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Tithing Adds to Woes of U.S. Homeowners

The housing crisis is causing people to evaluate their budgets in unusual ways. A friend in the mortgage business sent me this story and it raises some important questions. My first instinct is to be really proud of the article and the fortitude of those who refuse to “rob God”.

“Housing counselors say they often have to bring up the issue of tithing to borrowers who are struggling to keep up the payments on their homes. They say tithing is a sensitive topic, considered to be a mandatory item by many homeowners; but many of those who faithfully give 10 percent of their income to their church are in the lower income brackets. Some borrowers have been willing to give up their homes rather than stop tithing. “For those people, a contract with God is worth more than their home,” says Roger Oldham, a member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

So, there are some folks who are making the decision NOT to buy a house because they refuse to exclude the local church from their budget. This is honorable and right, no question from me on this one.

This brings up another question though… When forced to choose between “a contract with God and a Contract with a bank” what decision honors God?

Do we have a “contract with God” related to tithing?

Please comment, I suspect that we will have opinions on both sides of this arguement.

Comments(9)

  1. Reply
    Rebecca Wire says

    This is an interesting issue. I think it comes down to first being God-honoring and using wisdom in how we budget.

    I know this is not the case with everyone, but are some people struggling with mortgage payments because they weren’t wise stewards in the first place? It’s nice to have a big house for your family, but our obligation to provide for our family doesn’t necessarily mean we have to buy the most we can afford. My kids don’t have to have better than I did growing up. We don’t have to give them what we didn’t have. Wanting better for our kids than what we had may be a sweet idea from well-meaning people, but it doesn’t often reflect a desire to honor God first. I believe my kids will have better than what I did because they will see two parents trying to live in a way that shows we want to give our best to God. I don’t want them to see parents who struggle to give their best to the mortgage company because we greedily bit off more than we could chew. What are we teaching our kids if they see us living to have the best this world can offer?

    I think that a lot of times the things that we “have to have” aren’t really that. I have heard plenty of people complaining that they can’t afford to tithe because they have bills to pay. They prefer to pay their bills and then if they happen to have something left over, well, into the offering plate it goes. That’s not exactly giving your firstfruits to God. And these really important bills may be Internet service, cell phone plans, premium cable service, regular hair appointments at overpriced salons, etc. Are these really necessities in our lives? They aren’t bad things, but if we’re having to choose between honoring God by tithing or maintaining our highlights is the choice really that much of a struggle?

  2. Reply
    Kevin Dowker says

    1. We do not have a contract with God to tithe*. One might argue that Jesus mentioned tithing in His preaching, to which I would say – of course, He did. He taught at a time when the law was still in effect – to teach otherwise would have been unbiblical/unlawful. Let us also point out that a glaring omission of the New Testament is any instruction by Paul or any other writer to give ten percent; if there were a passage that would contain it, it would likely be 2 Corinthians 8, 9; which point to the exceptional generosity a cheerful giver would exhibit.

    2. The New Testament is repleat with exhortations to give, to give cheerfully, to give generously, etc – in fact, I would say that oftentimes believers in the early church gave in excess of the ten percent required of Jews under the law.

    3. To use “ten percent” as the mark of proper Christian generosity would lead us down a path much like that of the Pharisees in their understanding of the tithe – a legalistic tool by which we attain some sense of righteousness by checking yet another religious box.

    The bottom line: read 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and consider the liberality demonstrated both by God and the cheerful giver. We should give and give generously, according to what we are able; we are to be good stewards of God’s material blessings, for they are rightly His in the first place. Our desires should bear the mark of eternal expectation and not temporal gratification.

    * To use the word “tithe”, to me, is rather silly, etymologically. The word itself simply means “tenth”, yet “tithe” was carried over to modern English for reasons unknown to me, other than what I can assume. It’s my opinion that it was carried over because it sounded holier – just as people still quote the phrase “man can’t serve God and mammon.” Unfortunately, the word “tithe” carries with it certain assumptions that one must consider before jumping onto the idea that ten percent is required of every believer.

  3. Reply
    Becky Porter says

    I totally agree with Rebecca. Excellent points. I do believe one way we honor God also is to pay our debts. Where so many times we mess up is all the things we think we “have to have”. They are simply things we “want to have”. I believe if we honor God with our firstfruits, spend wisely, not trying to have every new gadget that comes along, I do believe God will
    bless us in such a way we will be able to meet our contract with the bank. I have seen it in my and my husband’s life. One of the most (I hate to use the word disgusting, but it is) commercials on TV is the man that goes out to buy a new television and he is looking at a wall full of the wide screen TVs and he screams “I want it all and I want it NOW!!” It is an ad for some credit card company. How appropriate.

  4. Reply
    dave fauth says

    1. Where is the counseling before the person buys the house? If they are “tithing”, they should be buying the house based off of the remainder.

    2. The bible also warns not to co-sign for a loan which is what happened to the elderly lady in the article.

    When forced to choose between “a contract with God and a Contract with a bank” what decision honors God?

    Psalm 37:21 says “The wicked borrows and does not pay back.”

    Proverbs 22:26-27 warns us to make sure we can pay back our debts and not to be surprised if we lose our home.

    The question still hasn’t been answered as to what you would counsel someone in this situation. What would you say to these people?

  5. Reply
    mikescott92 says

    The thing in this article I find most interesting is the fact that those who faithfully give are in lower income brackets. Why is that? Tithe is a no-brainer for me and my family. God has been so faithful to us in so many ways that we cut that check and don’t even think about it. There are so many stories I could tell about how He always provided when it really looked grim. The sad thing is that most people are upside down on houses they never should have qualified for and are still faithful to God by tithing; but ultimately lose their houses. We don’t honor Him when we don’t pay our debts. We lived the first couple years in our first home without cable, internet, lights, running water… Just kidding on the last two. However my point is our society won’t do without creature comforts that we call needs now and put ourselves in most of our financial hardships. Stewardship plays a big role here in this article in my opinion..

  6. Reply
    Wes Toole says

    Clint,

    Funny you should blog about this. As you know, Kacey and I have been renting since we have moved to this area. We first rented a house in Dumfries and had to move out of there when the military owners returned to the area. Now, we might have to possibly move again because our landlord is in financial crisis. He has been found in default of his loan and there is a real possibility of foreclosure. This topic hits close to home for us for several reasons. The main reason being what has already been stated above. Kacey and I made the consious decision not to over-extend ourselves at a time we felt the market was over-inflated. Prices have dropped significantly since we’ve been here. However, a lot of people have been left in the wake. The question I keep asking is this…we made the decision to rent because we did not want to find ourselves in hardship, but how could we have avoided or seen this little turn of events coming?

    I response to your question, “When forced to choose between “a contract with God and a Contract with a bank” what decision honors God?”, I have to look at Romans. In Romans 13:1-7, Paul teaches us that we are to pay our debts to those authorities that God has placed over us. We as Christians have a responsibilty to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us, but it does not absolve us of paying those to whom we owe because we either don’t want to or don’t think we can. In Romans 13:2 we read, “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

    I am no lawyer or accountant, but this seems dangerously close to the terms of a “contract”. Because God has deemed the bank in this case to have authority over our finances, our contract with the bank and contract with God regarding our finances is one in the same. As Christians we can not seperate the two.

    Hope this helps stir the pot.

  7. Reply
    Wes Toole says

    Decided to go a lil deeper….

    In verse 7 of the above passage we read, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

    The word “taxes”, or “tribute” in some translations, is derived from the Greek word phoros. Phoros: “tribute, esp. the annual tax levied upon houses, lands, and persons”.

    Just thought this added more credence to what I was saying or how I understood the scripture to read.

  8. Reply
    Phillip says

    Wow, all of these are great comments. However, like mentioned in one of the post, we are not under the “Law”. We are under grace. The example set in the early church was not to give a tithe (10%) but everyone gave as there was need and there was none that went without. Why do we got so possesive of the things that God has given us. Jesus on several occasions talked about a faithful servant who took what his master gave him and returned it to his master with increase. God blesses each one of us differently. We should be giving everything to God because it is not ours and it is His. If we are being faithful with what God has given us and we are still struggling, where is the body of Christ? Where are those with an abundance? Why are they not ministering to those in need? In a time where there is a lot of fear about financial futures, what better time for the love of Christ to be lived out in our lives for the world to see. Instead we look at what we have as ours, not God’s, and at the end of the month or the beginnig of the pay period give God a portion of what He has blessed us with. I think it is time that we as a church, the universal Body of Christ, give all back to God and watch how He increases!

  9. Reply
    Brian Metz says

    I don’t tithe. I give.

    I think that some of the thinking coming out of people who default on their house and yet are still tithing is probably people who are duped by the prosperity wolves. They figure if they stop tithing than they are going to lose their blessing. Poor theology leads to stupid actions. Being generous to God doesn’t mean I have to strain out a gnat in order to give to my church just the required 10%. Our hearts should be compelled/controlled by love from the Savior and King Jesus.

    I can’t believe I am not on your blog roll. Sad.

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