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Question 130

Q: I travel out of state for work and incur expenses that are paid out of pocket and not reimbursed by my employer.

Pastor Lutzer, how much do I tithe based on this decrease in income: on the gross including these payments, or should it be on the net amount after the payment of these expenses?

Asked by: Chris

A: Well Chris, your question is very much like one I am frequently asked by people, they ask if they should tithe on their gross income or their net income.

When it comes to income tax, and if you pay 25% income tax, or maybe even 30%, that makes a huge difference in terms of the amount that you were to give the church or to missionaries, and so, it is, indeed, a dilemma.

Well, I can simply ask you this question: what would you like God to bless? Do you want God to bless you on your gross income, or do you want God to bless you on your net income? Because the Apostle Paul does say that whatever we sow, we reap, and the person who sows sparingly, reaps sparingly.

Now, of course, I’m not teaching health and wealth, as if to say that you can give your way to prosperity. But I am saying that blessing comes to those who are generous, and that leads to the second part of my answer which is that I hope that you aren’t tithing legalistically.

I’m a little bit troubled by what you wrote. The question of whether or not you give on the total or some of your expenses may indicate that you have taken this up as a kind of requirement of legalism. There is nowhere in the New Testament that tells us we’re to give ten percent. Of course I think we should, based on the Old Testament, and the generous people we should be. But it isn’t a requirement.

In the Old Testament, tithing was like a tax, everybody had to do it. But that’s not the way it is now. And so, I hope and pray that you’re a joyful giver, that you enjoy what you’re doing, and the whole issue of whether or not it should be ten percent over all, or just part of your income due to out of pocket expenses, isn’t a big issue to you. Just give generously, give joyfully, and I venture to say, you’ll probably give more than ten percent.

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