Can I Tithe Time?

I’ve been asked several times, “Can I tithe time instead of money?”

Usually, when I’m asked this question, it’s usually not from someone who’s wanting to give more to God—but from someone who’s trying to give less or nothing to God.

Their argument usually goes that the Israelites didn’t initially tithe money. So how did they give a tithe without a minted currency? The Pentateuch records that they gave from their harvest and livestock:

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s …. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.” (Leviticus 27:30–32)

It’s clear that the first tenth of their earnings belonged to God. Now we can’t quickly insert Old Testament practice into our New Testament lives. This passage doesn’t mean that we go to the grocery store, fill up our cart, and then take 10% of the best food we bought and give it to a food pantry. But at the same time, less grace and generosity is not what Jesus called us to.

The Tithe: Your First and Best

The principle behind the Old Testament tithe was that they were to take their first and best of what they needed to survive and offer it to God in worship. Since they had an agrarian economy, this was the best of their harvest and livestock.

Today, we have a monetary economy. Our paycheck is what we need to survive. This means that giving a tenth of your income is giving God your first and best. Remember, you can’t out give God.

Now, where we draw the line is when you ask, “Can I tithe time instead of money?” The short answer is no.

Tithing resources, time, or talents should never replace tithing money. For instance, if you own roofing company and can help the church out with labor and supplies for a new roof, fantastic! But that doesn’t mean you omit your monetary tithe.

You can’t volunteer time for your water bill, taxes (unless you count jail time for tax evasion), or any other bill you want to arrange payment for. If you’re looking for loopholes for tithing money, I encourage you to do some serious meditating on Scripture. Churches need volunteer hours, but they can’t pay for supplies, light bills, food pantries, and overseas ministries without tithe money.

The Tithe is the Floor, Not the Ceiling

Now, if you’re asking, “Should I give of my time, talents, and abilities in addition to tithing on my income?” I would say, “Absolutely!”

Giving your tithe does not exempt you from serving. You can—and should—give time just like you give money. You should volunteer time to your local church and the ministries God is calling you to (Eph. 4:12). This is so important to talk about because some people do the opposite: They tithe their paycheck and then check out completely from ministry or other avenues of generosity.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million times: The tithe is just the floor, not the ceiling of your generosity. It’s just the start of your giving. It’s just the beginning of being generous with your time, talents, and resources.

The reality is that God doesn’t need your time. He doesn’t need your money, either. The tithe is for us—to demonstrate our dependence on him and our need for him. We tithe from our paychecks (no matter how painful it can be!) and serve him recognizing that he first gave us life in addition to the countless blessings he has poured out on each of us.

So don’t thwart your closeness to God by withholding your firstfruits from him, firstfruits of money and time. Give both to Christ freely.

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