A friend of mine recently confided, “I always tithe from my income, but I would never tell my husband . . . he would not approve.” My initial response was respect for this act of devotion toward God in spite of the resistance her husband represents. However, as the conversation settled in, I began to question my friend’s actions.
Pastor Roger at Crosswalk.com
Her situation is similar to the question, “What if My Husband Won’t Let Me Tithe?” submitted to Pastor Roger at Crosswalk.com. Two differences are that my friend’s husband is not a believer and that my friend is keeping her giving a secret. However, the same question arises: Should one spouse tithe when the other spouse doesn’t approve?
I agree with Pastor Roger that the wife should not force the issue. I hope you take time to read his thoughts, but I will attempt to provide a brief summary here. Pastor Roger states that tithing should be a natural outflow of love and devotion to God (Luke 11:42), and that the husband (who is a professing Christian) is behaving like an unbeliever. The wife, therefore, should strive to practice Peter’s admonition to women married to unbelievers, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
He adds, “winning him over ‘without words’ in no way precludes a talk as to why he’s reluctant to tithe. At the right time, and in the right way, it’s OK to explore with him why he refuses to tithe – or to allow you to tithe.” There are many possible reasons:
- He may be angry with God.
- He may be blaming God for past hurts.
- He may resent the fact that his spouse makes more money than he does.
- He may think that the church doesn’t need the money – or deserve it.
- He may have a spending problem.
- He may believe that God will not provide if he gets into financial trouble.
- He may be bowing down to the god of Materialism.
In conclusion, Pastor Roger recommends not forcing the tithing issue, submitting to her husband’s authority and, when the husband is open to it, discuss his reluctance to tithe.
The Three Points I’d Add
1. All marital money belongs to both spouses.
Both my friend and the writer to “Ask Roger” distinguished between “my money” and “his money”. I love Dave Ramsey’s observation, “The preacher said, ‘and now your are one’. He didn’t say ‘and now you are a joint venture’.” My point is that married couples own all assets together, meaning both must agree on how to use those assets. The question “Should I tithe my money?” should not even be asked because neither spouse has their own money.
2. Marital secrets are time bombs.
Without telling her husband, my friend piously tithes, almost with a martyr’s complex. As I mentioned earlier, once I digested what she was saying, I began to question her giving. In fact, I asked her, “Do you believe that God wants you to keep secrets from your husband?”, to which she replied, “Yes, if that is what it takes for me to tithe.” I disagree. Such secrets will undermine the quality of any marriage, and I cannot imagine God winking at her as if to give His permission. Eventually, the truth will come out and I am concerned that whatever Christian witness she brought to the marriage will be compromised by this deceit. In her effort to please God, she may be effectively destroying any hope for her husband to come to faith.
3. Husbands don’t get a free pass.
Both examples in this post refer to wives, but the very same principles apply to husbands who may want to tithe when their wives don’t approve. My guess is that men will justify controlling the money because they are the breadwinners or because the wives are supposed to submit to them. Husbands: yes, your wife is supposed to submit to your leadership, but you are supposed to earn that leadership by loving your wife as Christ loves the church.
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Just as Christ gave up His life to make the church holy and clean, we husbands should strive to give ourselves up to our wives so they will become holy and clean. Jesus knows that a holy church will want to tithe; in the same way, a wife who is loved unconditionally by her husband will also want to tithe. Forcing a tithe could short circuit the process.
In conclusion, I think all believers should strive to tithe. However, a married couple should do so together. If one spouse is not ready, the other should patiently wait until that time comes.
Readers: Is tithing when your spouse doesn’t approve an issue in your marriage? Are you the one who pushes for the tithe or the one who is being pushed? How does this struggle affect your marriage? Your relationship with God? Leave a comment below!