Should my husband and I tithe our Social Security checks? My husband is doubtful since we contributed to them and tithed the original earnings?
Instead of trying to answer your question with a yes or no, we’ll try and provide you with the relevant Biblical principles.
The first basic principle is that you regard as tithable income only money that you actually receive. In other words, your gross (before tax) income is not relevant. The government seized a portion of that which was never yours.
Thus, your tithable income is your gross income, minus federal withholding, state withholding, social security employee share, Medicare employee share (if applicable) and any other mandatory government amounts extracted from your pay. It follows that when you start receiving social security checks, you treat them as tithable income. (Needless to say, if you originally tithed on your gross income, it is a completely different calculation.)
Now let’s explore a different scenario.
- Mr. and Mrs. B. tithe on the income they receive, as we explained above. One of the things they do with their remaining money is give a weekly allowance to each of their children. Should their children tithe on their allowance?
Answer: Yes. Mr. and Mrs. B are choosing to give some cash to their children just as they might choose to give some to the plumber fixing their hot water heater. Like the plumber, the children need to tithe on what they receive. However, we would also like to note the educational advantage of children tithing. The more practice our children have in doing the correct thing, the more likely they are to do the correct thing when they are older.
That was one of the reasons we were not enthusiasts of former First Lady, Nancy Reagan’s well-intentioned “Just say no” campaign. Meant to discourage drug use, the campaign was aimed at teenagers. Yet, too many teenagers have grown up without acquiring the internal strength to ‘just say no’.
As parents, we were always amazed at what took place when our children spied the tempting candy seducing them in the supermarket checkout line. Our very young children, even at the age of 3, would ask us for the candy, but would immediately end their plaintive requests if we told them it wasn’t kosher. (Didn’t conform to the Biblical dietary laws for Jews) In fact, they quickly learned to ask if it was kosher before even thinking of having it. (And, if it was ok to have, it was incumbent on us to be honest about that rather than trying to save ourselves the trouble of dealing with the request.) If the candy was kosher, we might have to endure their pleading eyes for longer. But they already knew to say no to non-kosher candy. Learning to “just say no” at a young age, and about the demands of their tummies, made it easier for them to “just say no” to more urgent drives than candy when they were older. Learning to give from what you have is similarly easier to do when learned from a young age.
Taxes are different. We have no option not to pay those taxes. Thus, we only need to pay on income we, not the government, receive. Social Security is slightly different since that money (in theory) comes back to us. The option there is, as we mentioned above, to tithe on it in advance (by not deducting social security payments from our tithable income) or to tithe when we (hopefully) receive it. Since you seem to have paid a tithe in advance on social security, 100% of the money is yours.
Enjoy what’s left after increasingly confiscatory rates of taxation,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
A few more days left on our
Affiliate Author Book Sale
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin work with a very select group of affiliated authors from the US and Israel. These books will enrich your life and the lives of those you love. The Skeptic and the Rabbi by Judy Gruen, I Only Want to Get Married Once by Chana Levitan, Hands Off! This May Be Love by Gila Manolson, and Aleph-Bet by Sarah Mazor are all on sale this week.