Last week, USA Today featured an article on Christians who continue to tithe even as they face foreclosure.
Tithing is the practice of donating 10% of your gross income to your church. It’s not a common practice (only 5% of American adults tithe), but it’s important to those who choose to do so. It’s a component not just of Christianity, but other religions as well.
But what happens when tithing interferes with your ability to pay the mortgage? The USA Today article explores this conflict.
“I’ve had home owners who face foreclosure sitting in front of me saying, ‘I’ll do anything, anything to keep my home,” said Ozell Brooklin, director of Acorn Housing in Atlanta, a nonprofit which offers foreclosure counseling.
“But after we’ve gone through their monthly expenses and the only thing left to cut is their tithe, they say ‘I guess this home is not for me’ and they walk away,” he said.
The article discusses just how important this conviction is for some people, and how they’re willing to sacrifice their homes in order to continue tithing. “To stay current on the $500 monthly mortgage, [one woman] was faced with giving up a tithe to her local evangelical church of around $200 a month. Instead, she let the property go into foreclosure.”
For many people, tithing is the most important part of their budget. Even before the age-old admonition to “pay yourself first” (which means to set money aside into savings before paying your bills), these folks donate money to church or charity. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it can lead to financial decisions that most people never face.
But is tithing really the reason some people face foreclosure? Or is the financial distress a symptom of deeper problems?
Tithing is another reminder that financial decisions aren’t all about the numbers. Our personal convictions affect our choices. I frequently say that money is more about mind than it is about math; our decisions are influenced more by our psychology and emotions than they are by the arithmetic of the situation. But sometimes our financial decisions are also subject to other forces, such as religious beliefs and personal convictions.
Note: Get Rich Slowly does not take a stand on religious or political issues. I’m presenting this topic for discussion because I think it’s fascinating, not because I want to promote or denigrate any particular point of view. Although I don’t tithe to church or charity, I respect and admire those who do. Please be considerate in the comments.