Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.

This message may have started with John Wesley and the Methodist church, but it has more recently been adopted by Dave Ramsey, founder of Financial Peace University.

My husband and I went through FPU seven years ago and it has helped shape the way we view money, priorities and possessions. One of Ramsey’s trailing themes is that debt is normal, so don’t be normal.

But it was what he said about WHY we should strive to get out of debt that stuck with me all these years. Not just so we can live differently than those around us by not suffocating under the stress of owing for everything we own, but so we can live differently by blessing people abundantly from the excess we will have if we wait patiently for our purchases. Giving might be the most important step in the financial freedom process because it changes who you are and how you view your resources.

There are many different types of giving and different stages along the giving journey. Sometimes, even when we feel ready to move forward into the next stage of giving, we have some very real concerns that need to be addressed. Recently, Ramsey had some very pointed things to say about the Recurring stage of giving, specifically the tithe.

When contemplating the tithe, it is important to remember it was designed, by God, to teach, mold and mature us. God does not want our money, he wants our hearts. Giving and tithing should not be done out of obligation, fear or guilt, rather giving and tithing should be from a place of obedience, desire and love for God.

Here is what daveramsey.com says in, Tithing and Giving: Your 5 Questions Answered:

What is a tithe?

Let’s start with the basics. Simply put, the tithe is the first 10% of your income that should be given to your local church. It’s strictly measured in money, so you can’t replace it with giving your time or your talents.

  1. Is it okay to pause my tithing during tough financial times?

The Bible doesn’t mention anything about “pausing” tithing. And it doesn’t say we’ll go to hell if we don’t tithe.

But get this: Many people have observed that after they stopped tithing, their finances seemed to get worse. In Malachi 3:8–11, God says that if you tithe instead of keeping it for yourself, He will pour out blessing and rebuke your devourers. In other words, He’ll keep you safe from those who might harm you. So keep tithing.

If you can’t live off 90% of your income, then you’re probably struggling to live off 100% anyway, and that means you have bigger financial problems you need to address. It shouldn’t require a miracle for you to get through the month with 10% less in your wallet.

If you sit down and look at your budget, you’ll see you can make it while giving away at least 10%. That might mean cutting some fun money or increasing your income, but it can be done. Read the Bible and take from it what you will, but remember this: If you tithe, do it out of love for God, not out of guilt.

  1. Is it right to count my church tithe on my tax returns?

You were biblically obedient by giving your tithe to your church. The Bible tells us to be good managers of our money, but it doesn’t shrink the value of your gift if you take the tax deduction. It is a way to manage the other 90% of your money. Take the deduction.

Later, when you get your income tax refund, remember it’s money you’ve already tithed—although you’re certainly welcome to devote some or all of it back to the Lord as additional thanks for His blessings.

  1. If I’m not affiliated with a church, should I still donate 10% of my income?

If you don’t belong to a church, you can still give a percentage of your income to charities and philanthropies that are important to you. Think of what causes matter most to you, and align your support there. There are plenty of ministries and organizations that are doing great work and could benefit from a percentage of your income.

  1. Do I donate 10% of my income before or after taxes? And do I factor in income from side hustles?

Honestly, whether you tithe from your gross pay or your take-home pay is entirely up to you. The point here is you’re giving that 10% of your income. Dave gives off the top of his taxable income, but he’ll be the first to tell you,

“Just give and be a giver. It’s about changing your spirit anyway.”

As for your side hustle—the 10% should be a percentage of your entire amount of income. So if you take a part-time job on the weekends that brings in $300 extra each month, add that amount to your total monthly income.

  1. I’m making more money now. I want to know how to increase giving above the tithe.

When things are going well and you find yourself with lots more income than you need, it can be easy to accidentally spend all that extra cash on yourself. But it should be a great opportunity to begin thinking about other ways to give above and beyond your tithe. That’s why it’s a good idea to budget what you’ll do with the extra so you can make sure you’re giving some of it too.

Once you’ve calculated your tithe, plus any saving and spending you’re doing, see what your surplus is. Divide that surplus among extra giving, extra investing, and some fun money. It might help to specifically budget a certain amount each month for special giving opportunities above the tithe. Then look around you—ask friends if they know of anyone in need, and watch for opportunities to give that money away. If you’re intentional about seeking out those circumstances, you’re going to find them!

And remember, whether you’re giving a tithe, offering, or some other special contribution, it should come from your heart. It’s an important part of any financial plan, and it’s really the most fun you can have with your money!

To learn more about Financial Peace University and how to prepare your church and home to be debt free, please visit daveramsey.com.

A debt free giver can more freely give.

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