How to Pay Tithes & Offerings When You're Broke

Christians believe in giving, especially when broke.
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The Bible specifies that there are four types of giving: tithes, offerings, first fruits and alms-giving. Each of these giving options is separate from the other and defined differently. While people typically want to be generous and contribute as much as possible, things become pretty tricky when money is a problem. How can you manage this when you are broke?


The Difference Between Tithes and Offerings

The most common type of giving that people think of in regards to the Bible is tithes. Tithes focus on a certain amount: ​10 percent​ of one's income, to be exact. Anything over that amount is an offering. Once you have donated the ​10 percent​ and paid your bills and expenses at the end of the month, if you give any extra money, that's considered an offering, not a tithe. You can also give tithes and offerings to charities, friends and family members in need.


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First fruits is a more outdated concept, and it refers to when people lived in agricultural societies; they were directed to donate ​10 percent​ of their crops at harvest time. Alms-giving refers to donating money or goods to the poor and performing acts of charity. You don't have to only give money for tithes and offerings, though. People often choose to donate ​10 percent​ of their free time or other assets, like food, for example. Volunteering and sharing are beautiful ways to help others, and this value is never without merit.


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Importance of Giving Offerings in Church

Religious organizations rely on donations to support their missions and ministries. Sources like those at Westminster Presbyterian Church explain that this kind of work is only accomplished through tithes and offerings provided by congregation members. Not only do these donations provide for the church's financial needs, but giving is also an essential component of every believer's spiritual evolution and maturity.


When congregation members don't regularly give tithes and offerings, regular operations could be reduced or eliminated. This money goes right to church leaders and staff members and is also used to pay monthly heat, electric and water bills. If the church has necessary paid employees like janitors and secretaries, they may be paid from these funds.


Giving honors the Lord, per the Old Testament, where it is written that God commanded his people to donate a tithe of their first fruits. In the New Testament, Jesus commanded his followers to give freely from the heart; Paul commands the church that they should "set aside as you have prospered." Generous, joyful giving is encouraged not out of necessity or commandment but from "genuine love."


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How Can I Pay Tithes and Offerings?

One budgeting method that can help you save enough for tithes is the envelope system. When you get paid, divide the money into envelopes; it doesn't have to be actual cash, especially now that you pay so many bills with checks or online. You'll want to include envelopes for groceries, gas and other repeating expenses and include one for paying tithes and offerings. When you set aside the money ahead of time, you are more likely to save it and not spend it on other things.


If making gifts to God is a priority in your life, not making tithes and offerings can be heartbreaking. If you are in debt, the question of whether to use any extra money to gain financial solvency or to channel it into tithes and offerings is a personal decision.

If you can't cut back on your spending or truly not afford to donate, consider offering your time or volunteering. Doing either can have a positive snowball effect, too. For example, if you have a home-based baking company and donate cookies and cupcakes for church events, you might end up getting new paying customers.

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