Let’s set the scene: You attend church, read your Bible, and try your best to follow Jesus—you even tithe regularly. But money’s been tight. Either you’re throwing every dime you’re earning at your debt, or you’re in the middle of a difficult work season and not bringing in as much cash as you need to be.
So you start to wonder if the tithe—giving 10% of your monthly income to your local church—is really necessary. You don’t have a ton of money, but you do have some time you could give! Would it be okay to replace the tithe with service to your church instead?
It’s a great question. But it’s actually the wrong question to be asking.
The Question Behind the Question
The right question is: Can you give your time in addition to your tithe? Yes, and you should! Giving your time is a great way to honor God and show love to others. But you can’t give your time instead of giving your tithe.
See, the Bible offers no alternatives to giving a tithe, so that means our time isn’t a good substitute. What the Bible does encourage is doing both—especially if you don’t have the cash to give above and beyond the tithe.
Tithing is really a baseline for giving each month. The Bible actually encourages us to give generously far beyond the tithe. But that’s not possible for a lot of people when they’re digging out of debt or going through a rough financial season. In those cases (and anytime, really—there’s never a bad time to serve), giving of your time is the perfect solution! But at the end of the day, serving doesn’t replace the tithe.
Tithing is a way to give your heart over to God because you’re reminding yourself your security lies in Christ alone.
Two Different Forms of Worship
Tithing is a form of worship because it shows God you trust Him—not money—to provide. Matthew 6:24 (ESV) reminds us we can’t worship God and money at the same time: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
On the other hand, when you serve, you worship God by stewarding your time and your talents for Him. And Matthew 25:40 tells us whatever we do to serve others in need, we do for Him. Serving is an awesome form of generosity!
So yes, He wants you to worship Him as you serve and give of your time. But He also wants you to put your faith in Him instead of money—especially since He gives 100% of His money to us while asking us to give just 10% of His money back to Him.
Now, tithing isn’t a salvation issue, and God isn’t going to condemn you if you don’t. But tithing is for your benefit. God doesn’t need your money, but He does want your heart. And tithing is a way to give your heart over to God because you’re reminding yourself your security lies in Christ alone. You can’t do that if you stop tithing.
What to Do If Tithing Feels Tough
So what do you do if money is tight and you’re tempted to stop tithing? Look for ways to increase your income or decrease your expenses so giving doesn’t feel as difficult. Maybe that means downsizing or cutting an expense that’s more of a luxury than a necessity. Whatever you do, though, just keep tithing. Remember: When managing your money, always give first, save second and spend third.
Giving your money will help you learn to trust that living this life with 90% of your money God’s way is greater than living with 100% your way. His way is always better! And Luke 16:10 (NIV) tells us He honors that choice: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”
God wants us to have a chance to experience that truth firsthand—and to give Him the opportunity to show off in our lives because we’ve honored Him. He wants us to grow in relationship with Him more than we ever thought possible. That can all happen through tithing!