Can I Tithe by Giving to my Family?

As a financial planner, I sit across the table in my financial planning meetings with clients and ask each one, “Do you give?” Many people nod their heads and say, “Andrew, I give all the time!” I say, “Do you give to charities?” They respond, “Sort of. I tithe to my family, and they are like a charity.”

If you think similarly, I’m here to show you today that Scripture says the tithe is for the local church alone. But why shouldn’tyou tithe to your family?

Tithes Financially Support the Church

You can’t tithe to your family simply because the church needs funds. In Malachi 3:10, God tells Israel,

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

To get the blessing, you have to bring the tithe into the storehouse—which is referring to the temple, the house of worship. It wasn’t to be allocated elsewhere. It belonged to God alone. There’s a reason that tithing goes directly to the church. The tithes and offerings that the worshippers brought fully supported the priests’ ministry. The temple couldn’t have operated without it.

Similarly, in today’s churches, tithes and offerings pay the pastor and other staff so they can be fully committed to the work of the Lord without having to be bi-vocational. Churches can’t pay for supplies, light bills, food pantries, and salaries without tithe money—just to name a few.

Tithes fuel the church’s day to day operations, including local and global ministries that serve the poor, the vulnerable, and even unreached people groups who’ve never heard the name of Jesus.

Just think: If every Christian gave their tithe to their family, where would the church be? Penniless and bankrupt.

Consider the Cost

Something else to think about if you’re tithing to your family instead of the church is that Christianity is costly.

Jesus told a growing crowd, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

Jesus had a habit of thinning the crowd by telling people the opposite of what they wanted to hear. To follow Jesus isn’t lip service or just showing up to church on Sunday. It’s bearing a cross, which was a symbol of torment and death. It’s dying to self. Life is not about you anymore, but about doing what pleases God.

You might be asking, “Is Jesus truly saying here to despise my family?” No, what he means is that following him means that he’s first, and everything else is a far second. It means he’s your greatest love. It means putting aside your sin, your agenda, and your selfish ambitions to obey the Word of God. One of the most telling areas that shows your allegiance to Christ is nothing other than your finances. Over 2,000 verses in the Bible deal with money and stewardship.

Are you obeying what God says about your money, or do you manage your finances led by your own impulses and plans?

You Are Not Your Own

I fear for the Christians of today who have been indoctrinated with the idea that they walked the aisle to receive Christ and checked the box, so they have the right to do whatever they want with their talents, abilities, time, belongings, income, and assets.

It’s all too easy to pay lip service and say Christ is the savior of your soul, but then ignore his direction for your finances and make the tithe whatever you want it to be—like deciding to give it to your family instead of God.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. We should certainly take care of our family like the Bible commands (1 Tim. 5:8). When Jesus was on the cross, he put his mother Mary under the care of the apostle John. There’s room for both tithing and generosity in the life of a believer—in fact, Scripture commands this. Having a generous spirit means giving over and beyond the tithe. This can be to whoever in your life is in need—whether family or friends or charities. Just don’t let giving to your family be an excuse to avoid tithing. If you live your life loving your family and providing for them, yet rob God of your tithes and offerings, what does that say about what you truly worship?

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