Center for Personal Financial Management

Tithing as a college student

By Grady Bingham | January 3, 2024

Before we can jump into the conversation about tithing, we need to define the term, tithe. Tithing carries the formal definition of giving 10 percent to the local church in order to support it. It can feel like a rule, a burden, and a good deed. This definition however is vague in the sense that it does not say why do it, why tithe 10 percent, how to tithe, etc. In order to unpack the answers to these questions and to understand the principal of tithing, we are going to look to scripture to see what God says about it.

First, we will answer the question “why?”. Why is this something we do as Christians? Jesus talks about money in the Gospels numerous times. 11 of his 40 recorded parables were about money, making money one of his most common topics to teach on. Jesus teaches in the Gospels about having a heart of generosity. It’s important to think about His generosity poured out on us. We’re talking about being generous with a portion of our income, while Jesus was generous in giving His entire life. Giving a tithe to the church or other Christian organization requires us to be moved by Christ’s love for us. This however is not the only reason we ought to give. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil…”. In Matthew 19, Jesus gives a parable of a rich man who says he has kept the commandments and asks what he lacks as a follower. Jesus responds, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man leaves sorrowful, because he wasn’t willing to give all he had to follow Jesus. Jesus follows this up by saying, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Clearly scripture warns us of the danger than money presents to us. It can hinder the growth of our relationship with Jesus and can easily be a stumbling block for us. Jesus asked the man to give his possessions to follow Him. This is because the act of giving something up strips it of its potential hold on our lives. If you hold on to it, it is clearly higher on your priority list than other things. Jesus asks us to give generously in order to keep us from valuing money too much and allowing it to become a stumbling block as it was to the rich man in Matthew 19. Giving generously forces us to also trust God more to provide for us. When we give in tough situations, just as the widow in Mark 12, we are walking out our faith in action. She was poor and put in less than all the rich men who gave out of their abundance. Jesus tells the disciples, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” This touching passage shows us that Jesus values our faith and trust when it comes to our money. The rich men still had plenty to live on. The amounts they gave was of little importance to them, but the widow gave all she had. She only would do this out of pure devotion and faith in the Lord, which Jesus recognizes. Our tithe ought to lead us to trust in this same way. We ultimately gain more from this, as our faith and relationship with Jesus is strengthened, as mentioned in Acts 20:35. This passage quotes Jesus, “…’it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” It is intriguing to see also that the widow didn’t give a certain percentage as a rule to follow, but gave what she felt lead to give. She gave all she had to live on, which shows that her faith is enough for her.

Clearly from these passages, we can infer that tithing, or giving generously is not so much about following rules, but about our heart. How affected by Christ’s generosity and love are we? Enough to give some of our own money to Him and paint a picture of His generosity? Enough to put Him above our desire for riches? Enough to trust Him to provide us all that we need? These are all benefits we can gain from participating in giving to the church. Jesus leaves us with no doubt that giving is crucial in our walk in faith because of what it does to strengthen our faith and relationship with Him. Again, it is important to note that in these passages, we are shown that Jesus cares about the stance of our heart in giving; this is not about following rules or about being legalistic. We can’t earn God’s favor through this, nor can we “impress” Him. We do this because Jesus shows us it is ultimately what is best for our souls and can draw us closer to Him.

It’s important to note than Jesus doesn’t talk about giving or tithing as a rule of ten percent, as it is referred to in the Old Testament. Like we mentioned before, I believe giving is about our heart. We are called to give what we feel lead to give. After all, this is God’s money anyway. Ten percent of your income is a good place to start if tithing is something that is new to you, but I think it is important, as we mentioned before, to not become legalistic about giving. If we do it to check off the box and say, “hey I gave my ten percent,” then our hearts aren’t in the right place. We should give because we are called to give to the church and care for the weak. We should give because we are called to love God more than our money. We are called to trust Him in all things, and giving up money opens an opportunity to trust Him to provide us with what we need. We ought to give what we feel lead to give in order to meet these assertions on giving. 

As a college student, it is tough to give money away. We don’t have an abundance to give. We have loans to pay, bills, and other expenses. But these situations are when we can trust God in our finances the most. This situation is when we can show our gratitude for His amazing generosity towards us by giving when it’s hard and we don’t want to. How amazing of a picture of God’s grace and love towards us is giving when it’s inconvenient for us to give. These situations are when we can say through our giving, “God, I value you more than money or my comfort or my luxuries.” This is hard, but the spiritual reward we get from growing closer to Jesus significantly outweighs what we give up.

This blog was written by Center for Personal Financial Management student advisor, Grady Bingham. To learn more about resources available through CPFM, click here.

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