Due to my personal story and my preaching on tithing, I often get the questions: Should I tithe on my gross or net income? and Should I tithe on my tax return?
Both are good questions, especially when they come from someone with a heart that wants to obey God’s word rather than critique it. So, I thought it would be a good time to give an answer since many are either filing or receiving their refunds at this point. And just as a reminder, giving to God is not required for salvation. I’m not preaching legalism here. What I hope to share in all my speaking on this topic is that this is ultimately a TRUST issue. God knows we trust our money more than Him, and the proof is when we depend more on our money than on Him by withholding what He has asked for. And the amazing thing is that in all of it, He promises to bless us abundantly when we DO trust Him in this, and I am living proof that is true! And I want the people I love to experience the same thing! So, here is what I believe are the answers to these questions:
First, just to be clear, a “tithe” is a “tenth.” Anything less than that is simply giving or an offering, though technically from God’s word an “offering” is anything given ABOVE the tithe. The tithe was instituted with the original Law of Moses, and specifically states a “tithe of everything from the land.” This included everything produced from the ground and livestock as well. Since this was an agricultural society, it was saying that of everything that God gives you, you are to give a tenth of it back to him.
With that definition, it would seem clear that tithing should come from the GROSS income. After all, what you are actually paid is your gross, and the government is taking their taxes off the top. But we are to give to God first, not the government. As it says in Proverbs 3:9-10
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
As always, honoring God comes with a promise. First fruits are literally first. If you are giving to the government, the car company, the mortgage company, and the electric company first and then giving God 10% of what is left – then are you really giving to God your “first” fruits? The answer is no. If you want more proof, just read Haggai.
So, should you tithe out of your gross or net? The answer is the gross, because that is the only way to be giving God a true first.
Now, should you tithe your tax return? The answer is that it depends.
There is a technical answer and a what I believe and practice answer.
What I believe and practice is that you simply cannot out-give God. We always give at least 10% of our tax return to God because that is just another opportunity to thank Him for all the many non-monetary blessings He gives us. And if you believe in the mission and vision of the church body you belong to, then it is a great opportunity to further that mission in a way you probably cannot do all year long. It’s a true INVESTMENT in the Kingdom!
The technical answer depends on how you have been giving the rest of the year. If you have been tithing on the gross (before taxes) and your tax return is not more than what you paid in taxes, then technically that money is already tithed on. If you were tithing out of your net (after taxes) then you have not tithed on that money yet. If you are in a tax bracket or life situation where you get more in tax refund than you actually paid in taxes throughout the year, then this is money you could not have tithed on before and thus should tithe on it.
Basically, once you understand that you truly cannot out-give God, it will change the way you look at money and instead of asking how much do I “have to” give to God, you will be asking how much “can I” give to God! This is what the church of Macedonia that Paul talked about did when they “urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (2 Corinthians 8:4) And this was in their poverty that they were begging to give more to God’s ministry…why? Why would these poor people be so eager to give out of their poverty? Because they understood God’s economy. They understood what Paul stated later in the same letter, that, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
I have been so impressed by YOU, the people of Reality Church, lately because you have been behaving like the Macedonians! You have been testing God at His word and I trust and pray that you have seen that His promises are true. I thank God daily for you, and am thrilled to see us becoming “healthy, and growing, and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16)