28 Sep Should Your Parishioners Tithe on Gross or Net Income?
Tithing is an important practice in Christianity. Not only is it referenced in the Bible as something we should all do when possible, but it helps parishioners grow closer to God as well as support their church—an organization they believe in and that shares their values.
If you encourage tithing in your congregation, this post offers relevant Biblical passages to help you explain and promote the obligation to your members. It also explores a common tithing question: Should Christians tithe based on gross or net income?
A Refresher: What the Bible Says About Tithing
The Bible includes many different verses on why Christians must be charitable. Here are two of the key passages:
Proverbs 11:25: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” When we are charitable, we feel better. Giving makes us feel good. What’s more, while there are a few different ways to interpret this passage, one way to view it is that generous people prosper in terms of being more connected to God.
Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act.” This boils down to the fact that giving is a privilege. If you can give, give, and be proactive about it.
But what about tithing in particular? The word “tithe” comes from an Old English term that means “one-tenth.” Tithing is the practice of regularly giving 10 percent of your income to your local church. Its purpose was to care for those running the church and upkeep the church itself.
Both the Old and New Testaments reference tithing.
One of the most well-known tithing passages from the Old Testament is Malachi 3:8-10:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
This passage is about priests withholding the tithes required by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 27:30).
In the New Testament, Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for tithing while ignoring the more important issues of justice, mercy, and faith:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
This is a key passage because it illustrates that while tithing and giving back to God are important, they’re not enough. After all, not everyone can always afford to tithe consistently. But everyone can be kind to one another and work toward creating a more equal and caring society for all.
Tithing is just a small part of your parishioners’ relationships with God. As long as they are giving back within their means and living life with God in their hearts, it really doesn’t matter how much they are tithing to your church. It’s important to remember that as we continue this discussion.
Should Your Parishioners Tithe Based on Gross or Net Income?
This is a very common tithing question.
The personal finance guru Dave Ramsey is a business owner. So when asked by a listener about whether to tithe before or after taxes, Ramsey explained his giving as follows:
“I tithe on the business profit after I take it home. I tithe before I take (personal income) taxes out. There’s a lot of discussion and a lot of teaching both ways on that. I’m not a big doctrinal hairsplitter with people. I just don’t think you can out-give God. Some businesses don’t even have a 10 percent margin. Whatever the net profit of the business is, that’s what I’ve got to pay taxes on, and that’s what I tithe on.”
Ramsey went on to cite a passage in Deuteronomy, which says to tithe on your net increase.
However, Ramsey also stated that he isn’t going to argue either way about which is the right way to tithe. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Just give to be a giver. It’s about changing your spirit anyway.”
In Crown Financial Ministries’ Ask Chuck column, CEO Chuck Bentley echoes this sentiment:
“God knows your circumstances and your heart. What’s important is that we see giving as a privilege, not a burden or something we must check off before we die. It’s an opportunity to participate in advancing His kingdom The exact amount you give is not important to God.”
And therein lies the real answer to the gross or net questions about tithing. There is no correct way for your parishioners to tithe. It’s all about seeing giving as a privilege and an opportunity. God knows your parishioners’ circumstances and hearts. As long as they are right with God in their giving—both financially and in justice, mercy, and faithfulness to others—they are doing the right thing.
For more answers to other common questions about finances and the church—as well as plenty of other insightful topics—make sure to check out the our blog library. We cover topics from church management to fundraising, communication, and volunteering.
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