In the last week or so, I have had a few conversations related to the tithe and what it means. The tithe has changed for me at various points in my life and I only offer some of my personal opinions about it. My opinions may or may not coincide with your opinions. I offer them for discussion and welcome your responses.
What is a Tithe?
My understanding of the tithe is that it is the first 10% fruits of your time, talents and treasure. I’ve heard some say that if you can’t live on 90% of your income then you probably can’t live on 100% of your income either. That seems a bit shallow since they only talk about the treasure portion of the tithe. Maybe the tithe is supposed to refer to only the financial piece but I would have to disagree with that line of thinking.
If you have read this blogs’ past posts, you know that I was divorced in 2002 after a lengthy marriage of abuse, neglect, and infidelity. At the end of the marriage, I became a single custodial parent with a huge amount of debt. It was not pretty and it took years to recover from it.
At the time, I had to make several decisions to keep afloat. I resented the idea of giving money to the church when I was struggling so much. To hear someone tell me that the tithe was the most important thing I could do to be faithful was a crock. I was not a cheerful giver at all. At a time when I was struggling so much financially, the church was lucky to get $25 on the weeks that I actually attended the service. Tithing 10% was not an option and if I had heard someone tell me that if I could not live on 90%, I would not be able to live on 100% either, I probably would have let them have it.
Tithing All of Me
However, if I look at the tithe as 10% of all that I am, then I can start to look at it differently.
What if I looked at it as proportional instead? At that time in my life, I could not give 10% of my income. There was just no way. I could give 15% of my time. I could give 15% of my talents.
I teach a financial class to people struggling with their finances. I share with them how I was able to take control of my finances and slowly pay things off until I became debt-free. I recommend to them that they focus on paying off their debts, keeping track of everything they spend and to realize that the situation they are in is temporary. Things will get better with time and dedication to achieving their goals.
The church can use your money to improve the worship services and to grow various ministries but they don’t need it so bad that you should sacrifice the electricity in your house to pay it. If the situation is looked at as truly temporary, then once you have control of things, you can begin to participate financially to the financial needs of the church.
In the meantime, you can focus on eliminating your debts and sharing your time and talent instead.
I believe in a merciful God who wants the very best for me. If someone is trying to tell you that you are not giving enough to the church or that your financial tithe should come first no matter what, then find another church.
How freeing would it be if you could focus on improving your financial situation while still offering your time and talents to the church?
God does not need your money. God wants your heart. You are hereby allowed to remove the guilt from your life and focus not only on your finances but your relationship with Jesus Christ and become the cheerful giver of your time, talents and treasure that God would want you to be.
I suppose that if you consider a house as an investment instead of something you use to live your daily life, then a house can be a good thing to take a loan out to acquire. I’ve heard some say that it is not an investment unless it puts money into your pocket. Technically, that means that the house you live in is not an investment because it sucks you dry with all the things to take care of. The mortgage charges you interest making it cost 2-3 times the purchase price for a house.
A house loan is still a good thing since it offers you a dwelling place. The nicest thing about a house is that usually, when the time comes to sell the house, you can sell it for more than you purchased it for. That’s not a guarantee as we saw after the 2008 housing market crash.
So where do you get a “good” loan?
In my thinking, you can get a good loan from a bank or credit union. Even better, borrow money from your grandparents. Grandparents have a habit of loaning money to their grandkids at zero interest and no real timetable to pay it back. At least some work that way.
Credit unions are good because when you have an account with one, you own shares, not just an account to keep your money in. Credit unions pay dividends to your account.
Banks are just a repository for your money. They pay interest on your account too but the amount is so small these days, you may as well put the money under a mattress.
Not so good loans
Ok. Up front, I am a bit biased when it comes to loans. There are two places that I think are probably the worst places to get a loan. Payday loans and Car Title loans.
Payday loans say they are providing a “service” to get you to the next paycheck. That’s true but how much sense does it make to take out a loan to pay your other bills? The interest on payday loans is huge. Usually the interest is based on a fee of $15 for each $100 you borrow. If you borrowed $500, the fee would be $75 and that is due in just two weeks max.
What happens if you cannot pay the total amount within the two weeks? You get more fees added and must take out another loan. This can lead to disaster. If you do this enough, then you can fall into escalating fees.
The next payday, you have a smaller check because the money you borrowed along with the fees has to come out then.
Wouldn’t it be better to get out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck in the first place?
The other loan that is troubling to me is the car title loan. Here’s how this one works. You take your title (you must have a clear title to begin with) do the car title loan place. They appraise your vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle) and give you a loan up to the appraisal value of your car. All is good so far – right?
If all goes well, you pay back the loan over a period of time and get your title back.
But what happens if you don’t pay the loan back according to the terms? You guessed it – you lose your car!
Want to learn more about car title loans? Check out this report from NBC News.
I was recently invited to attend a seminar about payday loan places and ways to produce legislation to close them or at least help protect consumers from predatory lending practices. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to a comedy of errors. From some information that I have read, it appears that the is only one state in America where the interest on payday loans is limited to about a 35 Annual Percentage Rate (APR). The rest can range from 50% to well over 300%. That’s a ton of interest to satisfy an itch for two weeks.
Talk to someone about your finances if you feel you are in trouble with them. Consumer Credit Counseling Services are a good place to start. Many churches offer financial classes also. Get away from living paycheck to paycheck.
Here’s a thought. How many people who have some money put away would ever consider taking out a payday loan or a car title loan? I suggest that you would not find anyone.
I have had the privilege of teaching a personal finance class to the women at Agape Resource & Assistance Center, a place that serves with grace & respect, the urgent / unmet shelter & service needs of women, children & youth in crisis or poverty. The class helps to establish healthy saving, spending and budgeting for those who have been placed in a bad situation due to divorce, medical bills, or other circumstances.
I am not a personal financial adviser. I was divorced in 2002 and had some very difficult financial issues while trying to raise three daughters on my own. My personal finance struggles led to me write a book, The Little Debt-Free Book. I was asked by Agape Resource & Assistance Center to give a talk about domestic violence and personal finance in January 2015. The talk led to the first class about personal finance with the goal of the attendees creating a working budget.
The class was a success in that at least one person was able to create their budget. Another class is in progress at this time with 10 people in attendance. This class has the addition of a workbook which includes all the forms and other information for the attendees. The workbook enables those attending to keep all their financial information in one place. I am very excited about the progress so far. The class also introduced the idea of an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who can help the attendees keep their commitments to the class, write down goals that are both measurable and attainable, and keep track of their finances.