Forty years later, we still disagree about tithing.

I know tithing is important for God’s blessing on my family finances. However, my husband refuses to tithe. 

Before the Covid curse overtook our country, he had, finally, begun to give  $50 per week, some weeks. I begged him for most of our 40-year marriage to tithe. He has always said we cannot afford to tithe. 

I have felt so hopeless because he is in charge of all the money. I have worked a little over the years, allowing me a small SS income of $674 per month. I do tithe on that now. 

I have some resentment toward my husband. I have prayed all these years for God to change his heart in this area. He is a Christian and wouldn’t miss church. He has a moral compass facing due N. He has been a deacon for many years. He is very knowledgeable of the Bible. He’s read it front to back several times. He says tithing is OT and not required under the grace of the NT. Do you have any wisdom for me?

From:

June P. 

Dear June,

In all honesty, much of what we have to say will be more helpful to newly married or about-to-be-married couples than it might be to you. In more than 40 years of marriage, we imagine that you and your husband have navigated a number of difficult situations. Without making light of your feelings, you most probably have learned techniques for turning resentment into acceptance and moving on in a healthy way. 

One question we urge you to ask yourself is why this long-standing problem is hitting a sore spot now. You opened your letter to us by saying that tithing is important for God’s blessing on your finances. Are you worried about money in a way that you previously weren’t? If so, those concerns should be aired in your marriage. 

We would word our views on tithing (or giving charity) in a different way than you do. We believe that, among many other instructions, God tells us that not all of our money actually belongs to us. At least 10% is given to us in order for us to give it away. While we think (and we elaborate on this in the book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money) that being generous and giving often helps one make more money, it is not a case of quid pro quo. A society in which people tithe will be more prosperous. While most individuals also will do better, it isn’t a magic formula for making money, but something we do because it is the right thing to do.

Since our area of wisdom is only from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, we cannot comment on your husband’s theological understanding of tithing. As the upright and religious man you describe him to be, he firmly trusts that he is doing the right thing. Is there a religious mentor that you can both speak to who might help you understand this view?  

The issue that your letter does raise is how important it is to set up financial understanding from the outset of a marriage. When the husband is earning the living and the wife is running the home, the money belongs equally to the two of them. If two partners run a store together and one mans the counter and makes sales while the other does the marketing and maintenance, the one who handles the cash is not the “owner” of that money. In the same way, finances belong to the couple. From day one, whether or not you worked, you should have had the freedom to do as you wished with a certain amount of the money brought into the house, as he should have as well. While your husband may not feel that tithing is necessary, we assume he would not have objected to you ear-marking some of your portion of the funds for charity. 

Our impression we have, which might be mistaken, is that you almost feel that you are being punished in some way for 40 years of not tithing. We are quite sure that God smiles on happy marriages, so while charity might be important, so is staying true emotionally to the man in your life. 

Blessings, 

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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22 thoughts on “Forty years later, we still disagree about tithing.”

  1. Wonderful answer! God is so good- as a Christian our previous church put so much pressure about tithing and the blessings of God- no tithe no blessing – until we gave tithe and we’re filing bankruptcy for lost of income- but one day as I was crying to God and telling him I was so ashamed that I had no money for him- I heard in my heart Him saying-Mathew 26- Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? That was the beginning of a new relationship with my Heavenly Father- today we are blessed and we give to the needy, to churches that help others, etc…. oh, how God loves us!!! Enjoy your live, your long marriage and you are ok! ❤️

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  2. I think you successfully muddied up a very clear expectation of our Father. In these cases, just being clear and honest is better for all involved.

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    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing, Randy,
      We appreciate everyone who writes, even those who write critically and cryptically. We thought we were being clear and honest in our answer to June. We’d love to hear a little more from you detailing how we muddied up our response. We’re always trying to improve.
      Cordially
      RDL

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  3. Money is an emotional issue for many couples and an issue with frequent disagreement. As a little child, when I earned a little bit of money my parents taught me to tithe, which I have done faithfully now for decades. I am a Christian, married to a Jewish man. Since I have worked my entire life, I have tithed on my earnings.. When my husband saw me tithing, he decided to start giving more of his own money to charitable causes and this has allowed me to respect him more. I believe the Lord loves a cheerful giver, and I truly enjoy blessing others. I also believe God will always provide for our needs. I don’t think tithing is always about money. I would ask June’s husband: “We all have time, talent OR treasure. If you don’t think you can afford to give money, do you have something else you can give to God? Working once a month in a soup kitchen, tutoring a child in reading or math, giving free music lessons to a teen who cannot afford them. There are many ways to “thank God” for His many blessings.

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  4. If I may add a two points to the conversation for the lady’s husband’s consideration: Before the law was given through Moses, Abraham tithed (gave a tenth share) to the priest Melchizedek (Gen. 14; Heb. 7). The lesson I see is that since tithing was instituted pre-law, tithing is not considered ‘Old Covenant’ or, ‘Old Testament’ and therefore should be considered as pertaining to all people who, through faith, are children of Abraham (Ro. 4:16). To add a ‘New Testament’ point, Jesus commended the Pharisees in their tithing (Mt. 23), but then pointed out that they should have done so while also not neglecting mercy, etc.; Jesus did not say mercy, justice, etc. should replace tithing, but these things should be observed along with tithing.

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    1. Those are excellent points! I have seen a lot of Christians using the argument that tithing is only Old Testament, so your points are really good.

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      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Thank you Sarah–
        We never criticize theological or doctrinal positions taken by Christian leaders; we only answer questions from the perspective of Bible-based ancient Jewish wisdom. Thanks for writing
        Cordially
        RDL

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  5. Deborah Bezuidenhout

    A brilliant and wise answer . Thank you . I face the same situation and your story and answer helped me see things differently .shalom Deborah

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    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Luis–
      I imagine you probably want more of an answer than this verse in Deuteronomy 15:11 “For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land…”
      The answer is that whenever money is being distributed, a line will form and grow. This is as true when governments take money from some citizens and distribute it to others as it is when benevolently-minded tourists are ready to bestow a coin in an outstretched palm. At religious sites, people are more likely to feel magnanimous so beggars are found not only in Jerusalem but also Bethlehem, Rome, Lourdes and at many shrines around the world.
      Cordially
      RDL

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  6. Christianity is a religion of freedom and grace. We are free to give as much, or as little of God’s money back to God, as we wish. Make no mistake, whether you are a Christian, or something else, all the wealth of this world belongs to the Lord, both the silver and the gold, as well as the cattle on a thousand hills. For some reason, God has trusted me with a portion of His wealth for some undetermined amount of time, but it isn’t mine. At some point, all of it will pass into the hands of other people. I may or may not approve of how they choose to use it. The day will come when I will need to discuss the use of these funds with my Lord. On that day, my hope is that I will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
    As you observed, the law of the harvest is not a quid pro quo, anymore than a farmer who plants a crop is guaranteed a return on his investment, but the law of the harvest is real.
    1)You will harvest whatever you have planted. If you have planted corn, you will harvest corn.
    2)You will harvest more than you planted, perhaps 10 fold, perhaps 30 fold, perhaps 100 fold.
    3)The harvest will occur sometime in future. The timing is in the hands of the Lord of the harvest.
    While discussing the law of the harvest with a friend, he observed that it doesn’t matter to the soil what you plant.
    Maybe thirty years ago, I listened to Larry Burkett’s Christian personal finance radio show on the drive home from work. This question came up frequently. For some reason, it was always the wife who wanted to give more. His answer was always the same. He would tell the wife to ask her husband to give more than they were currently giving for a year. Tell him he could pick the number, but it had to be larger than their current gift. Then tell him that if our life (not limited to money) has improved over the course of that year, tell him to consider increasing their gift again. Tell him, if our life hasn’t improved, I promise never to bother you about giving again. Larry Burkett said he had never seen God fail in meeting this challenge.
    I hesitate to believe that I am ever “hearing from God,” but as time goes on, I am becoming more convinced that if you want to attract blessings into your life, become a blessing to others. Of course, this principle isn’t limited to money, but it seems like a good place to begin. Start where you are. If you are giving nothing, don’t expect to reach 10% today, or tomorrow. Just commit to increasing that number, as the Lord provides.
    From personal experience, I haven’t yet been able to out give God. Staying true emotionally to the man in your life will be a blessing both to you and to your husband.
    Just the opinions of one old man.

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    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Henry–
      Regarding your ‘sign-off’ in which you wrote, “Just the opinions of one old man”, you are sadly using ‘old’ as a derogatory. Usually, ‘just’ signals an approaching derogatory as in, ‘Oh this? This is just a beat up old car I’ve had for years’ or ‘Just what do you think you’re saying?’ Age is not a derogatory, it is an accreditation. It speaks to experience gained and lessons lived. Your lengthy letter was adjudged worthy of publication because of your age not in spite of it.
      I remember Larry Burkett well and his advice was always good.
      In my experience, interestingly enough, the questions have come more often from husbands who want to give more and wives who demur. We published one such question recently (November 10th, 2020) and answered it. It was entitled “My Wife Objects to My Charitable Giving”.
      Thanks for writing; do stay in touch.
      Cordially
      RDL

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  7. Tithing is my one of my favourite subjects ! As a teenager I had so many questions about tithing. I started tithing mostly out of ‘fear’.
    After 10+ years I found myself still tithing but broke financially. The problem was not that I was giving 10% , the problem was I was lousy at managing the other 90%! It is called Stewardship. I continued to tithe but got out of debt and started disciplining myself to manage the 90%.
    I also started studying the scriptures on money, finance and tithing. I found over 2,000+ scriptures about money and I could not find one scripture that said do not tithe.
    Several years ago I read Rabbi Lapin’s book , ‘Thou Shall Prosper’ and it blew my mind ! It helped me even more to nail down that God’s character and principles never change. Tithing is one of those principles.
    I have found that paying my tithe is NOT about the money but rather a measurement of my true faith in who and what I trust. Tithing is really a test of our heart and priorities. Paying my tithe first helps remind me that ultimately God is in control of my life…not me.God doesn’t need my money.He wants my heart and if he has my heart he will be number one in all areas of my life.
    I must admit I am still trying to work out mathematically how 90% goes further than 100% but that is why he is God and I am not.

    Jeff Lestz
    Author of : True Riches, Prosperity with Purpose

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    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Jeff–
      Your testimony is moving, as it usually is. I know that more and more people are enjoying your book and recovering their life navigation after reading it.
      May God bless you with a healthy and prosperous 2021–the happiness part you take care of yourself. I appreciate your friendship.
      Cordially
      RDL

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  8. In my view, tithing is actual a physical action which helps move our divine souls towards selflessness as opposed to the natural biological state of selfishness. It is a means by which to pay it forward.

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  9. Dear Rabbi,
    Thank you for your wisdom, insight and teaching on the things of God. Regarding the husband not willing to tithe.
    First, we must acknowledge that all things are God.
    Second, God do not need our money, He wants our love and devotion. Giving is faith in action: it a demonstration of our trust in God and not in the money God has allow us to obtain.
    Third, God wants us to be cheerful givers. II Corinthians 3:6-8
    ; 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”
    Finally, I would like to recommend to questioner to revisit their social security benefit. For example, if her husband’s SS benefit is higher than her because his income was higher she’s eligible to receive spouse’s benefit up to 50% of her husband’s monthly benefit. The monthly amount he’s getting will remain the same. She cannot get both SS benefits. If the spouse’s benefit is greater than what she’s currently receiving, then the increase will allow her to give more to God’s Kingdom. Blessing

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  10. Well, my opinion has always been 10% to God,10% to you, and 80% for your household. and he’ll give the increase. It all belongs to God anyway and we are to be good stewards with it.

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  11. Be encouraged! It took 34 years before my husband began to tithe. I would talk to him periodically about it and one day he said “I am tithing, I have it taken right out of my paycheck “. Don’t give up, keep believing and keep confessing that your husband is a tither. Our finances are in such a better state now. I am confident that you will see this come to pass.

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