Should A Christian Business Tithe?

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Last Updated On April 8, 2024

As a small business owner, there are many opinions about whether a business should give or not. Unfortunately, many times they are influenced more by the world than by God’s Word.

This post examines what the Bible has to say about giving, seeks to answer some of the key questions about business giving and discusses some of the practical issues that can arise. I hope this challenges Christian business owners to consider what role giving should have in their business.

What Does The Bible Say About Giving?

American Christians tend to think giving is tithing (giving 10%), but that is just one part of giving in the Bible. I have written a much more extensive post on giving, so I will only make some brief points here.

  • The Tithe predated the Law (Genesis 14:18-20 & Genesis 28:20-22)
  • There were 3 tithes in the Old Testament, totaling 23.33% per year
  • Giving 10% was not meant to be the ceiling of our giving, but the floor
  • Giving is an act of obedience that symbolizes our dependence upon God for everything
  • There was never a punishment for not tithing, but there was a curse (Malachi 3:9)
  • Neither Jesus nor the Apostles rescinded the tithe in the New Testament

Some Christians believe that the tithe no longer applies today, as Christ fulfilled the Law and we are now under grace. I certainly agree with the latter part of the statement, but grace giving doesn’t mean focusing on how little we should give, but how much we should give in light of what Jesus did for us.

J Oswald Sanders says it best in his book Enjoying Intimacy With God “Will a Christian who is experiencing intimacy with his Lord wish to take advantage of grace so that he can give less to God’s work than the less privileged Jew who knew nothing of Calvary’s sacrifice.”

With the average American Christian giving 2.5%, we seem to be missing the point. It is a privilege and blessing to give and support the Lord’s work.

Does What The Bible Say About Giving Apply to Business Income?

Below are a list of commonly asked questions to help you consider this topic:

What is a Christian Business?

A business is a non-living entity, meaning it is neither Christian or non-Christian. If it is run well and is successful, it can outlive the owner(s). The people who own and lead a business, determine whether it is used to glorify God or to oppose God. There is nothing special about the business, it is the people who make the difference.

If A Business Is Not A Person, Do I Need To Give Off It?

If you own a business, it is an asset that has the ability to produce wealth. It is no different than a farm or a stock. If we are to give of all that God has given us, it seems inconsistent to exclude business income.

But The Bible Doesn’t Specifically Mention Business Income…

Leviticus 27:30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord”

The Bible does not mention business income. It also doesn’t mention stocks, bonds, life insurance, Bitcoin etc. The Bible was written to address the main occupation of the audience in that day, which was farming. The underlying principle is that we are called to give a portion from all God has entrusted to us.

I Give On My Income, Isn’t That Enough?

When you give on your income (your paycheck), that is a great start in your giving journey. God certainly provided the money to pay your income, but didn’t he also provide the full business income? For most business owners, their business is their most significant asset. If you give on your income, but not the business income, is that consistent with what the Bible teaches?

If I Give Less Now, Can’t I Give More Later?

Many business owners reinvest all (or most) of their profit back into the business to help it grow. This in turn may lead to bigger profits in future years. If I choose not to give now (or give less), I can grow the business and have more to give down the road. What I have seen over the years is when income increases, giving does not. There will always be another reason to delay giving.

In Luke 16:10 Jesus says One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Are you being faithful with what God has entrusted to you right now?

But Won’t Giving Stop My Business From Growing?

When we give on business income, it doesn’t make sense from a worldly perspective. We are taking a piece from our pie, leaving less for the business to grow. But we forget that God is the baker and can make the pie bigger. In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus took five loaves and two fish, and fed over 5,000 people. If Jesus can do that with food, what can he do with your business?

Here are a couple of verses to consider:

Proverbs 11:24 says One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”

Malachi 3:10 God says 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.

This doesn’t mean that God will grow your business financially due to tithing, but it does mean God will bless you.

Should I Give Off Gross Or Net Business Income?

Proverbs 3:9 says “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.”

In Old Testament times, most people were farmers. When they gave to the Lord, it was the first fruits of their crop. This was normally the best of the harvest, and was a sign of their reliance upon the Lord to bring the rest of the harvest in. After all, a storm, pestilence etc could destroy it. They were providing a visible reminder of their faith in God to provide.

When they gave, they didn’t deduct the cost of the seed, labor, rent etc, and then give off that amount (the net). Rather, they gave off the total harvest (the gross). Each farmer ran their own small business and gave off their total earnings.  

What Really Is the Problem?

There are three main problems surrounding our response to business giving:

Our Heart Is The Issue

All money issues come from the heart. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As a business owner, it is very easy to become distracted and start building your kingdom, and not God’s kingdom. Do you have a balance in your life between God’s priorities and your business priorities? Striking a balance is very difficult, and will be a lifelong struggle.

Fear vs Faith

How we use money is the barometer of our faith. We either become fearful that God won’t provide and hoard it, or trust that God will provide and reorder our lives to support His priorities. When we give, money (and fear) loses it’s grip on our lives.

Giving Out of Obligation

it can be easy to read something on giving and feel that you should give, even though you don’t want to. I would strongly encourage you to not give because of what I am saying. Giving because you feel you have to is not consistent with the Bible.

2 Corinthians 9:7 says  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” God cares more about your heart attitude when you give, than anything else. If you are reluctant to give, ask God to change your heart.

One resource that may be a help to adjust your perspective is Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle. It has been very helpful in my own stewardship journey.

How Can I Tithe If My Net Profit Is Less Than 10%?

Many businesses have 10% or less in net profit, so if you give off gross income there would be nothing left to invest in the business. Here are three key principles to consider:

God Owns It All

Deuteronomy 10:14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.”

God owns your business, and you are called to manage it for His glory. He is the one ultimately responsible for its success, not you. This can be hard to hear when you have a successful business, but it is not about you, it is about Him. Since He is the ultimate owner of the business, are you managing it for His Glory and purposes, or your own?

Reduce/Eliminate Debt

Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave to the lender.”

One of the areas that causes businesses issues, is their use of debt. Debt allows a business to grow more quickly, but it has a cost in interest and flexibility. When you look at your business’s financials, how much of the business income goes to paying off debt? If you reduced or eliminated debt, would that provide you funds to give?

Pay What You Owe 

Romans 13:7 says “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

Psalm 37:21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives”

Sometimes when Christian business owners are convicted about giving, they can be tempted to start giving right away and neglect their other commitments. Giving to the Lord, but not paying what you owe others is not a good testimony. As Christians, we are called to honor our commitments to others, whether that is to employees, suppliers, customers, the community etc. How we handle these commitments, has an impact on the world around us.

If you desire to give, it should be done while still honoring your business commitments. It may take time for you to restructure/pay off your existing commitments so that you can give.

Practical Ways to Give

There are many ways that Christian businesses have given over the years. Here are two examples of how other Christians have incorporated giving in their business:

  • Some business owners give 10% or more of their gross income. Depending on how the business is structured, either the owner gives it away personally, or the business gives directly to charity.
    • A well-known example of this is R.G. LeTourneau who invented and manufactured large earthmoving equipment (a very capital intensive business). He gave 90% of what God provided, saying “I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back — but God has a bigger shovel.” 
    • Years ago, in my local area there was a small business owner who gave 10% of his business income to support missions work. He assembled a group of godly men who were knowledgeable about mission needs, and tasked them with distributing it. His giving had an untold impact for the Gospel.

Final Thought

Being a business owner can consume much of our focus and attention in life. It can easily distract us from focusing on God’s priorities, forgetting that we have an opportunity now to have an impact for eternity. Your business can have a powerful impact for the Gospel. How will you use the business God has entrusted to you to glorify Him?

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