Tithing: Should We Give From Net Or Gross Income
A question I get quite often from Christians who want to be faithful with the money entrusted to them is “Should I be giving my tithe from my gross or net income?” It’s a great question and one which challenges many believers, including myself. If we examine Psalm 24 God tells us that the earth is His and everything in it, but does he really care if we give off the top of our income or after taxes and other deductions?
Matthew 6:26-34 gives us a great framework to answer this question. As Jesus shares a parable to illustrate the need for us not worry about our lives, He paints a picture of how God provides for us. In this picture He shows us that he loves us much more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, yet he provides for those creatures in extravagant ways. Understanding that our incomes are God’s provision for us we must ask ourselves the question “what is the total amount that God provides to me?” Is it only my net income and not all of my pay? If we’re honest with ourselves taxes, health care, and 401k contributions are all ways in which God provides for us (yes, even taxes) and thus in order to be faithful to our call to generosity I believe we should give from our gross income.
To further the case for giving from our gross income as opposed to our net income, God has set further examples for us both in Leviticus and proverbs where he calls the Israelites to give of the first fruits of their labor. To extrapolate the examples from Leviticus and Proverbs to our modern day, our first fruits means the first and best of our income and not what is left over after certain expenses have been paid.
While scripture clearly calls us to give our first and best back to God- an example which is demonstrated heavily in the new testament by Jesus himself, a valid argument many Christians make against structured giving such as the customary tithe of ten percent posits that structured and planned giving is a form of legalism and thus should not be adhered to. Randy Alcorn in his book “Managing God’s Money” addresses this concern poignantly where he writes:
“Of course, tithing is legalistic and self-righteous for some people. So are church attendance, Bible reading, and prayer, as well as habits of dress, eating, drinking, and recreation. But the solution is not to stop going to church, praying, or reading Scripture. Neither is it to conclude that tithing is inherently legalistic.”
As believers who have received the life-changing gift of the Gospel, our generosity should arguably surpass the generosity of those living under the old covenant. Our generosity comes not under an obligation to please God or fulfill the law, but out of the abundance of a heart thankful for the incredible free gift of the Gospel. To me- this means we out to start our giving out of our Gross rather than net incomes.
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Eric Schrum is an advisor and partner at Schrum Private Wealth Management. Eric contributes for The Faith First Advisor, The Faith Driven Investor, and has a particular interest in helping Christians align their finances with their beliefs through wise financial planning and investing. Investment Advisor Representative of Spire Wealth Management, LLC. Advisory Services offered through Spire Wealth Management, LLC, a Federally Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through an affiliate, Spire Securities, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC.
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