Question: I’m in the middle of a serious disagreement with my spouse about giving and tithing. Personally, I’m comfortable giving to the church and charitable causes when we have enough money to spare, but I don’t see any reason to get legalistic about it, and I certainly don’t believe we should place our own family at financial risk. My spouse, on the other hand, takes a "hard line" view of tithing. In fact, she even insists that the tithe is just a "starting point" – that dedicated Christians should make it their goal to give more than ten percent! What do you think?

Answer:

We think that you and your spouse need to take steps to get on the same page. Giving and tithing are important, but it’s even more important that the two of you find some way to achieve a meeting of the minds on this important subject. We’d suggest that you begin by sitting down and talking about this facet of your marriage relationship openly, honestly and methodically. But don’t do it when you’re hot under the collar. Instead, arrange a time to discuss your differences rationally – perhaps over coffee or after dinner at a nice restaurant. Approach the situation as equal partners and work out an arrangement that’s acceptable to both of you.

Giving is very personal

This won’t be easy, of course. Giving is a very personal thing, and many couples struggle to decide how much they should render back to God. It needs to be a mutual decision, and it should emerge out of shared convictions about the importance of your relationship with the Lord and the meaning of Christian discipleship; as Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." Even when you and your spouse have discussed the matter at length, regular giving may not come easily for you, especially if it hasn’t been your habit up to this point.

What to keep in mind

As you work through this issue, we recommend that you bear the following principles in mind:

  1. Everything we have belongs to the Lord. As Psalm 24:1 puts it, "The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it."
  2. We are simply stewards of what God has entrusted to us. If we refuse to acknowledge this, we run the risk of becoming mean, selfish and possessive with the blessings He has poured out upon us.
  3. The point of giving is not to feel better about yourself but to aid other believers, the poor, the widows and orphans, and to promote evangelism around the world (see I Corinthians 16:1, 2; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27). If you think of your giving in these terms – not simply as a ritual or an obligation, but as something that will actually benefit those on the receiving end – you may begin to see it in a different light.
  4. Beware of allowing your attitudes to be shaped by the society around you. We live in a materialistic consumer culture, and giving runs contrary to the idea that possessions will give you pleasure and security. Jesus, by way of contrast, had a great deal to say about the folly of storing up treasures on earth rather than in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
  5. Finally, bear in mind that giving will help you grow spiritually. If the two of you can come to the point where you actually find joy in giving, and where you are enabled, through sacrificial generosity, to see how God continues to provide for your needs even when you give beyond your ability, you will also find yourselves drawing closer together in His love. When that happens, you’ll probably wonder why you ever held back.

If you and your spouse need help working through these issues, you may want to begin the process by conferring with an objective third party. Our staff would be more than happy to assist you in this way. You can call our counsellors here at Focus on the Family Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800. They’d consider it a privilege to listen to your concerns and provide you with some useful suggestions.


Excerpted From The Complete Guide To The First Five Years Of Marriage, A Focus On The Family Book Published By Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus On The Family.

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