Q: Should a family tithe when it would put them in the situation of needing a miracle to make it through the rest of the month, or should a family get its debt under control and then tithe?
—Ted, via email
A: Ted, a tithe is a tenth of your income, which is a biblical mandate that the Christian church has taken to heart (Deut. 26:1-19). But there's no place in Scripture where it says not tithing will send you to hell.
The question is, what's the best thing to do and why does God have us tithe? Is it because He needs our money? No. He tells us to tithe because of what it does inside of us. It keeps us from being so stinking self-centered that we think the world revolves around us. And by being a little less self-centered, we're better humans. We're a little more Christlike when we're giving. But God doesn't need your money.
Should you tithe on your income if you need a miracle to get through the rest of the month? Honestly, if you can't live on 90 percent, it's unlikely that you can live on 100 percent.
If you sit down and do a monthly, written budget, you can probably find a way to tithe if it's important to you. I'm not going to guilt-trip you. Pray and read the Bible and let God speak to you on this. But this point is clear: The Bible doesn't say wait until you get your debt under control, it says tithe—first fruits off the top before anything else.
Stuffing Your Budget
Q: Have you ever heard of the envelope system for budgeting? Does it work?
—Dale, via e-mail
A: Dale, the envelope system is Grandma's old-fashioned way of budgeting money. Back in the day, when people were paid in cash, they would take the money and divide it up in different envelopes according to the categories in their budget—food, clothing, gas—and whatever else they needed. When a particular envelope started getting close to empty, they stopped buying because the money budgeted for that category was gone. If you wanted a shirt but the clothing envelope was empty, you didn't buy the shirt. It's a very simple cash system that keeps you from overspending.
This may be a good method to consider for some of your regular expenses, such as food, clothing, or entertainment. But for many bills, you'll probably want to continue using checks or electronic drafts.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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