why + how we tithe

tithingheader-01 It's been a little while since I shared anything about our financial journey, but I have a few posts lined up and am excited to dive back into it! One thing that I get asked about a lot and really wanted to address was tithing. As you probably know by now (or maybe you don't if you're new here - hi!), Matt and I took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course very early on in our marriage. We got married in July of 2013 and started FPU in September that same year. It was probably the very best thing we could've done for ourselves and our marriage. I'm so grateful for whoever suggested it! So, we've been tithing from basically the start of our marriage, and I'm very grateful for that. I know that getting yourself and your spouse on board with something like tithing can be veryyyyyyy hard, so I'm super blessed that we tackled that really early on, before any other habits had started to form. But, it wasn't a super easy decision right away for us. I grew up in a faith-filled home, and always learned about giving your "time, talent and treasure" to the church. I knew that you were supposed to give 10% of your income back to God. But, I never practiced that growing up (my parents did, but I didn't with my own money) or when I started making money after graduation, and I didn't really get what the big deal was. I always sort of assumed that once I was "making it" and had real money to give, I would. What good would my piddly $40 tithe do, anyway? FPU completely changed my mindset about all that.

There are so many Bible verses about tithing, and we covered a lot of them in the FPU course. Ultimately, what it came down to for Matt and I was embracing the reality that our money does not belong to us. It's on loan to us from God, so it made sense to us to give back to God a portion of it, right off the top, before anything else, the way he asks us to. In the Dave Ramsey budgeting system, tithing is the very first line on the budget form for a reason. You give before you do anything else. Before your mortgage. Before putting gas in your car or food on your table. It sounds scary (and sometimes it is!) but it's a very symbolic thing to us. God has given us so much, so it's important to us that first and foremost, we give our best back to him. Not the leftovers. And, in turn, we've never gone without food, been unable to pay our mortgage or put gas in our car. I don't want to trivialize those very real issues that people face, or make a blanket statement that if you tithe, you'll never know financial hardship. I don't think that's true at all. What I do know to be true is that tithing first and foremost helps us put our priorities in order, so that we can see our money through the lens of the Gospel and practice Godly wisdom in how to spend our dollars. Because we tithe, we have less money to blow on things, or even save or pay down debt. Saving and paying debt are good, important things. But for us, nothing is more important that honoring God with our money. And the reality is that He asks us to tithe, so we tithe. And because we give our money to God and His church first, I really believe He is helping us form wise habits and see our money differently, so we are better able to budget and plan responsibly. There is NO WAY we could do this budgeting and living frugally thing out of our own strength. It is truly only through God's grace and our constant prayer that He molds us into better stewards of the gifts that He's given us that we've been able to make any headway on our financial goals.

So, how do we tithe? In short, we give 10% of our take-home pay each month away. Until this past May, we were giving all 10% to our local church parish. I was under the impression that your 10% tithing obligation was supposed to go to your church, and then any giving to charity was supposed to be above and beyond that. That kind of bummed me out, because we aren't in a position of having much extra to give to charity, and there are so many charities I wanted to support! I was chatting with my mom about it and she informed me that really, you only need to give 5% to your local church, and the remaining 5% can go to charity. At least, that's what a priest had told her in the past. Matt and I decided that model worked better for our family, so starting in May we made the switch.

5% of our take-home pay goes to our local church parish that we attend every Sunday. We feel strongly that tithing to our local church is important, and sowing into the community there matters. The church meets a lot of need right here in our own community, and we feel good supporting that. We personally don't have it set up to auto-deduct from our account, though. This is for two reasons. One, Matt gets paid every two weeks, so there is never a set day of the month that is payday. It always changes. That makes it hard to ensure that the auto-deduct comes out at the right time. Second, our income fluctuates from month to month, depending on if Matt works overtime. So the amount that we tithe each month can change, too. We will either write an old-fashioned check and drop it in the collection plate at Mass, or I'll use our church's online giving platform and tithe with our debit card if we're going to miss Mass for travel or go to another church that weekend. So far, it's worked out great. I try to either write the check or donate online first after Matt's paycheck hits our account before paying anything else or pulling out cash for our envelopes, but even if it doesn't end up being the actual first thing that gets paid, it IS first on our budget form so we never spend that money we've earmarked for our tithe elsewhere. In two years of tithing, we've never reduced our tithe to cover other budget mistakes (all by the grace of God - because we've definitely done this with other budget categories!) Something about writing it down very first on the budget form is helpful for us.

We give another 5% to charity. Currently, we give to three charities: Rancho del Nino San Humberto (an orphanage in Mexico I visited in May), Priyam Global (a non-profit started by a friend of mine), and Elpis Ministries, an organization in Uganda where we sponsor a child (that I heard about after The Archibald Project worked with them this spring). All three of these donations are set up to auto-deduct, which has made our giving a little trickier. They all come out on specific dates, so depending on when those dates fall within the pay periods of our budget, we determine how much we need to give to our church that pay period. It requires a little extra math on our part now, but we love being able to support a couple worthy causes and organizations that are personal to us! And, sometimes this means we tithe a tiny bit more than 5% to charity, and a tiny bit less than 5% to our church, depending on if our income is a little more or a little less than we planned. Since our charity contributions are set amounts, we don't get to adjust them from month to month based on our income. I think God understands, though.

The bottom line: if we didn't tithe FIRST, I don't think we would at all. What people say about tithing before anything else is true: you don't even miss it. Our tithes currently add up to right around $300. I'm sure we'd quickly find a way to use that $300 in other areas in our budget...more date nights, more spending money, more clothes. You'll always find a way to spend your money, right? But the practice of tithing keeps us very grounded in the reality that none of this money belongs to us anyway, and has helped us to cultivate contentment in our hearts, which is a huge heart issue I'm working through right now.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on tithing, or your system on how your family gives! I know this is a sensitive subject and people feel very strongly about money + the bible, so please be considerate, kind and gracious in your comments. This is the system that works best for us and our family, and I understand it may not work for everyone! XO!