Q: #54. I want to tithe, but should I give 10% of the gross or net of my paycheck?
A: Do you want to be blessed gross or net?
For many years, that one sentence has been my answer to this question. However, I want to explain this sentence more fully now, and then share a few more things to consider.
First, let’s look at a few verses in the Bible which show that God will bless tithing (Mal 3:10)(2 Chr 31:5-6,10)(Prov 3:8-9).
Keeping these in mind, let’s say that our paycheck is $1500 gross, and $1000 net. If we tithe 10% of the “gross” ($150), God will bless that, right? On the other hand, if we tithe 10% of the “net” ($100), won’t God bless that as well? I certainly believe He will. My point is this: If we are trusting that God will bless us, take care of us, and provide for us, isn’t it better to tithe on the greater amount (the gross) than the lesser amount (the net)? Either way, He will meet our needs. So, why not be blessed gross rather than net?
However, having said that, there are a few other things to consider on this subject.
First, I do need to point out that tithing was an Old Testament law (see: Lev 27:30-33, Num 18:21-28, Deut 12:6,11,17, Mal 3:8-10), and we are no longer under the law. The command to tithe is not clearly found in the New Testament (the words tithe and tithing are used only 8 times). When the Council of Jerusalem met in (Acts 15) to determine what “laws” Gentile converts needed keep, tithing was not among them. Instead, we are told to be “a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7) and to give liberally (Lk 6:38). Therefore, we are not obligated today to tithe gross OR net. But, just as in the Old Testament, I believe God’s blessings on tithing will still happen today. However, since we are not under the commandment to tithe, but rather “to give cheerfully,” I believe that He will bless lesser amounts than 10% too (if given with the right heart and attitude). Here are some good verses to keep in mind on giving today.
(2 Cor 9:6-11)(NASB) Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (7) Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (9) as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” (10) Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; (11) you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
***Note: I still believe we should tithe today, but I discuss this here, so I won’t go into it now.
Secondly, there is much debate as to whether one should tithe gross or net. Let me discuss both of these a little.
Some argue in favor of tithing “gross.” The primary argument seems to be that the tithing of the Old Testament was to be on the “firstfruits” (2 Chr 31:5-6)(Prov 3:9)(Lev 2:14)(Neh 10:35-37). In other words, they were to give “first” to God before anything or anyone else. Applying this to the “gross” today, this would be the (“first”) amount before the government takes its cut, as well as things like insurance or retirement. As we will discuss next, some will argue that this is money we never had, therefore, we should not need to tithe on it. The gross advocate would argue that we “benefit” in some way from all of these deductions, and as such we still need to tithe on them. For example, taxes help pay for the roads we drive on, the police who protect us, the firemen who put out fires, etc… Insurance helps with our medical expenses, and we will get our retirement money back one day. If we don’t tithe on the gross, in essence, all of these are the “firstfruits” instead of God, and God is getting part of what is left over.
Now, looking at the “net” viewpoint, (2 Cor 8:12) says that our giving should be: “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” As we said above, applying this to our paychecks, money taken from our checks by the government is not money we ever had. (Whether this also applies to insurance is up for debate. As for retirement, it seems as though if we tithe on that as we receive it in retirement, that would be sufficient.) The money we “have” is the amount we receive when we get our paycheck, and this is the amount we should tithe on. As far as I can see, God never asked the Israelites to tithe on what they didn’t have, but what they did have. For example, if half of a man’s crops were destroyed somehow (taken from him), the man was expected to tithe on the “firstfruits” of what he harvested (what he received), not on what he planted.
Also, here is a crude, over the top example to consider. If a man earned $20,000 dollars, and the government taxed him at 90%, he would have $2000 left. If he then tithed on the gross (gave 10%), he would have zero dollars left. However, if he tithed on the net, he would have $1800 left. This seems to make tithing on the net a bit more logical.
Related to this, some people lose an extraordinary amount of money from their paychecks because of deductions (30% – 50%). As a result, tithing on the gross can be very difficult. In my personal opinion, I believe God understands this. As I said above, while I do believe that tithing is a good thing to practice today, I fall on the side of tithing “on what we have.” If one can tithe on the gross, that is wonderful, and God will bless that. But, I also believe that God will bless tithing on the net, AS WELL AS giving less than 10%. God does not look at amounts today, but rather at hearts and attitudes (see: Lk 21:2-4). His blessings are based on that.
***Note: It should be noted that statistics generally say that anywhere from 5%-10% of all Christians tithe. If you are tithing on gross OR net, you are giving a far higher percentage than most Christians. I believe this is to be commended, not worried about.
Related Question: Does tithing to the storehouse (Mal 3:10) apply to the church today?