Help! I’m poor. Should I tithe to TV preachers?

However, large religious institutions, especially those with massive expenses and infrastructures, manipulated the tithe as a way to essentially extort money from less biblically literate members.


The tithe: one tenth of everything.
The tithe: one tenth of everything

Dear Thoughtful Pastor:  In the past, I have tithed money into various ministries that I enjoyed listening to on TV. As I do not enjoy attending church, I have contributed to the people who were teaching me. When my husband and I were both working, I could tithe up to 10% of my paycheck, usually split between four ministries.

When we both became disabled, I had to choose one ministry a month due to the drastic change in income. Now that I am a widow on a fixed income, I find myself in the position of often not having enough money to tithe. This bothers me.

Can tithing be something besides money? Although I get a lot of my food from church food banks, I often have an abundance of things that I either don’t like or don’t need and know that I will receive again. I know people who have needs, so I share this food with them. It is good quality food that people in my house don’t eat, and I do not want to throw away. Does this count?

I forgot to mention the fact that receiving mail from people asking for more money when I have sent my little donation infuriates me. That money should be used for the child they asked for money to help.

When I can only send $10, and they use the money to pay someone to send me a letter asking for more money, I just see red.

I about saw red when I saw this question. It sounds like you send what little money you have to rich, “let me have more money” TV beggars. Not one will ever take one iota of interest in your life except how to extort more money from you, while you take money in the form of food from the local church which is trying to be of active assistance to you.

The purpose of the tithe

As I take a deep breath, let’s go to the original purpose of the tithe, the 10 percent requirement. The funds supported the priestly tribe (Levites) as they did not have land. Tithing also supported the government as the government and the religious establishment were one and the same.

Thankfully, we do not live in a nation where, at least so far, a religious power elite also makes all the laws imposed on all. Therefore, the original purpose of the tithe no longer exists.

While biblical obligation of tithing has ended, we not have lost our obligation to give generously.

Early Jesus-centered communities met in private houses. People gave of their funds and their goods to help the poor, both those in local communities as well as the religiously and financially oppressed in more distant communities.

As local Jesus-following communities grew, many decided to set aside some leaders to spend all their time teaching and pastoring the fledgling believers. These leaders returned that financial support by sustaining healthy, caring, spiritually growing groups of people.

In the US, we have never had state-supported churches, although some nations, like Great Britain with the Church of England, do.

Instead, the support for all local religious bodies comes from individuals and local businesses. The original 10% tithe became a baseline for giving, but there is absolutely no biblical mandate that says it is required.

However, large religious institutions, especially those with massive expenses and infrastructures, manipulated the tithe as a way to essentially extort money from less biblically literate members.

Today, TV evangelists, with their “charities” that might receive 1% of what is brought in, laugh all the way to their multi-million dollar mansions while flying private planes to make their hefty deposits in secret Swiss accounts.

Yeah, I see red here.

Practical suggestions for faithful giving

Some suggestions for making charitable donations.

First, eliminate your consumer debt. Stop using credit cards. Pay off any balances carried. Otherwise, you are throwing money in the toilet. Freeing yourself from credit card debt will free funds for giving.

Second, request and read carefully complete financial statements of organizations you think might be worthy of support. Check online resources for the financial legitimacy of various charities.

Know precisely what percentage of donations go to overhead, salaries, and continued fund-raising. If you encounter the slightest resistance to full financial disclosure, DO NOT send any money.Ever.

If family members control the organization’s finances, run. Do not give to organizations that request “seed money” or a “faith pledge” that may jeopardize your financial well-being.

They are lying to you. Period.

Third, support religious and charitable organizations in your local community. As a rule, they offer the most efficient and effective use of charitable funds. Give time, energy, labor.

As you and your family benefit from the work of a local church, consider offering volunteer time to that particular food pantry. It’s a great way to give back to those who are helping as well as participate in local community well-being.


ask-the-thoughtful-pastor[Note: A version of this column is slated to run in the April 14, 2017, edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle. The Thoughtful Pastor, AKA Christy Thomas, welcomes all questions for the column. Although the questioner will not be identified, I do need a name and verifiable contact information in case the newspaper editor has need of it. You may use this link to email questions.]

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  • Russell Kelly

    May I suggest a look to my web site at http://www.tithing-russkelly.com. Please read the essay on page one and draw your conclusions from that. The tithe was never commanded to Gentiles. I would love help you.

  • Wes Stanton

    Len Sweet has a great article (once downloadable as a PDF): “Freely You Have Received, Freely Give.” The tithe is an undue burden on the poor, and a too-light benchmark for the well-off. https://leonardsweet.com/freely-you-have-received/

  • Chuck Johnson

    Christy, those people that you describe are predators and social parasites.

    As for that low-income woman who wrote you the letter, my advice to her would be to, for the time being, stop any and all financial donations to anyone. Not one red cent.

    Then, she should look around and find people who need her time, her attention, and her caring. – – – And donate those things.

    It’s sad that she had to ask you “Does this count?”
    It’s time that she did the thinking and the doing that would let her know the answers to questions like that, with no need of an authoritative opinion.

    I’s time that she started learning what counts, based on her own work to discover what counts.
    And here’s a clue – – – People come first.

    • Linda Coleman Allen

      Chuck, you come across as a condescending jerk.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Linda, it’s hard to know what to say to your troll commentary.
        There are much better ways to comment than what you have said.

  • Brandon Roberts

    most televangelists are just conmen preying on gullible christians imo