What is the best thing to do in a Christian marriage when one spouse wants to tithe but the other doesn't?

QUESTION: What is the best thing to do in a Christian marriage when one spouse wants to tithe but the other doesn't?

Please forgive me if this sounds sexist, but it depends on whether the person wanting to tithe is the husband or the wife. And frankly, it’s not sexist at all, because within the context of marriage God has given each partner some very specific roles. For the man, there is a role of headship, so if he is the one wanting to tithe, he should be prepared to sit down with his wife and to share from God’s Word on the subject of giving, explaining why it is a good idea.

Even then, the last thing a husband wants to do is force his wife into giving against her will. (Remember, God wants a willing heart.) If she is still reticent about giving, it behooves the husband to discover the reasons his wife is feeling that way and to encourage and pray for her accordingly.

If, however, the shoe is on the other foot and the husband is the one who isn’t too hot on the idea of giving, the wife needs to address herself patiently to the Lord in prayer, asking God to change her husband’s heart. 1 Peter 3:1-2 is the passage a wife needs to follow in this case. Meanwhile and until her husband responds to the Lord, she should consider other ways she can give to the Lord apart from a financial offering.  The last thing a wife should do is nag him about it, or worse yet, give without his consent.

Let me end with one last comment on the matter of tithing. The word “tithe” literally means ten percent, and it first appears in the Hebrew Scriptures which we call the Old Testament. Tithing was demanded of the Israelites as part of the Law, and while the idea of tithing is still present in the New Testament, the specifics have changed somewhat. Instead of God requiring ten percent, believers in Jesus are asked to give whatever they have determined in their hearts to give. Paul expounded on this in 2 Corinthians. He wrote:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7 NIV)

Why no more command to give ten percent, you ask? It’s because under the new covenant, those numbers have changed. We now owe Jesus 100% of our lives. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“You are not your own. You were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6b-7a NIV)

Jesus purchased us completely by His death on the cross and that means you now belong entirely to Him, meaning 100 percent of everything you are and 100 percent of everything you own is His. And yet, even so, He graciously allows you the freedom to give whatever is in your heart to give. That is why Paul encourages us to give cheerfully.

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