We all experience periods in our lives when money gets tight. Maybe our spouse lost his or her job, or we’re struggling to eliminate that overwhelming debt we’ve found ourselves in, or maybe we’re just in a storm of financial surprises. Whatever the reason, it makes us ask some tough questions about our finances, and forces us to look for any way we can to cut spending.

Tithe is often one of the areas people begin asking questions about. Is tithing all that important? Do I really have to give 10 percent? And what if I replaced my tithing with acts of service?

There is no mandate that you must pay tithe to be part of the Adventist Church, and the Bible says nothing about it having anything to do with salvation, so the first thing you should know is you should not be racked with fear and guilt if you are not paying your tithe faithfully. That being said, though, tithing is important and beneficial no matter your financial situation.

The benefits of tithing, even if you are in financial trouble

Tithing when you are struggling financially can seem like an impossibility. How do you find another 10 percent when all of your money is already spoken for? The first step is a change in the way you think about your money; it is a matter of prioritizing your spending. If you think of your money as God’s first, then yours, then the property of whoever else you owe, tithing will make more sense.

This method of prioritizing your spending can actually have immense financial benefits. If you determine who the most important beneficiaries are for your money, it will relieve enormous headaches. For example, if you end up spending a large amount of your paycheck on dining out this month, only to later realize you don’t have enough money to pay your electric bill, this will cause some issues. But if you prioritize your spending as follows, it will help:

  1. Taxes (typically taken out automatically in your paycheck)
  2. Tithe
  3. Essential bills (electric, gas, basic groceries, etc.)
  4. Family spending (house, toiletries, education, etc.)
  5. Personal spending (coffee, eating out, entertainment, clothing, etc.)

Learn more about the benefits of tithing here.

Why 10 percent?

Another option you may consider during a tough financial time is instead of giving 10 percent, you give 5 percent or 3 percent. Again, tithing is not a requirement and if it is causing you guilt, you should reassess why you are giving tithe. But cutting down the percentage you give—while better than stopping entirely—is something you should try not to do.

The actual word tithe means a tenth, and throughout the Bible it is used synonymously with a tenth of one’s profits or wealth. In modern society, 10 percent is often just enough for a person to notice that the money is being given. This forces the individual to trust just a little more in God and not rely quite as much on their own abilities.

Are acts of service a form of tithe?

What if you are involved in your local church and giving of your time regularly? Or maybe you have found yourself now with more time than money? Could you decide to give a tithe of your time instead of your money?

This is the wrong question to be asking. You should be asking if you can give your time in addition to your money. Tithe is always referred to in financial terms in the Bible, and I believe this is for a reason. No matter how hard we try, we cannot get away from finances, so we should learn to handle them in a healthy manner. Tithing is a way to help instill a healthy use of our money.

Volunteering our time is definitely something we should be doing, but it falls under the category of an offering. An offering is much broader (learn what the difference is between a tithe and an offering here) and can encompass things like your time, your talents, your body and your money.