Should We Tithe While Trying to Pay Off Debt?


Learn what the Bible says about the practice of tithing.


Should we tithe while trying to pay off debts? My husband and I are on a tight budget and trying our best to pay off a large backlog of debt that has been building over the past several years. Would it be better to put our giving on hold until we’ve satisfied all our creditors?


Before addressing your personal situation, we think it’s important to ask just how important the practice of tithing is from God’s point of view. We know that the apostle Paul regarded it as a matter of the highest priority. In his epistles to young churches (especially the church at Corinth), he urges Christians to give of their resources to other believers and to the work of the Lord. He asks them to give up to and even beyond the limits of their financial capabilities (2 Corinthians 8:2). In so doing, instead of abolishing the Old Testament law of the tithe, he actually exceeds it. He takes the principle of God-inspired, other-centered generosity, which was originally embodied in the tithe, and jacks it up into an entirely new dimension. This is what genuine Christian giving is all about.

Is this kind of giving possible for a family in your position? Can you actually make progress toward paying off your debts while still fulfilling your responsibilities toward God? That’s something we aren’t in a position to tell you. For this reason, we’d suggest that it might be a good idea to sit down with your pastor or an elder in your church—somebody who knows you personally and who is aware of your needs—and discuss your situation in detail. With the help of a spiritual leader or financial advisor you may be able to come up with a workable budget that will enable you to consolidate your objectives, meet your goals, and still make a meaningful financial contribution to the life of the church. 

In the meantime, we have three general observations to make that may provide you with some helpful guidance in this area. The first is this: you have a clear responsibility before God to repay your debts. Psalm 37:21 states, “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” Second: you also have other responsibilities—responsibilities that don’t go away simply because you owe money to your creditors. For example, you have to keep paying for housing, utilities, food, and the many other practical needs of your family. Third: your obligation to God is among the most important of these “other” financial responsibilities. All things considered, then, it would probably be worth your while to explore ways of fulfilling this obligation faithfully while also continuing to work your way out of debt.

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