.

          • Jen

            @bob, I agree with you that they are conflicting referencing in the Bible. Its seems when God wants his way know, he calls a prophet (Abraham, Moses, Malachi) and that prophet is God’s mouth piece on earth. Today because of all the confusion, God has called a living prophet today that leads and directs God’s way. The LDS church requires all members to pay tithing. The members that are struggling to feed their families, have the invitation to come to the storehouse, the storehouse is free food to those members. The LDS church owns farms where people volunteer for free to maintain these spaces. This is where the grain and beef comes from that go to the store house and all the clergy within the LDS church don’t profit from tithing, its all volunteer. When my father was asked me to clergy, he still had a full time job to support his wife and 8 children but in his spare time he devoted it to serving others and somehow, we never went without.

      • mostlywentzel

        I have no problem with someone choosing to tithe. I have a huge problem with any religion that forces its members to do so. “Give us money, or we won’t let you in the door.” That’s not a religion, that’s a club.

        • Jen

          “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” In the eternal perspective, the blessings obtained by sacrifice are greater than anything that is given up.

          • mostlywentzel

            How much of a sacrifice is 10% to the multi-millionaire vs. the family barely making it on $40,000? You cannot tout sacrifice as a requirement when first, the sacifice is arbitrary, and second, you do not know the sacrifices made by anyone. It is not man’s right to judge another’s sacrifice. My sacrifice of $50 a month could mean not paying my electric bill, but Mitt Romney found $5000 in his sofa cushions last week. Telling any member of a church that they are not welcome because they have not sacrificed enough, to me, completely defy’s the point of faith. It puts judgement of worthiness completely in the hands of man.

          • Jen

            @mostlywentzel, For clarification, The LDS church does not turn away none tithe payers, infact all their buidlings bear the words in stone: Visitors welcomed. However to be able to attend the temples and be married in the temples, being a full-tithe payer is a requirement. Tithing is hard, but worth the sacrifice. I was raised in a home where my mother stayed home and my father provided for his wife and eight children. He always paid his tithing before the electric bill and somehow the money always came. You are right to say that we can’t judge others and the types of things people are able to sacrifice. The LDS faith believes the Bible to be the word of God and Tithing was introduced to the world through the prophet Malachi and thus its commandment is in full force today. Sometimes I look at my tithing and wonder all the things I could buy with it, but most times, I grateful to have a job and exercise my faith through the principle of tithing.

          • Bob

            They don’t turn anyone away, but you say they will be refused temple and to be married in one. I would have to ask why any church would refuse a religious practice on any member who is faithful to their religion based on what the “pay” Basicallly your post proves one of my points that religion is for sale, and the those that cannot afford “some” services will have the door shut in their face. It was not different when my mother in law wanted to have my son baptized in a Catholic church, which I wouldn’t have allowed anyway. She had talked to the priest and because I was not a tithing member, I am not even catholic, they would have charged her a tithe (fee) of $1500 to perform the service. Religion and money go hand in hand, along with guilt, fear, and bs.

    • Dale

      I disagree,you can’t speak for every church. We are a small church,but we all pay our tithes,which allows us to pay the church’s bills,plus help peple in need in the community as well as other organizations.I for one can tell a big difference in more ways than one since I started paying my tithes.It’s God’s money anyway.If not for him,we would not have anything.We would not “Be”.If there are churches doing as you say,God will whip them in his own time and way.Don’t let that stop you from doing what God says do’ God Bless you.

      • Jen

        @dale, Agreed. I heard it perfectly:
        “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give’ are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.”- Neal A Maxwell.

    • MsSal2U

      I understand your point. However, the author is not just talking about organized religion – you can donate to your favorite cause or charity. I think the point is making a disciplined effort to putting your dollars to work in the greater community, whether it is your church, environmental issues, social justice or the Local library

      • Jen

        @mssal2u- I like your comment and perspective. The LDS church has a tithing slip with a carbon copy, where you can pay your tithing and then donate money to many different forms of giving. There is even a blank spot to create a specialized fund to pay for things. They have a program called Helping Hands, its 72 hour emergency kits and food. Right now, they are sending their goods to the tornado victims. However the actual tithing is not something we choose how its used. We know it maintains buildings and chapel and pays for the construction of other buildings like temples. The clergy are volunteers who are required to tithe as well.

    • Scrabble Girl

      Bob, scandal sells and gets viewers. If the media were to file reports on the good works of churches that are ongoing and new projects that are begun on a daily basis, would you really care enough to read about that? More importantly, would it change your views? Since you cite the few fallen clergy as the basis for your skepticism, maybe you should take a look around your own community to see if there are churches that are truly doing the work of feeding, clothing, and assisting those in need. You might be surprised – in a good way.
      ps. – Yes, I am a tither and can attest to what Mr. McNair has written about this biblical/spiritual principle which is based on faith in and obedience to the Word of God.

      • Bob

        I have no doubt that most churches do good work, I never said that they didn’t. However some churches make tithing a requirement to participate, which is wrong. A church community should not be about how much money comes in, especially when there are so many people out of work, living paycheck to paycheck, etc. Money does not belong to god and god does not earn it. If that were so there would be many homeless atheist and agnostics. I believe that tithing makes a person “feel better” but tithing does not bring money falling from the skies, it take a person working to earn any amount of money that they put in their pocket, unless of course they are on social service programs.

  • K Wise

    Thank you for sharing this article! I appreciate LV for allowing this writer to address such a controversial topic such as tithing. I haven’t always been a tither but now that I am, I totally believe it’s a godly principle that works. I don’t know why or how but it does! It opens up the windows of Heaven so blessings are poured out!

    • Julie

      Thank you so much for this article. It is so comforting and encouraging to keep tithing, because God is so faithful. He is true to His promises. I tithe as a single mom of six children. I am so encouraged. Thank you.

  • charrette

    I 100% know this to be true, as I have lived this principle my entire life. My bookkeeper was astonished. Years ago she asked me, “If you would just skip the tithe for even one month, you could get so far ahead.” I told her not only never to skip sending that check, but to make it the first check we write each month. A few months later she said to me, “I don’t get it. The numbers just don’t add up. Even when it seems like there’s nothing coming in, you always have enough and to spare.” She all but said, “it’s a miracle.” I explained, “It’s the tithing.” While not always successful, I try to give an additional 5% away to charity and others in need. Those gifts nearly always come back to us multiplied many times over. But to be clear, my motivation for giving is not to become richer, it is to show gratitude and bless others’ lives. Any additional financial blessings are icing on the cake.

  • terrilynnmerritts

    I would never give a penny to any church to promote the ignorant belief in old myths and fairytales but do give quite a bit to the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) and to animal rescues, food banks, and other charities and I offer something even more important- many hours a week of my time in volunteer work helping the homeless, domestic violence victims, and at risk kids.

    • Jen

      @terrilynnmerritts- I like your comment and perspective. The LDS church has a tithing slip with a carbon copy, where you can pay your tithing and then donate money to many different forms of giving. There is even a blank spot to create a specialized fund to pay for things. They have a program called Helping Hands, its 72 hour emergency kits and food. Right now, they are sending their goods to the tornado victims.

  • katie

    Thanks so much for this article, I agree with your stance on tithing and with the seeming blessing on the family for being faithful to this discipline. Thank you LV for publishing this article!

    We both tithe 10% off our take-home pay directly to our church or outreach ministries, plus an additional $100 each month in cash for what we can the Kingdom Fund to use “as needed” when someone might approach us for financial needs. For example, a friend was out of work for two months and asked “for a small loan, maybe a $100″ to get through the month; in this case we were just able to gift him the money from the Kingdom Fund without expecting anything back later. We also use this to support people that are doing mission fundraising in preparation to leave or to purchase small encouraging gifts or meals for our friends that are not doing well and struggling.

  • Pixie

    i respect everyone’s beliefs whether they agree with this article or not but I will say I agree 100%.

    I was brought up to tithe, my parents and grandparents did it and it’s a way of life for me. Even though I’ve moved away from my home church years ago, I still send my tithes check there. I find that when I forget to tithe, my finances seem stretched to their limit but when I remember, my money seems to go so much further.

    I also find that needs and wants somehow get met. I’m not saying I more money comes my way but somehow what I need arrives right when I need it. For example, my cell phone dies and my co-worker has one that he’s never used and asks me if I want it because he’s an iPhone guy and not an Android guy.

    Our church back home is small and in a rural area, the tithes go to pay church bills, buy supplies for the children’s Sunday school classes and to buy grocery that is distributed to those not so fortunate. Trust me, our pastor is not getting rich off of people’s tithes.

  • whitglam

    This is a great article to share and I also appreciate the holistic views to finances. I tithe as well and it is wonderful to know that others feel the same way. This was a blessing to read both the article and different people’s testimonies. Even though, it is not Learnvest’s values, it is generous to share the ”podium”.

  • Ashley Elaine

    Hey LV! I thought this would be a controversial topic and from the comments below, it looks like it is! Just wanted to say I was really appreciative to see this article. I think it’s very much LV style – people all have different spending habits and priorities. There are definitely some best practices and a lot of wisdom that goes in to managing money and making progress, but there really is no “right” way to manage your finances, and it’s cool to see that you’re being true to the purpose of the site in this article.

    Now, I didn’t actually read it in depth, I just quickly scanned, but it seemed like good information. I regularly tithe – I feel like that’s the starting point of my generosity – and I give beyond that with my money, time and resources. I believe that’s a huge part of my personal purpose in life. And I do deeply believe in tithing and Sabbath; two religious or biblical principals. I believe each teaches you to operate from a place of health and obedience. When you know you’re tithing, you better have the other 90% of your income in order or you’re in trouble. Same goes for sabbathing (or resting; taking a day off from producing and consuming). If you know you’re taking a full 24 hours off to rest, it means you better be efficient the other 6 days of the week and be organized and prepared for day 7, so you can fully embrace rest and stop for a second from being a human doing, and just be a human being.

    Whoops, getting side tracked. That’s a bit on the practical level. Again I do think being generous is a really healthy practice, any way you slice it. Beyond that, in my personal opinion and from a Christian perspective, I believe your money is tied to your heart – “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. So I think it’s spiritually healthy to give in faith that God will provide. Also, contrary to what this article is saying a bit, I don’t think that tithing means that God’s going to rain down the gold, frankincense and myrrh but it will teach you to trust that God is sovereign and in control. Although with all that said, in my life at times it’s been tight and at other times, my needs have been beyond met (cars have been offered to us for free, our home was an unbelievable opportunity, friends have filled our fridge with food, and more and more and more), and I’ve been able to splurge a bit – but overall, my finances are healthy and I’ve never gone without. Again, from my perspective though, that’s all comes from the position of the heart, not the bank account. And out of that, we’ve been able to be quite generous and help those in need.

    I also feel like people will get their back up about the church or non-profits and money. Yah. I get that. People can be crooked from wherever they come from. Religion isn’t a magic pill that cures all things, that is for damn sure. It all comes down to choice and leading. Some religious AND non-religious people have chosen to make it look like they have it all going right on the outside, but on the inside their hearts and lives are corrupt and dark and filthy – it’s really really sad. But for the majority, the non-profit (religious or not) and church organizations that I’ve been a part of are doing great things, are very generous, prioritize needs of the community and do their absolute best to operate out of wisdom, health and faith – and a non-negotiable for that over the past few thousand years, has been tithing.

  • Thrifty Writer

    I tithe, some goes to , but the bulk goes to charities. Started out small when I wasn’t earning much ($5 per week) and grew as I got better jobs. It was also easy with my online bank, which allows you to open as many fee-free savings accounts as you want. I have one account called “charitable donations” and every week, the amount is automatically transferred from my checking account to this specific savings account. By December, there’s usually enough to make donations of varying sizes to 10 or 12 different organizations.

  • http://DesireeMMondesir.com/ Desiree M. Mondesir

    I.LOVE.THIS!!! It’s not every day you see a mainstream media outlet sharing this kind of information, but it’s a most welcome, most pleasant surprise! :)

    I’ve been a faithful tither since I was a little girl, had some change in a cup, and my mother explained to me about tithing. Once I grasped it (I had to be maybe 6), I’ve been tithing ever since and haven’t looked back. I actually do 30% now. I’ve heard tell time and time again of the blessings that come from tithing and although only 10% is required I absolutely advocate giving more! You can’t give to God (what is His) and He not take care of you. And while it may not always return in the form of financial blessings or when you want it to, trust, there WILL be a blessing that comes from what you give in tithes and offerings.

    And just practically speaking, if we don’t support our [local] churches and ministries, who will? It is our duty as believers to do this and while it may not always be easy, it should be happy. We are stewards, not owners. And if we are good stewards of the little that God gives us, then we demonstrate to Him and ourselves that He can trust us with more.

  • Scrabble Girl

    Great article! Generosity is a financial principle that should be factored into effective financial planning and management. To be able to be a part of a solution to the problems of the world, e.g. hunger, homelessness, lack of basic necessities is one of the most powerful motivating forces of humankind.