Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is it HIS money or MINE?!?!?!

Money is a complicated thing isn’t it?

Bonnie did a series on Financial Hardships and Surprise Pregnancies  It was good.  She got questioned on the 10% tithe in the comments- She then wrote a follow up that I am still rolling around in my head because it was that good.  Read it now.

My friend Father Mario called this morning, he is helping to give a marriage prep retreat/conference thing this weekend.  He said he thought he remembered that Aaron and I tithe and was wondering if we would write about our experience to share with the couples. Most young married couples don’t tithe.  Father Mario/his parish want to introduce the concept in marriage prep. I think that’s not only necessary, it is good ministry.

Colleen wrote a blog today on her experience of giving.  On being generous with financial resources like we are called to be generous in other ways… trusting that God will provide.

So I've been thinking a lot about tithing in it's practicality.  I've been thinking about how a lot of us think about giving, and some of us don’t.  Some of us have excess to give from, and some of us just can't find room in our budgets for it.  Some of us wonder if it’s supposed to be about giving from our excess or giving our ‘first fruits’ even when it hurts.

I thought I’d write a bit about my experience and then my family’s experience.  Before I do, I am assuming you know that ‘tithing’ is giving 10%. A tithe is a measurement.  It is 10%.  Anything less than 10% is not a tithe, anything more than 10% is over the tithe.  I bet most of you know this, I had no idea until I started understanding money, giving, and stewardship- so I thought I would start there. 

When I was single…
I graduated from college with a LOT of debt.  A crippling amount of debt actually. I spent the majority of my 20s panicked because of how much money I owed people. I lived in a cycle of stealing from Peter to pay Paul.  I was also really, REALLY bad with money.  I wasn’t intentional about my dollars.  I talked about having no money to give because of my debt and how ‘poor’ I was… I believed it to be true.  I really did. I remember one year I ‘owed’ on my taxes and I was furious that I barely had enough to get by, but I had to give Uncle Sam ‘More Money’ (I thought it was ‘more money’ that’s how bad I was with finances). 

I felt very, very broke.  At the same time, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, had a car payment of $300 (vs. driving a used car), went on vacations, ate most meals out, had a fancy phone plan- and...I didn’t tithe. I didn’t think I had enough money to tithe.  This makes me cringe now, and I’m sure it makes some of you cringe as well.  I should have been tithing or hustling to get out of debt so that I could begin tithing.  I know how easy it is to justify not giving to one’s church community.  I did it for a really, really long time

When I got married…
We got married with a lot of debt.  We worked really, really hard to pay it off.  To talk numbers, we payed off 86 k, in 2.5 years, making $100,000 combined (hopefully real number talk doesn't make you nervous).  If you do the math, we lived off of about 40-50 k to make that happen.  During those 2.5 years we had 2 kids via c-section, we went through another pregnancy, I worked through three pregnancies, and we had to replace a crazy amount of things (water heater, flooded basement, air-conditioner, car repairs).  During that time, we were committed to giving, but decided until we paid what we borrowed {sidenote- huh, imagine that? Being convicted that one should PAY what they BORROWED} - we couldn’t give a full 10%.  During that time we gave between 1.5-3 % of our income to our Church community. I know what it’s like to not give a tithe because you cannot afford a tithe.   We couldn’t afford a tithe until we were out of debt.  We couldn't afford for me to be a stay at home mom until we paid off our debt, we couldn't afford a lot of things while we were paying off our debt.  

As soon as we got out of debt we began giving the tithe (10%).  You know I love me some DaveRamsey.  He does really well explaining the importance of tithing and what it means to be a steward of the resources you have been given.  Maybe I should have always known this, but it really rocked my world when I started considering that everything we have belongs to God, and we are given the noble responsibility of being stewards of His belongings.  Our children, our families, our resources, they are all meant to serve the Kingdom.  We do that by first taking care of our families, and then our Church community and then the wider community.  At least in theory…

Here are some thoughts, now that we tithe the full 10%.  These thoughts aren't a judgment of you and your giving; they are thoughts that have worked for us in terms of guidelines for giving.  I think it’s really important that we don’t judge the giving of other people, for a whole bunch of reasons. Aaron and I are on a journey of discernment when it comes to giving and being good stewards of the resources we work for and have been given.  Maybe you will relate to this journey, or some of these thoughts could add to your journey.  But they in no way are meant to condemn.

If we were still in debt…we wouldn’t give a tithe.
If giving a tithe meant we couldn’t feed our family...wouldn’t give a tithe.
If giving a tithe meant I had to work outside the home… we wouldn't give a tithe.
If giving a tithe meant we couldn’t afford insurance…we wouldn’t give a tithe.
If giving a tithe meant we couldn’t afford essentials (telephone, transportation, gas)…we wouldn’t give a tithe.

However, tithing is a priority in our house, even though sometimes it hurts.  

Tithing came before we consider moving. 
Our house is smallish (I am embarrassed to say that) by today’s standards for our family.  We are a family of six, and we live in a house just barely over 1000 square feet.  The truth is, it’s plenty big for us, and we have a game-changer finished basement, but sometimes it does feel small to me.  Our immediate neighborhood is just fine, but if I am being honest, my city has a bit more crime than I feel comfortable with, and the schools make me nervous for my kids as well. We’d like to move, but we won’t do it at the expense of our tithe- so it’s going to take a bit longer.

Tithing came before we considered saving for retirement or school.  
Tithing came before we considered private schools for our children.  

Tithing is a reality, even if that means we drive around used cars and live pretty tight when it comes to clothing and other things to purchase.  
Tithing comes before family activities, vacations, gift-giving to others.  
Tithing comes before almost every.single.thing once the essentials are taken care of. 

If Aaron lost his job, and we had to tighten up to afford essentials alone, I am positive we would stop tithing.  As long as he has his job and we are out of debt, we don’t consider the 10% as money that is ours- it’s our Church community's. 

Oh, and I fully understand even with giving the tithe, my husband and I probably still bring in ‘more’ money than many other families.  Which is weird and another reason why I think it’s really important not to spend a second considering what others are doing in terms of tithing, but to constantly discern what our family's call is.

Those are just some guidelines we as a young-ish family follow.  It’s good because it reminds us constantly that being good stewards means understanding that our money is ‘ours’ in as much as we are discerning with God how to best spend it. 

I share this because it’s what we do, but I do have complicated feelings with it all.  
For us, we can ‘tithe’ and still go on vacation… is that fair?
For us, we can tithe and still save for retirement… many couldn’t.
For us, we can still enjoy unnecessary things and give a tithe… maybe that means 10% needs to be more?

Those are the questions I ask myself.  I’m not sure the answer, except to acknowledge the importance of being in constant discernment about what we have been given through our work, choices and grace…  What do you think?


  1. Thank you for your honesty with this post! As a young adult I always tithed, plus some more. After we married, we still were able to tithe plus. Then after unexpected unemployment of 2 years and struggling to make ends meet, we had to cut back in our giving considerably. My parents would be appalled...the tithe should come first, you would have nothing if it wasn't for God...he's only asking you to give him 10%. I can hear it in my head. We are happily looking forward to being able to tithe again soon (after all debt is paid). I did become a SAHM even though we couldn't tithe, but like you said, we had to discern what we were being called to do as a family. My DH traveled internationally 3 weeks in a row every month. He literally got on a plane on a Friday or Saturday and didn't come home again for 3 weeks. I couldn't manage 3 kids + working at my very demanding 60+ hour a week job + all the home responsibilities. (I tried really hard for 6 months to do it all so we could pay off debt faster, but my sanity was suffering, and not just "oh, I'm so tired" but a "I'm going to run away from home and never come back" kind of way.)

    1. Can I just say, I cannot imagine how you dealt with that kind of travel. My husband's job requires 20% travel right now, and on the weeks he is gone, I just can't tell you how hard it is. I honestly shuddered thinking about what I would even do if I was WORKING and he was traveling. For us, if giving the tithe meant I had to work outside the home, we just wouldn't be able to give the tithe. To me, that's an essential- mostly because I feel a deep calling to be a SAHM (even though I don't always enjoy it!- lol).

      You are so right though, about the personal discernment piece. Honestly, because tithing keeps coming to mind via social media friends/family, I have a feeling God is calling us to do a little more than what we are currently doing- it will be interesting to see how that expresses itself in the next couple months.

  2. You've offered some interesting thoughts about the treasure aspect. I'd love hearing your thoughts on the time and talent. As a Mom with little kiddos, that is where I struggle.

    1. Ohhhh great question- I am just going to copy/paste what I posted on facebook when someone asked the same thing... I probably should have clarified in this post I was just going to tackle 'treasure'- I think 'time' 'talent' are just as important...
      What I wrote on facebook...
      I decided to only address the financial tithe today, but I do find the treasure and time just as, if not more important to be honest. What is funny is different seasons right? So back when I wasn't tithing financially, I was giving plenty of time and some talent. Now that we are in a season of an insane amount of little children (I say that in jest) the time and talent really isn't coming that easily for Aaron and I, but the treasure part we can make sure to have happen. I think some of these things move seasonally right? I imagine we will get back up to the time/talent portion when our kids are a wee bit older. but I suppose I have to be careful about giving myself too much of an excuse with those things, like I used to with treasure as a single person.

  3. This is very well thought out, and very similar to my own experiences in many ways. We have similar guidelines for tithing. We also count (on the advice of our priest) helping family members as part of our tithe. We have one family member in particular with addictions/mental health issues that we are frequently assisting in various ways.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! I understand why the Church doesn't give us set rules for how much to tithe/give (just like there aren't hard rules for NFP) -- but I sure wish She would, lol! We pay the 10% as soon as we get paid and try to not even count it as salary. It means driving an old van and eating at home and "stay-cationing" but....we're still fortunate enough to buy nice books/materials for homeschooling and to live in a nice place. So...it's uncomfortable but not painful....does that mean we're not giving enough? Or do the "rules" change when you're raising a family - homeschooling is obviously an important part of raising our children? But, it has been amazing to see how God provides, because looking at our budget, things shouldn't rationally work out!