Who Do You Pay First?

by Derek Clark

Today’s post is a guest post from Brian at Bibledebt.com. He writes articles about money and debt from a scriptural and practical point of view. You can follow his updates at bibledebt.com, on twitter, RSS feeds, Facebook or by visiting his blog.

Over at Financial Bondage, Arthur brings up a topic most of us probably don’t think to much about. In my opinion, what he is really asking is who do you pay first? When you receive your paycheck, where is the first place you go with your money?

Expenses, Expenses, Expenses

There are so many obligations we have financially these days. We need to keep the lights on, the water running and food in our stomachs. We also need to maintain transportation to get to work, entertainment to keep us sane and heat to keep us warm (especially in Michigan where I live). By the way, we also have to make our rent or mortgage payment, so we have somewhere to store our stuff! By the time we pay for all of these things, many times there is still a little bit of month left at the end of our money. Then we may store a little debt on our credit cards and pay off a little bit from last month.

Whew, that is a lot of stuff! I am sure I have missed many other obligations we have such as activities for our kids, money for maintenance and repair on our homes and cars, and upkeep on that beautiful green lawn!

Wait a minute! I have missed an important thing, we need to pay ourselves. We need to save for emergencies and save for retirement. I am sure a financially secure future is something most of us desire.

Where does God fit into our lists? Is he on our list? Is he on our list only if there is any money left at the end of our expenses or is he the first check we write each month?

Consider these verses from Deuteronomy 18:4-5:

You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, 5 for the LORD your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the LORD’s name always.

Clearly God intends for the money he has entrusted us with to be used first for his kingdom.

What did God think of Cain’s offering in Genesis 4:2b-5a:

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.

“Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil” and Abel “brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock”. Abel was looked on with favor where Cain was not looked on with favor. Clearly once again, the LORD wants you to trust him with your best and have faith you will be taken care of.
Net or Gross?

Does this mean your first fruits should come from your net or gross income? Gross income is what you get before Uncle Sam takes his share and before any other deductions. Net income is what is left.

Where does God fit into your financial priorities? Do you feel it is important to give God your best and first, or some of the best? Consider that God gave his best, his first and only son, for you and me. The least we can do is to give our first and best back to him.

Note from Derek:
My feelings are that God gets the first cut, before Uncle Sam. While my parents weren’t the best at teaching me financially, tithing is one thing that they did hammer into me. I am very glad they did. Tithing a dollar when I made $10 wasn’t too hard and it started a great habit. If I had to just start tithing now when we are talking about thousands of dollars a year it would be much tougher to get started. We have continued to give while we were getting out of debt, and I think we have been blessed because of it.

That being said, in our society less than 3% of Christians tithe. I guess it doesn’t make much difference if it is gross or net, apparently nobody is doing either. Give what you can and try to work your way up. I personally can’t wait to get to Baby Step 7 and have the opportunity to give as much as I can.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos Frank April 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Great post Derek: The topic of giving & tithing is a very polarizing one these days and I like the way you address it on this post. I like what you said so much in on paragraph that I don’t even what to summarize it but will repeat it here:

“Where does God fit into your financial priorities? Do you feel it is important to give God your best and first, or some of the best? Consider that God gave his best, his first and only son, for you and me. The least we can do is to give our first and best back to him.”

It’s tough for me to give our God who gave us his best our “left overs” (Net).

Reply

Derek Clark April 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Yeah I completely agree. Even though we’ve been putting all our extra money towards debt, it was never a consideration not to keep giving. It’s all his anyways, it shouldn’t be that hard to give 10%.

Reply

Jacob April 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm

But, if all of the money is God’s, why are you giving it to a church? I am cool for giving it to God, but how do you know that the church is the right place? Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to that 10% and instead help a person out? At least that way, you’re helping an individual God created — if that is what you so believe — rather than helping a building. Just seems so far fetched to me.

Reply

Derek Clark April 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm

The key is being at a church that helps people. My church has all kinds of great ministries that help many people from all walks of life. If you are part of a church that doesn’t help people, you should be working to change it, or working on finding a new church.

If you want to give money to other charities that do a better job of helping that is ok with me. I don’t think there is any one person I’m going to give 10% of my income to, and I don’t have the time right now to find all the different people I would want to give to. As such, I look for a church and other charities that are accomplishing things that I think are good and worthy causes.

The church isn’t the building, it is the people that make it up. I know them and I know the things that are being done with the money. Individuals that God created are benefiting greatly. If they weren’t, I’d be going to a different church. (Yes I realize some of it goes to keeping the lights on, but that is something that is necessary to the other ministries).

Reply

Jacob April 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I guess so. I just don’t trust organized religion so when people say I should give a percentage rather than an amount, I get angry, ya know?

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