May 17, 2011
Should the Jobless Tithe on Their Unemployment Benefits?
Three Christian leaders weigh in on a difficult giving question.
In the March edition of Christianity Today, three men with backgrounds in church and personal finances were asked whether the jobless should tithe on their unemployment benefits. Read their answers, then share how your church has (or hasn't) addressed this question as the unemployment rate remains at or above 10 percent for many parts of the country:
"Yes, if joyfully. ... There are some reasons for jobless people—or anyone, for that matter—not to tithe. Do not tithe out of joyless obligation to law. Do not tithe if your soul requires nothing short of a New Testament demand to tithe (there is none). Do not tithe under the assumption that God will owe you anything. Do not tithe if you expect to default on a debt. Do not tithe if you will resent God for asking sacrifices of you—unless you intend the tithe, in the spirit of "I believe; help my unbelief," as your invitation for God to purge your resentment." —Douglas LeBlanc, editor at large for The Living Church magazine and author of Tithing: Test Me in This. Read his full answer here.
"Yes, with generosity. ... Scripture does not speak directly to the topic of tithing on an income that is not your own, so I am reluctant to say firmly, "Yes, give this much." But the Bible has much to say on the subject of generosity and gratitude. There are four questions church leaders and others can ask to help someone struggling with tithing on their unemployment benefits:
- Do you see unemployment benefits as part of God's provision for your life?
- Are you continuing to practice generosity in every area: time, talent, and treasure?
- How does giving a portion of your unemployment benefits differ from giving a portion of your "employed" benefits?
- Would giving a portion of your unemployment benefits demonstrate gratitude that God is providing for you in this season of your life?
"Probably not. ... The simple reason, to begin biblically and to paraphrase the Great Steward, is that the tithe was created for people; people were not created for the tithe. Moses taught that the tithe was a celebration for the affluent and a gift to the less fortunate, including priests (Deut. 14:22-29). The tithe was created in part to help those on the biblical equivalent of unemployment; requiring them to contribute to the offering when they should be receiving is an unhealthy inversion of the biblical mandate to give to the poor.
When Malachi gave his challenge to "bring the whole tithe," God was not telling people to fund the temple's institutional needs as much as to make plenty of food available for those in need. Taxes were levied for temple needs, but this tithe was for something more.
Yet studies from empty tomb, inc. and other Christian financial advisers have long indicated that little giving to churches goes beyond institutional support. We've grown comfortable with the modern church abdicating, largely to governments, the extrinsic work for which the tithe was intended in biblical times. Most churches should therefore not expect the full biblical tithe, particularly if it's to support a comfortable lifestyle for the church's leaders." —Gary Moore, founder of the Financial Seminary and author of Faithful Finances 101. Read his full answer here.