I Want to Give Appropriately to My Church and Other Organizations. How Do I Decide How Much to Give and to Whom?

I recently finished school, found a job, and have my first steady income. I want to give appropriately to my church and other organizations. How do I decide how much to give and to whom? Is a 10 percent tithe required of Christians?

Christians have never viewed the tithe (based on Abraham’s giving 10 percent to King Melchizedek in Gen. 14:20) as a religious or legal obligation but have always honored the principle. Recognizing God as the source of all blessing, we give back to God out of gratitude.

A tenth of your net income is a good place to start your calculations, but other factors play a role. Nowadays it’s not unusual for recent graduates to have significant student debt with substantial monthly payments. The cost of living in your area may be higher or lower than the average; your income may barely cover food, housing or other necessities.

If, on the other hand, you bring home more than what you need to pay for essentials, then you can consider contributing more than 10 percent. It may seem like an odd rule of thumb, but if you are spending more on nonessentials such as entertainment, vacations or hobbies than you are contributing to church and kingdom causes, you should probably increase your giving.

As to how to apportion your giving, it may be that your church recommends a certain percentage. Ask one of your deacons. Churches I’ve attended have recommended giving anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of income to the local church, with the remainder of one’s charitable contributions going to other ministries and causes. In this way, churches encourage their members to contribute both to the church and to other kingdom causes.

Here’s an example: Leeann just started a job paying $48,000 per year. She has $15,000 in student debt and is paying $650 per month in loan payments. Living expenses in her area are high and total $2,000 per month before loan payments. Ten percent of her income would be $400. Because of loan payments and other constraints, Leeann decides to set aside $300 per month for charity, of which $125 to $175 will go to support her church community.

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church who teaches religion, ethics, and ecology in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan.

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