Q: A single mom of three who is in debt asks: What Should Be My First Priority — Tithing or Paying Off Debts?
Selected from our Questions and Answers program
A: Today we are living in an age of grace. Under the Mosaic Law, men were required to give one-tenth to God. (Actually, I think that if the Mosaic Law is examined correctly, they not only gave one-tenth but they gave three-tenths.) Today we're to give on an altogether different standard or basis. That is, we're not under Law; we're not under compulsion relative to this matter at all. In fact, Paul even told a group of carnal Christians that they were to give gladly. The word, actually, is they were to give hilariously to the Lord. They were not to give grudgingly. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). They were to give prompted by grace, the same grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). That grace which prompted Him to give Himself is the grace to prompt us in our giving. Personally, I think there are many Christians who ought to give a great deal more than the tenth. That is, if they were giving as the grace would prompt them then a great many should be giving probably a half. Why? Because God's prospered them — they do not need the other to live by. They could give generously to the Lord. Under grace today I'm confident that most should give more. But not through compulsion. "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6,7). But there are other people that ought not to give a tenth, and I think that the writer of this question is one of them. Personally, I think your first obligation today is to maintain honesty before all men, and being under grace you're to pay your honest debts first. I don't think God's asking you to give one penny to Him until you have taken care of your debts. I think that should come first. Now that may be a little different than what you'd expected. I think maybe it's a little different than the average preacher would say today. I know I have a radio program, and we depend on the freewill offerings of folk. You may be sending gifts to this program. I say to you very candidly, if I were you I wouldn't send any more until you pay your debts. That's the thing that comes first today in this age of grace. The Lord knows your heart, friends. And if you've gotten under the pressure of debt, well, take care of that first and then when you get out from under that — and God will lead you out from under that — and you get clear, then you'll be in a position to give. The important thing to keep in mind is that we're living in the age of grace and we're not required to give according to the Law at all.