Single Parenting - God Never Said UNLESS

Tithing and the Single Parent


Tithing and the Single Parent

(Part of the His Word Never Says Unless…Unless series)


As a single mother who lives only on a teacher’s salary (and now a private school salary, which is even less), I know how hard it can be to try to make ends meet. 

Yes, there are plenty of two parent households living on one salary, but usually those salaries are far more substantial than that of a single mother.  Furthermore, with 1 adult working and 1 adult at home, there are meals made, time to clip and use coupons, time to take care of clothing and other household duties, and the like.  As a single parent, I often find myself buying convenience meals because I am so exhausted at the end of the day.  When I do have the chance to clip a few coupons, I usually find the grocery store shelves picked clean of the really good deals, thanks to the extreme couponers. It is difficult to take care of the house, and clean the laundry as often.  (I embarrassingly admit that there have been times when I actually bought clothes because everything was dirty.)  Simple things that are not particularly burdensome for a two parent household can become quite expensive for a single mother.  If something goes wrong with the car or the house, there is no husband to tinker around and fix the problem. 

Sadly, it seems that more and more single mothers that I talk to are receiving little to no child support.

Knowing all of this, surely God understands when we just cannot manage to pay our tithes.  That few hundred dollars or so a month can really make a difference when you are living paycheck to paycheck.  He is such a good God, and loves us so much, that He must realize we NEED that money.  We have to pay bills and buy clothing and food.  We have to put a roof over the heads of our children.  We have to buy health insurance and life insurance (what if something happened to one of them…or to me?).  So, God doesn’t really expect me, a single mother, to faithfully tithe to Him…right?

Not according to His Word.

Let’s first look at what He says about tithing in general:

Robbing God?

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.    Malachi 3:8-12

It is clear here that God considers a lack of tithing the same thing as robbery.  Not only that, He also says those that are not tithing are cursed with a curse.  He also makes it known that even only partially tithing is wrong when He says bring the FULL tithe into the storehouse.

Wow. Truthfully, this frightens me. Yes, it is Old Testament, before Jesus took the sacrifice for our sins, but still, this scares me.  Of course, there is only one reason for my fear – my guilt.  I have not always faithfully tithed, nor have I given what I felt was the right amount (more on that in a minute). 

But here’s the thing.  Look at what God says…just look.  I am always floored by His patience and His love for us.  He goes on to give us a second chance!  And not just a second chance, no!  He literally challenges us, basically dares us, to go ahead and start giving to Him the way we should.  Then, He says, step back and watch what happens as I bless you and bless you and bless you.  Seriously?  After all my messing up and robbing You, Lord, You are still going to bless me until there is no more need?  Thank You, Lord.  Just, thank You.

Don’t think He is satisfied just to bless us until we have no more need.  No way, He is bigger than that.  He says He will rebuke the devourer for us.  Who or what is the devourer?  In this case, it most likely means locusts, those worms that eat everything, or any other pestilence that eats crops.  God will stop them from destroying everything.  We don’t have quite the same problems with bugs now (unless you farm), but we definitely do have a devourer that destroys our fruits.  It’s called debt.  Debt devours our paycheck.  It devours our savings.  It keeps us from seeing the real fruit of our labors, because it ever taking.   When I read this verse, I feel like God is paralleling the devourer with my debt.  It is as if He is telling me, “You do what I tell you, give to Me, and watch not just how I make sure you have enough, but I will also tackle all of that debt you have amassed.”

Why Would He Do That?

He is just so good to us.  When I think about it, it literally brings tears to my eyes.  It is far beyond my comprehension as to why He would turn around and bless the people – His OWN people – who were robbing Him just a minute ago.  Still, I do see some of where He is going with this.  Notice, at the end of this verse, He says the nations will call us blessed when they see all of these things come to fruition. Imagine that.  Imagine Christian single mothers doing so well that others look at them and call them blessed!  What a testimony that would be!  Single mothers, under the care of our LORD, faithfully tithing Him, even when it is so hard, and He making good on His promises.  The one thing I notice in these verses is the fact that the only thing we do is follow His command.  Nothing else.  He doesn’t give advice on how to make more money.  He doesn’t send down a Heavenly budget sheet.  He doesn’t send the Old Testament people a giant can of bug spray, nor does He become a debt consolidation advisor.  No.  HE does it all.  There is nothing of man’s doing, other than trusting His commands.  (And isn’t that everything, in the end?)  When the blessings start pouring out, all the glory goes to Him!  I cannot even begin to think how lives could be changed when people see Christian Single mothers living a blessed life while literally giving all the glory to Him.

He basically says it again in Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

That is a wonderful metaphor there (sorry, the English teacher in me just can’t resist).  He is using a measuring cup to make it visible to us.  A good measure – no cheating.  Pressed down – like when you press down flour – you can fit a lot more.  Shaken together – to get all of the air out and make even more room. (Kind of the opposite of a bag of chips today. Running over – can you see it.  Put in your lap – again, not your doing, He does it and just drops it in your lap.  If we give with this kind of enthusiasm, He will give even more to us.  Beautiful.

So, Just How Much Do I Tithe?

Good question.  I am certainly no theological expert, but I do think that the 10% from the Old Testament is no longer the rule.  Jesus freed us from the rules, and now it is all about the heart.  2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Good news, right?  Now we can go back to the “I’m a single mom” excuse.  How could we possibly give cheerfully when we are so strapped?  He only expects us to give a little bit.  There are a few problems with this thinking.  First, the verse BEGINS by saying if you sow big you will reap big, so it is safe to assume the opposite is true.  Give a little and you will only get a little.

You see, it is all about your heart.  How much do you trust Him?  How much faith do you put in His Word?

And, before we pull the single mother card, we need to take a look at this verse:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4, NIV)

Look at what Jesus honored.  He honored the fact that she gave ALL. SHE. HAD. TO. LIVE. ON.  Whoa!  What?  Why would she do that?  Why would He honor that?  How is she going to live?  How will she feed her children?  Isn’t that irresponsible?  Well, if you gave all you had to live on to something earthly, like a money making scheme, then yes, that is extremely irresponsible.  But this single mother gave it all to Jesus – the one who literally gave it all for her.  Can you imagine the looks on the faces of the rich standing there?  They so proudly dropped their big gifts into the box.  Then, here comes this poor single mother.  Maybe they pitied her.  Maybe they ignored her.  (That is often how single mothers are looked at in the church.)  But Jesus, our Lord, pointed her out!  He saw her heart in her offering.  She was trusting God to take care of her – REALLY trusting Him.  It shamed the rich standing there, and it shames me right now.  She gave all she had.  I find it hard to give 10%.

Reading this verse, it makes it clear that Jesus does not “expect” the 10% from the Old Testament.  Instead, He expects it all, even from a single mother.  He tells us to examine our hearts (pray about it) and then give cheerfully.  Give some, or give all, it is all about how much we trust Him to take care of us.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matthew 6:31-33)

6 thoughts on “Tithing and the Single Parent

  1. If you read Malachi 3 carefully, you will see that the NATION tithed, not the individual. Either the WHOLE NATION was blessed, or the WHOLE NATION was cursed. Tithing was not on the individual, and God NEVER commanded anyone to tithe from their income. God commanded a tithe ONLY from HIS increase of food from crops and animals (Leviticus 27:30-33).

    The tithe was not and could not be money. It was to be EATEN (Deut. 14:22-27). And every 3 years the tithe was to be given to the poor (Deut. 14:28-29).

    The word tithe means tenth. If it isn’t exactly a tenth, it isn’t a tithe. You can’t tithe less than a tenth, or more than a tenth. Don’t confuse tithe with giving. They have nothing to do with each other.

    1. Thank you for that information, Gary. As stated, I am no Biblical scholar. I definitely agree, and you have taught me, the difference between tithing and giving. I headed to the Word to check it out. Even when Jesus spoke about tithing to the Pharisees, he spoke of foodstuff.
      As for it never being an individual, in Luke 18, Jesus uses a parable in which an individual tithes.

      To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

      I am not trying to argue. Rather, I am trying to gain a better understanding. This was clearly an individual, not a nation.

      Either way, though, the point of the post is trust. Single parents, or anyone else for that matter, really have no excuse not to give big. And please understand, I am writing this more to me than to anyone! I have been stingy with my offerings to Him.

      Yet, if we trust Him and give generously to Him, He will give back to us. Not because we were so good to obey, but because we trust Him so much to believe what He says, knowing He is a good an perfect God. That sweet widow that have everything she had? She trusted Him with everything, literally. I want a faith like that. =)

      1. There were three different tithes commanded by God. The first tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18) supported the Levitical Priesthood. THAT is the tithe referred to in Malachi 3, and which was done as a whole nation.

        The second and third tithes are in Deut. 14:22-29. THOSE two tithes were done at the individual level.

        Leviticus 27:30-33 defines this tithe as a tenth of crops and animals in herds and flocks.
        Numbers 18 gives the ordinances, or instructions, for this tithe, and commands this tithe be taken to the Levites.
        Purpose of this tithe: to support the Levitical Priesthood.

        Deuteronomy 14:22-27: aka The Festival Tithe – a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take to the yearly feasts.
        Purpose of this tithe: “that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always”

        Deuteronomy 14:28-29: aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe – a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.
        Purpose of this tithe: to feed the poor.

        Regarding the priesthood tithe – In Numbers 18 we learn that the tithe was given to the Levites who lived in the Levitical cities. In Nehemiah 10:38 we learn that the Levites would take a tithe of the tithe to the Temple. It is this tithe, the tithe from the Levites, that went to the storehouse, not the tithe from the people. This is important to remember when we study Malachi 3:10.

  2. Again, thank you for the information. I researched much of this after your first comment, but appreciate your writings, none the less. I was in agreement with you about what tithes are, I just wanted to point out that individuals did tithe.

    I am sure an argument can be made that because our lifestyles are so different from those in OT times, that we have “replaced” in a sense, our money for what would have been food/crops/spices/etc. But that is really neither here nor there….

    As stated before, please do not miss the point of this post. As a single parent, I have often found it very hard to make offerings, as I have an extremely tight budget, and I have used the fact that I am a single mom as an excuse to assuage my conscience. Yet, there really is no excuse not to give in abundance.

    Calling it a tithe or an offering, I am sure, means very little to God. Instead, He cares that we give bountifully and that we give joyfully. The post was not about defining tithes and offerings. Actually, it is kind of the opposite of that. In reading the NT, it seems that even 10% is really not much. When we look at the poor widow, she gave all of her meager means. All.OF.IT. That just amazes me! That is the kind of Christian I want to be….one that can give all, knowing He will supply all my needs. My Father does not need my money, he needs my trust, my devotion, my love.

    1. This is an excellent article. It takes the focus off of guilt and on giving bountifully and joyfully. I’ve been a single mom for 19 yrs and I’ve struggled with this issue that long. I fully expect as long as I’m single and the cost of living continues to increase while my salary stays the same, I will continue to struggle if I continue to let Satan make me feel guilty and condemn me. Jesus allows us to not live under the law (10%) and to do so with a clear conscience. He reminds us of true devotion and love of God with the story of the poor widow and her mite. He frees us to do more than the law without penalizing us if we can only do less. We must evaluate our actions with the Holy Spirit and scripture instead of old laws, remembering the law was established because of our sinful nature to be hoarders of wealth and selfish beings. I think that’s what makes it so hard sometimes. We must continue to evaluate and grow and change as the Holy Spirit leads. For those with wealth, this also applies. They must evaluate if 10% is truly all the Holy Spirit is leading them to give If at the end of the month I have nothing left and they have $2,000. to put in savings and $2,000. to spend on luxuries, God knows this also!

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