We always say to start your budget with giving. Why? Because generous people tend to be better at managing their money—so it only makes sense that giving should be a part of your monthly budget, right?
There’s plenty of charities and organizations out there to give to. And if you go to church, you probably do most of your giving by tithing. But now, between insane gas prices and more expensive trips to the grocery store, your wallet's probably feeling a little tight lately.
Maybe you're on Baby Step 2 and throwing every extra cent at your debt. Or maybe you’re in the middle of a difficult work season and there just isn’t any extra cash. Period. So, you ask yourself: Is tithing really necessary? I don’t have a ton of money, but I do have time! Can’t I just replace tithing by serving others or my church instead?
It’s a great question, but there’s more to it than a simple yes or no. Let’s dig a little deeper into the why behind tithing and how you can give—even when money is tight.
Two Different Forms of Worship
Tithing and serving are both ways to give, but they each have a unique purpose.
Tithing is a form of worship because it shows God you trust Him—not money—to provide. Matthew 6:24 (ESV) reminds us we can’t worship God and money at the same time: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” So tithing is a way to show that we prioritize God over money.
Serving (like volunteering at your church or helping out in your community) is also worship because you’re dedicating your time and talents to bless others, as God has called us to do. And Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do to serve others in need, we do for Him. Serving is an awesome form of generosity!
So, yes, God wants you to serve by giving your time. But He also wants you to put your faith in Him instead of money by tithing—especially since 100% of our money is His, and He only asks us to give 10% of it back.
Now, tithing isn’t a salvation issue, and God won’t condemn you if you don’t do it. But tithing is for your benefit. God doesn’t need your money. He wants your heart. Tithing is a way to give your heart over to God because you’re physically reminding yourself that He provides what you need and your security lies in Him alone.
To Give or to Serve?
Here’s the deal: Giving your money and giving your time doesn’t have to be a “this or that” question. In fact, you should give of both your financial resources and your schedule. Giving your time is a great way to honor God and show love to others. But it should be done in addition to your tithe, not as a replacement for it.
See, the Bible is pretty clear on the importance of tithing. And it doesn’t offer another option when it comes to giving 10% of your resources back to God. But the Bible does promote giving both your money and your time—especially if you don’t have the ability to give above your tithe.
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Tithing is really a baseline for giving each month. The Bible encourages us to give generously far beyond the tithe. But that’s not possible for a lot of people when they’re digging their way out of debt or going through a tough financial season. In this case (and really, in any case), giving your time is an excellent way to give a little extra. But at the end of the day, serving isn’t meant to replace the act of tithing.
What to Do if Tithing Feels Tough
Keep Tithing Anyway
So, what do you do if money is tight and you’d rather use your tithing check for something else? We know it can be tempting to pause your tithe to stash away more money for later. And yes, there are some crisis situations where you literally can’t give (like if you lose your job). But don’t let the fear of not having enough keep you from receiving the benefits that comes from trusting God with your money.
Continuing to tithe, even during uncertain or hard seasons, helps you learn how to trust God more. And you might just be surprised by how God blesses your obedience, regardless of how much you’re able to give.
Luke 16:10 (NIV) also tells us He honors that choice: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” If you manage your money wisely when times are tough, you’ll build the skills and discipline to manage it wisely when times are good.
Get on a Budget
One reason tithing feels painful right now might be because you have no clue where your money is actually going. It’s hard to give freely when you’re wondering if you’ll have enough to cover the kids’ back-to-school supplies.
But a budget takes the guesswork out of managing your money and gives you a plan! When you set up your budget before the month begins, you can confidently give because you’ve already given every dollar of your paycheck a job. Just be sure to immediately set aside money for your tithe and other giving first, before you plug in numbers for your other expenses.
And if you want to make giving more of a priority, go ahead and create your monthly budget for free with EveryDollar. It makes it super easy to keep track of your spending (and giving).
Increase Your Income
But what if you’re still having trouble paying your bills or putting food on the table? Well, then you might have an income problem—one that won’t be solved just by stopping your tithe.
Instead, look for ways to increase your income or decrease your spending so giving doesn’t feel as difficult. Maybe you need to downsize or cut unnecessary expenses (like getting your nails done every two weeks or constantly eating out). You could also pick up a side hustle or take on extra hours at work to get more cash flowing in the door.
Now, the goal here isn’t to increase your income just to increase your tithe—though you should adjust it as your income goes up (10%, remember?). The goal is to have more money coming in to cover your basic needs and help you make progress toward your other financial goals (like paying off debt, saving, investing and, yes, giving!).
Remember, tithing is all about your heart and trusting God with what you have. And being outrageously generous—with both your money and your time—is some of the most fun you’ll ever have!