Old Testament New Testament Bible Scripture

If you have a lot of debt, can you temporarily stop tithing while paying off the debt?

Question: "If you have a lot of debt, can you temporarily stop tithing while paying off the debt?"

It is permissible to stop tithing while paying off debt. Paying debts is a duty; tithing is "optional." Please do not misunderstand...giving to the Lord's work is very important. Sacrificial financial giving is part of God's calling on every Christian. If it is truly impossible to pay off the debt and continue tithing at the same time, it would not be wrong to decrease giving, or stop giving entirely, temporarily, in order to pay off the debts that are owed.

Our one unalterable duty toward other people is that we love them, dealing with them as we want them to deal with us (Matthew 7:12). All of us want people to pay the debts they owe us. Therefore, as Christians, we should “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

The tithing law of the old covenant was God’s provision for meeting the material needs of the priests from the tribe of Levi. They needed support in order to minister in the temple and meet the needs of the poor (Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 26:12-15).

Therefore, when the Israelites failed to give the tithe, God warned, "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).

The writer of Hebrews revealed that the tithe was a tenth of a man’s income: “And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people. . . .” (Hebrews 7:5). The Levitical priesthood continued to serve in the temple throughout the earthly lifetime of Jesus.

But after the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, the structure of leadership changed: "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Hebrews 7:12). Christ is now our High Priest. Christians are now God's temple and His royal priesthood (Hebrews 4:14-15; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Our High Priest ministers the new covenant to us (God's law written on our hearts) by giving us the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:24; 10:16). This law operates powerfully, causing us to love others with Spirit-produced love (Galatians 5:22-23). That is why John writes, "Whoever has this world's good and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his heart from him, how dwells the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17-18).

Because God’s love compels a true Christian to give, none of the New Testament epistles command or recommend that Christians pay a tithe. Rather than being a requirement, giving results from a Christian’s love.

Christians may, if they choose, give a tenth of their income to the church, meeting spiritual and material needs in their needy world. Some will choose to give less than a tenth; some will choose to give much more than a tenth. Paul recommends giving to the church on Sunday: “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2a).

Christians shouldn’t hoard but give as much as God directs. It is God’s money. His rewards outweigh the cost. “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

Recommended Resource: Giving and Tithing by Larry Burkett.

Related Topics:

What does the Bible say about Christian tithing?

What does the Bible say about paying taxes?

Should a church tithe 10% of the offerings it receives?

What was the firstfruits offering? Should Christians give a firstfruits offering today?

How are we to submit to God?

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If you have a lot of debt, can you temporarily stop tithing while paying off the debt?