Monday, September 19, 2022

Anonymous Asks (215)

“Can I stop tithing temporarily while paying off a debt?”

Tithing is a command first codified in the Law of Moses, though the concept of giving a tenth of everything you receive existed prior to the giving of the law. But Christians are not under law. At best, giving a tenth to God may be viewed as a guideline. What the Lord expected from Israel in times past serves as a useful starting point for Christian giving, though giving a tenth certainly does not exhaust the believer’s opportunity to serve the Lord by way of financial generosity.

It’s probably better not to think of it as “tithing” at all, but rather as an expression of our love for God.

A Search for Principles

So can you stop tithing temporarily? Of course. You are under no obligation to keep the Law of Moses. But should you stop giving for a period of time simply because you have incurred obligations to others? That’s another question, and each Christian must answer it before the Lord in good conscience.

There are principles in scripture that help answer the question, but no hard and fast rules to follow. I struggled with the issue for many years, and you can find the account of my personal experience with debt here.

More Than Market Value

Western economies are driven by debt, and the lending institutions of the West are always desperate to find new debtors to profit from. Christians who can avoid incurring debt will find they have escaped one of the most common traps into which young families fall these days. Debt is an endless cycle of paying more than market value for all the products you buy, sometimes twice or three times as much. In exchange for paying later for what you consume now, you find that your “laters” belong to someone else and your options remain limited for as long as you remain in debt. No man can serve two masters, and no man can serve both God and Visa.

So is getting rid of debt an important matter to resolve about and work away at? Absolutely.

Priorities, Priorities

On the other hand, your contract with the institution that holds your debt determines your monthly repayment obligation. You should always try to meet that. Beyond that, anything you can shave off the principal is a bonus. It is also money in your hand, and you need to decide before the Lord if that money is better invested: (1) in making quicker debt repayment; or (2) by dropping it in an offering tray, sending it to a missionary, putting it in the hands of needier Christians, or buying what you need to show hospitality to your fellow believers.

These latter opportunities are also investments in the future. It was not Moses but the apostle Paul who wrote, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Much or all of that “reaping” may occur in eternity, but I have found myself reaping bountifully from time to time in this life as well.

Living as a Christian requires balancing the priorities of the kingdom of God with the obligations we have incurred in the present world. I do not think there is ever a time when believers can righteously stop doing either, even for a short period.

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