This question raises its head from time to time in the Christian community. It is contested, discussed and argued, but never laid to rest. Some say you are robbing God by tithing on your net income. Or others say by not tithing on your gross income, you are not gaining the full blessing God has in store for you. But isn’t simply arguing whether you should tithe on your net income or your gross income missing the point?
Tithing was instituted as a law during the time of the Israelite nation. As a law, though, tithing was meant to help others. Deut. 14:28-29 says, “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (NASB). The Israelites used their tithes as a form of a welfare system, which helped the orphans, the widows, the foreigners and the Levites (who served specific religious and political duties).
The point of tithing is to help others and trust God. It is not to benefit ourselves, although giving can result in personal benefits (see Why Tithe? or How Giving Builds Wealth). Worrying ourselves over the exact dollar amount we are supposed to be giving means we may be more concerned about the actions than their results. David A. Croteau, in an article in Christianity Today, says, “If I’m asking the question [whether to tithe on my net income or my gross income] with the intent to decipher how little I can get away with giving, then a serious heart issue is exposed. When we are driven by the principles of giving from the New Testament, the after-tax question becomes irrelevant. God’s people should try to find ways to give more, not less.”* Helping others more is the purpose of Christianity being in the world. If I am asking questions with the intent to help me more, then I am not aligning my actions with my religion.
Give what you have been convicted to give
Based on the view that you should help others as much as possible, you probably assume you should err on the side of tithing on your gross income. This is not an illogical conclusion, but we must remember Christianity is a religion of conviction. Doing what you believe God has convicted you is right, even if it is not in line with your peers’ beliefs, is a fundamental teaching of the Christian – and the Seventh-day Adventist – church. Paul iterates this message in 2 Cor. 9:6-7 when he says, “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” (NASB). Paul does not say you should give more because you will have a better return, he says you should give what you have purposed (or been convicted) in your heart to give.
God wants much more than a giver, He wants a relationship with the giver. If we fret about whether we should be tithing on our net income or our gross income, but we do not help others and do not cultivate a relationship with God, we have missed the point of tithing. Reducing our religion to an argument about whether or not we are robbing God or receiving our full share of His blessing does not address the underlying fact that others need us – and God wants us – to give cheerfully, no matter if it is 10 percent of our net income or our gross income.