The Tithing Pastor – A True Conundrum

At graduation rehearsal we heard a small message about the importance of tithing. During the message the speaker told us that the pastor should be giving a tithe to the local church no matter what. The speaker testified that he and his wife ALWAYS gave to their local church, no matter what. They relied on God to provide for them when they did not have enough money after giving their tithe.

Now this blog is not about the theology of tithing. Which by the way, I do not think Christian are required to do (for many biblically practical reasons). This blog is about the paradox created by having a pastor tithe – which is probably the first reason that I started thinking about whether or not it is taught for every Christian to do.

Situation: The church pays a yearly salary to a vocational pastor of 50,000$. This pastor believes tithing is required for all Christians and puts a tithe in the “offering plate” on a weekly basis.

Problem: Part of the pastor’s tithe goes back to the pastor – so in reality he is not giving a real tithe.

If you are not sure what I am talking about, here are the numbers:
The church brings in 200,000$ per year from tithes.
The church pays a vocation pastor 50,000$ a year (from the tithes).
So then, 25% of the church income goes to the pastor’s salary.

Ok, the pastor gives a tithe from his salary, so, 5,000$ from his 50,000$ a year from the pastor.
Since 25% of the yearly church tithes are given to the pastor’s salary, 1,250$ of the pastors yearly 5,000$ in tithes goes back into his pocket.
In reality the pastor is only giving three-quarters of a tithe every year.

Solution: The pastor must be required to give a specific amount more than a tithe each year. In the case I have laid out the pastor would need to give a little more than 13% to have actually given a tithe. This percentage changes depending on what percentage of the total tithe goes to the pastor’s salary.

So go tell your pastors, if they aren’t giving more than a tithe, they aren’t given a tithe at all and are therefore robbing God.


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  1. Dear Lew,

    I just finished reading your comments on pastors and tithing and thought that I would share with you what God has, just this morning, been saying to me. I have been married for 29 yrs and my husband and I have been in the ministry for 16 yrs. During this time we have struggled with this topic more than once. We haven’t struggled with giving – that we do. But we have began in earnest to seek out God’s word concerning tithes. And just like lots of other issues in the SBC today, with younger pastors, this one needs all of us to take a hard look at our true responsibilites concerning tithing.

    Tithing was started as the way for the tribe of Levi to have income as they maintained the Tabernacle and it was for strangers, widows and orphans. In Malachi God is talking directly to the descendants of Jacob. They didn’t want to serve God anymore. They were ignoring God’s commands. They were disobedient and they started complaining that it doesn’t pay to serve God because those who don’t are prospering anyway.
    Under the old covenant the Israelites were given instructions that they must give ten percent. But what they were required to give was from their fields – grain, fruit and animals. These instructions were given to make them different from every other tribe. Fishermen and tradesmen were not required to tithe. Why don’t we follow all of the O.T. law? Why do we pick and choose? We don’t like the harsh ones and we know that Jesus paid the price for us – but we still live under the tithing law? I think where we fall short is that we fail to pay close attention to the New Test. teachings on generosity. 2Corinthians 9:7 says “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart.” This doesn’t give us freedom to be selfish, but to be generous. Why limit our giving to ten percent (or 13)? And who should we give to? Is our tithe for our churches electric bill and paper plates for the next fellowship meal? Or maybe it is for the youth ski trip! The N.T. is very clear what our tithe is to be used for. Those needs are the poor, widows, orphans, hungry, sick, naked, aliens, prisoners, calamity, christian needy, spouses, children, parents,pastors, missionaries, government, enemies and the Kingdom of God. IJohn 3, James 1, Matt. 25, Luke 10, Rom 12, ITim 5,
    I Cor 9, Phil 4,
    Rom 13,

    If a pastor’s giving is habitual (keeps us out of trouble with the deacons and the finance committee) it will obviously take time to unlearn this behavior, but we have decided that it is worth striving toward the goal of seeking God with all our heart and looking to see where we can make the most difference. Giving to our church doesn’s secure God’s favor. Jesus paid the price for us so we don’t need to pay our way into heaven.
    What would happen in your church if each week the pastor put cash in the offering plate – not an envelope from Lifeway with a number stamped on it? Would someone be upset that they could not verify what the pastor is giving or not giving? The only reason we keep records is so that we can claim them on our income tax. Whether you decide to claim your contributions on your income tax return is a matter of personal conviction. If you don’t want to profit from your giving don’t do it. Or you could claim it and give the entire return to the church as an offering. I have a friend that works for our state convention and she is the head of our Maternity/Adoption Center. There were people in her church that were keeping track of her tithe and complaing that the state was paying her too much. Can you imagine. Matt 6 says to give to the needy in Secret – don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

    Today I feel a new freedom in knowing that I can put cash in the “offering” plate, or I can buy groceries and diapers for a single mom living in section 8 housing and know that both are Kingdom work. How can I say that I love God and allow people to be hungry?

    I hope that if you don’t already see the significance of giving with a cheerful heart to the work of God – not to the “machine” we call church that you will find this freedom that God has awakened in our family today.


  2. Hey Pam,

    Thanks for sharing this with me. This post was actually a little facetious. I pretty much already agree with everything you’ve said.

    Thanks again for the comment.

    God’s Glory,

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