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Tithing on Non-taxable Income?

Posted by thethousandmarch on February 10, 2013 at 7:55 PM

I’ve been working on my taxes for last year and being as in the eyes of the IRS my business and me are pretty much the same thing an interesting question in relation to tithing came up. Now, if you read my last post on tithing you’ll know I don’t believe in it (not that I don’t believe in sharing resources). My taxes this year illustrate some of the problems with tithing.


To begin with I didn’t make a profit this year. Anyone who has some understanding of business finance knows that doesn’t mean I didn’t bring home any money, it just means that my taxable income is zero. So, do I owe God or the Church money? (I wonder what the Mormon position on this would be, being as they are pretty strict about the 10% rule; if you’ll remember this is why some speculated that Mitt Romney was unwilling to release his taxes, but I doubt the Mormon church doesn’t know what he’s making.) Anyhow this is just one of the dilemmas that arise if you are going to be strict about tithing as a rule. Another would be do I tithe on loans, what about students who live off their school loans – I paid a whole bunch of money to a Christian University, which I’m going to be paying off over the next twenty years. Does that count as a tithe, or do I at least get to subtract my payments from my tithe-able income? Of course some would say that your tithe has to go to your church and anything you give to another charity or parachurch organization only counts as a “offering”. Most of these people are pastors, but how could I ever accuse a pastor of having ulterior motives. What if I donate my time and services to my church? Well it seems most pastors would take the same approach to this as the government does – time is not deductible.


I’m reminded of a couple different confrontations with the Pharisees. Jesus says:


Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matt 23:23


And in another place:


For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) — then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Mark 7:10-13


Here are but two examples of how the Pharisees developed complicated interpretations of the law which they followed to the letter in order to justify their actions. Those poor Pharisees; why was Jesus always so hard on them? Their traditions – their interpretations – had developed when they found themselves removed from the context in which the law was given. When they could no longer do exactly that which the law dictated they had to develop new rules for new situations. Because our cultural, and more significantly, our economic system is completely different from the world for which the Mosaic Law was written we need our own Talmudic scholars to helps us apply its principles to today. If we are going to be legalistic about tithing, then our tithe code must be as complicated as our tax code. Or we could accept the New Testament teaching that Jesus fulfilled the law and released us from its obligations and now live under Christ’s law (I Cor. 9:20-21).


Categories: Tithing - Don't , Bi-Vocational Ministry