When to Stop Tithing

You’ve saved diligently and always spent less than you earn. You’ve lived your life on a budget and have a healthy emergency fund.

Then the economic troubles we are all facing start to catch up to you and your family. One person in the two-income situation loses a job. You slowly start to dig into your emergency fund.

Yet you have committed to giving 10% of your income every month, and you support two missionary families currently deployed overseas at $50 per month. These items are keeping you on the brink of financial crisis — some months you can pay all of your bills, others you have to dip into the emergency fund.

You can’t keep this up forever.

Should You Stop Tithing?

This is a controversial topic. (One in which I am not exactly an expert by any means.)
Tithing is a personal decision that you (or you and your spouse) must make on your own. Personally we tithe 10% of everything we earn. So if our earnings were to go down through a spouse being laid off, then our tithing would go down as well.

But what if the loss of income is so great that even the reduction in tithing isn’t able to offset all of the financial stress being placed on your family? Is it okay to stop then?

I would argue that unless you are in the most dire of situations, no. Your tithe is an offering to God of what you have reaped financially. If you are bringing in income then 10% should come off the top immediately and be given to Him. Remember the widow and two coins from Luke 21.

Things get cloudy if you have cut all possible expenses and you’re still in financial trouble. You aren’t hanging on to internet, cable, or cell phone bills. You’ve dropped all of those and are still under water financially.

In this case I would look for guidance from one of our pastors. Obviously praying should guide your decision as well.

Is It Okay to Drop Missionary Support Temporarily?

From what I understand missionaries, unfortunately, have to deal with a decent amount of turnover in their supporters. Tough times at home mean really tough times out in the field for missionaries. I get the feeling that missions may be one of the first things to go simply because you don’t see your missionaries every Sunday at church. There is less guilt involved because you don’t have to look them in the eye as you cut back on your contributions.

I would do everything possible to keep our missionary obligations paid even at the expense of our church tithe. That may seem backwards, but we go to a large, financially healthy church. Our contributions are a small number as a percentage compared to our contributions to missionaries we support.

If we had cut everything to the bone to reduce our expenses and were still in financial trouble I’m not sure what we would do. There would be a lot of praying and talking with our pastors before making a decision. We would e-mail our missionaries as well since calling internationally really isn’t an option.

Again, I’m not a biblical scholar. I’m a human being that makes mistakes. What would you do in this situation?


By , on Jun 22, 2009
Kevin Mulligan Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.


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  1. Daniel Young:

    I have a question: I have someone who is in need of financial help. Christ says help all who ask. So, here is my question: I have tithe set aside but money for me is a little scarce as well. I know that tithe is suppose to go to your church but would it be wrong to use this to help someone in need?

  2. Tragoudi Arpa:

    I am still looking for answers on all this financial stuff. For the past 10 years we have cut, cut, cut, and things have broken, not gotten replaced, not gotten repaired, still trying to keep tithing, but after 10 years I don’t see why everyone, including God, can keep raising pricing and making me pay more for everything when my only option is do without. It is NOT WORKING AT ALL!! Where is all the more blessing God is supposed to be providing? We get little things here and there, sometimes a discount, on small things, but on the big things we really need – a new roof on the house, washer, dryer, refrigerator, plumbing repaired, flooring replaced, toilets replaced, shower/tub replaced, newer vehicle since ours is a 1999 with 210,000 miles and rust and …. we need major dental work and medical testing…the job situation is just not providing enough money when they make us pay higher premiums with higher and higher deductibles… the list just is never ending. We’ve taken 1 three day weekend vacation in ten years.

    We need God to give us MONEY so we can take care of things. This is ridiculous. We keep giving money that really needs to go towards fixing and replacing and doctor stuff. We’ve done all the asking, praying, confessing, etc.

    If God can keep the galaxies in space spinning right, why can’t He take better care of us?

    There are absolutely no good answers on this.I can’t continue to be responsible to pay more and more when there’s no more money coming in.

    All the stuff about God providing when you tithe — I keep trying to take it on “faith” that it is true in Malachi 3:10 but I have to say my personal experience is — God is just one more creditor in the line up who expects to be first in line and make the others wait. Well, it isn’t fair that for years He gets his, the others don’t get theirs, and things get worse not better.

    I appreciate His promise to be “with me” – but come on — a God as big and powerful as He is should be able to break through this log jam regardless of what the economy is not doing and get us deliverance.

  3. barry:


  4. Michelle:

    Tithing is wonderful. It’s a surender that you trust in God for everything. Yes when I was a little girl and my mom had to support 2 kids and my father was let say not a good one. Mom always made sure it was something she gave… If she only made $50.00 she would tithe on it and YES we were behind on bills. But crazy thing is she would call the company and the company WOULD WORK with her. People in the church would slip money to her and she didn’t know who it came from. YES tithing is important even when you are struggling. GOD WILL MAKE A WAY!! Even if it is people helping you with food,money,etc. GOD will see to it and send those people to help you out. As my pastor says “Everything is going to be alright!” Be frugal and waste not. Make sure you are cutting everycorner to help out the situation. GOD WILL SEE YOU THROUGH!! HE promised it in his book “The Bible”.

  5. Sue:

    Hello !

    Tithing – money only? Giving – money only? It doesn’t have to be! My religious persuasion has taught me that tithing doesn’t revole solely around money. If your finances are limited and you’re budget is feeling the pinch, like most of us, try a few of these suggestions which I’m sure you can expand upon… Share a meal or prepare a plate lunch for someone in financial need, or mow the lawn for the elderly couple down the street once a week. Share your talents or creative abilities: volunteer your time at church, a community center or local school, I’m sure the teachers would appreciate the help. Tutor, babysit! The elderly, probably more than most, living on fixed incomes (at best) could benefit from your help/tithe. Next time you shop for your groceries, take them along or do the shopping for them, help them with housework or laundry, anything would be appreciated. All of these deeds, no matter how small, will help someone in some way and pay a tithe whose investment will yield a return like no other!

    God Bless

  6. This is my belief, although the issue is certainly up for debate. In ALL areas, other than ritual-related ones, Jesus EXPANDED the OT law. It is not enough to not covet your neighbor’s wife, as in the OT, now it is a sin to look upon a woman with lust, for example.

    Given that, does it really make sense that Jesus would expect LESS from us in giving than in the OT? I personally do not think so. I think that Jesus demanded more from us than the OT law, not less, in all areas of our lives.

    There is also a verse in Matthew where Jesus calls out the Pharisees for giving 10% of something very small in a legalistic way (the exact verse escapes me at the moment) but ignoring the requirement to love one another. He says they should do the former (loving one another) WITHOUT neglecting the latter (tithing). This says to me that tithing is still required, but is not the only requirement of us.

    For that reason, I think 10% is the minimum we should give, not the maximum. We give 10% to our local church, and then give additional amounts above that to other ministries.

    • Daniel Young:

      I agree Jesus did make it more difficult for us to hide behind our true hearts hence looking at a woman in a lustful way shows you have committed adultery with her. I feel though that Jesus did not do this to make it harder to get into heaven but to expose our true sinful ways and to take our arrogance away from us so that we don’t stand as proud people who are saved by our actions. NO ONE CAN OBEY ALL THE LAW. Once we understand and believe this then we can submit to His grace and His perfect sacrifice for us and this alone redeems us to the Father!

  7. Dana:

    Someone above commented on how many times Jesus refers to money. What I have always been confused on is that tithing is referred to alot in the Old Testament and in MANY different ways. In one place if I read it correctly you coul buy back your tithings. Does Jesus talk specifically about us tithing or just to give on the first day of each week. We do not “tithe” but do give to our church on the first day of the week and God has always taken care of us and we have increased over the years our giving but not the 10% that is talked about in the Old Testament. Could someone answer this for me-are we to tithe or to give according to Jesus?

  8. For my family…tithing is an act of obedience.
    This past year, my husband (a pastor) lost his job (church) and we barely survived the 4 months of no income.
    We still tithed on whatever God sent our way.

    We are still trying to bounce back financially. Our once happy life has not been the same.
    It is painful to not be able to tithe.

    It is a privilege to give back. It all comes from God anyway!

  9. Nice pot Kevin– your approach of 10% of what is EARNED makes the most sense– it allows you to help others, but won’t completely sink you the way a fixed dollar committment would.

  10. Angie:

    It seems that many misunderstand what the Bible says about tithing. First, if we aren’t giving willingly and cheerfully, God doesn’t even recognize it. Second, if we quit tithing when our income drops, we are not trusting God to provide our needs. (Unfortunately, I am not always that faithful.) Over the years, I have heard people give example after example of how they trusted God and continued to tithe even when they couldn’t “afford” to, and “mysteriously” their needs were met, either by unexpected income, or some other financial blessing. When we choose to live by faith, it gives God a chance to show his true grace, love, mercy, and power. If we quit giving when we can’t “afford” it, we are denying God the opportunity to show how great He is! He didn’t tell us to give when we could afford it, but to give back from what He has given us. Basically, it’s not about giving what is OURS to HIM – (it’s ALL His anyway), it’s about us being good stewards of what HE has given US. Look at it as Him allowing us to KEEP a large portion of what He has allowed us to have! May God richly bless you for continuing your giving to further God’s kingdom.

  11. Juli:

    As a Roman Catholic, we don’t have a tithe per se. Our diocese suggests that we should donate x% to our parish, y% to the diocese and z% to other charitable needs (anything from special collections to secular charities).

    I am very concerned about the stability of my job, and plan on cutting my diocesan donation to 20% (it’s an annual pledge) and cutting my ‘other’ donation pile significantly. Just these 2 steps alone are causing me unhappiness. However, I look forward to stepping back up an a year or two.

    My parish donation remains the same unless I lose my job. It is all God’s after all, as stated by another poster.

    I did read once that if all Catholics gave 5% of their income, Catholic schools would not need to charge tuition. Oh well.

  12. Shelley:

    The tithe is 10% of all your increase. It belongs to God, not us. He wants us to honor him with our tithe by bringing it into His storehouse (the church) so that there will be meat in His house. Giving is anything above and beyond His tithe. If you spend your tithe, no matter what your financial situation, you’ve stolen from God what is His. He promises that if we tithe, He’ll open the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing upon us that there’s not room enough to receive it!!!! This is the only place in the Bible where He says to try it and see if He’ll not keep His word! He also promises to rebuke the devourer for our sake if we tithe. You can read about it in Malachi 3:8-11. I’ve tithed faithfully for over 15 years. At first I did it because I knew it was right, but later understood that it was God’s way of getting me blessed! Why would anyone ever want to cut their blessings short by not tithing?!! God wants us to honor Him with our finances and to trust Him with our money, especially when we are in lack, so that He can show Himself real in our lives. BE EMPOWERED TO PROSPER!

  13. Elizabeth:

    Don’t drop your missionary support! Most missionaries go out in faith on pledged support, They are often doing hard front line work. You are part of that work when you give to it. There are lots of people willing to go, but never do because of lack of financial support, others simply have to quit their ministry.

    Career Missionary

  14. Some decisions are very difficult to make in this economic woes but I would cut back on the missionary donation instead of the tithing. Tithes is our way of saying thank you to God for his blessing and if we should cut back on this it would mean that we are not thankful for his blessing. Cutting back on the missionary donation doesn’t mean that I would stop contributing completely but instead of sending every month I will do it every other month with a smaller amount.

    • I know the comment I am replying to is 5 years old but I thought I would respond incase anybody reads it:

      I disagree. This will have an impact on the missionary. If all the missionary’s supporters decided to do this then he may only eat every other month and with smaller portions.

      The money missionaries receive go to pay for normal living expenses. When the money doesn’t come in we can’t pay the bills.

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