Thanks for helping us put together a plan to get out of debt. We were in a serious bind. You gave us hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You laid out for us in black and white that we were spending approximately $3,000 per month more than what we were bringing in. I knew that we were struggling but I had no idea that we were in that deep.
If we followed all of your ideas and recommendations, we’ll be able to free up approximately $2,000 per month. As you said in your report, this is progress but we’re still short of reconciling our negative cash flow by $1,000. You also mentioned that we couldn’t get ahead financially merely by breaking even. We need to create margin between our income and our expenses.
You suggested that we implemented all the ideas that you recommended and that we create additional income of $1,875 per month ($22,500 per year) in order to reconcile the negative cash flow and create a margin of $500 per month after taxes. You stated that if implementing the various suggestions and earning an extra $22,500 per year doesn’t sound realistic, IT’S TIME TO MAKE SOME HARD DECISIONS! We can make the necessary adjustments but I don’t think it’s realistic to bring in an extra $1,875 per month. It’s time for us to make those hard decisions.
There were several hard decisions you mentioned we should consider. Not one of those decisions involved reducing or eliminating tithing. We’re currently tithing $500 per month to our church. Should we stop tithing in order to pay down our debt?
Signed — Family who’s seeking to owe nothing to any one except mutual love
Tithing is a very sensitive topic. I’m often asked about my thoughts on tithing. I generally reply that it’s not about what I think, it’s about your belief of the scriptures. My position on this matter from a financial planning standpoint is — Where ever you are in regards to tithing is where you are. If you desire to give more, we’ll list that as a goal and work toward getting there.
There was one case that I recall where a client of mine were up to their eyeballs in debt, had absolutely no savings, 7-years away from full retirement age and were giving 25 percent of their income to their church. I suggested to them that a tithe represent 10 percent of your income. Anything over 10 percent is considered to be an offering. Offerings are to come from your surplus. When you have a mountain of debt and no savings, you don’t have a surplus. Therefore, I recommend that you reduce tithing down to 10 percent for the time being. The scripture says that a man who does not provide for his household has denied the faith and is worst than an unbeliever.
Although I’m generally silent on the subject of tithing, I do have thoughts and opinions. You asked. Here are my thoughts:
I consider Jesus to be more spiritual than religious. In fact I think this is what separated him from the men of God before him. The biblical law states that you should not work on the Sabbath. Jesus said, “Sabbath was made for man, man was not made for the Sabbath. What man having a son or a donkey fall in the ditch would not pull it out on the Sabbath?” The biblical law states that you should not commit adultery. Jesus said, “If a man lust after a women in his mind, he’s already committed the sin. Jesus’ mindset was light years ahead of the prophets before him. He understood that if “we” understood, internalized, and implemented the principles of the law and the lessons taught in scripture, we’ll fulfill the law and we’ll have an abundant life. Too often we become so caught up in ritual, custom and tradition that we never fully internalize the principle.
Only 3 percent of American Christians actually give a full 10 percent of their income. Chances are, only 3 percent of American Christians fully understand the principle of tithing. What’s the purpose of tithing? The scripture says that the purpose of tithing is to place God first in your life. I’m 1,000 percent sure that God doesn’t need our money. So why does he ask us to tithe?
I think that there’s a deeper purpose behind the concept of tithing. Jesus said that if anyone wants to follow me he must first deny his self and pick up his cross. The cross in this context represents the struggle we have doing what we know we should be doing versus doing what we want to do. In other words if we want to follow Jesus we must first sacrifice and exhibit self-control. In my opinion that’s the real lesson behind both tithing and fasting. Both money and food are necessities of life. After food and money, most of the things we wrestle with in life are trivial. If we can develop the self-control to deny ourselves of the things that are essential, surely we can gain the self-control and discipline to deny ourselves of the trivial things in life.
When you’re overwhelmed with debt, it’s a sign of an inability to deny yourself. It’s a sign of an inability to control and delay your desires of self-gratification. People go deep into debt to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people who could care less.
Should you stop tithing? It’s important to understand that tithing is not a salvation issue. You’re not condemned to hell if you don’t tithe and you don’t get an automatic invitation to heaven if you do tithe (See Luke 18:9-14). It’s a principle of sacrifice and self-control that if applied to any area of your life, you’ll be victorious. Whether or not you reduce tithing or stop tithing is a personal decision. However, I’ll leave you with this scripture:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is owner of ACE Financial Damon can be reached at 412-856-1183.)