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Should Christians Tithe on Gross or Net Income? Thumbnail

Should Christians Tithe on Gross or Net Income?

One of the most popular questions for Christians in America today is whether you’re supposed to tithe on your gross or net income. If you type the question above into Google, you will get about 2,100,000 results in 0.38 seconds. 

The problem is that it focuses on the details and misses the big picture of what really matters. Why does God call us to tithe in the first place? Instead of focusing on the dollars and percentages, we need to shift our gaze to focus on the reasons behind it. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus called out the religious leaders of his time for focusing on the numbers and not what really matters and it is just as applicable today as it was then. 

God is more interested in your heart than your stuff. He makes it clear in Psalm 50:9-12 when he declares:  

I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens,

for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.

If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

The reason he cares about what you do with your stuff is because it reveals your heart, as Jesus explained in Matthew 6:21. Everything starts in your heart before it is displayed in your actions, which Jesus eloquently demonstrated in the second half of Matthew 5. He’s looking at your heart. So when it comes to the tithe, what is he looking for in your heart?


God wants us to place our trust in him instead of our own self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is a big part of our American culture, but it has no place in God’s Kingdom. God is our provider and the one that sustains us, we are not. Jeremiah 27:5 quotes God saying, “With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.” He is the one that gives us everything we have and, as we see in the story of Job, he can take it all away in an instant if he so desires. 

Trusting in ourselves instead of God is vanity and it only serves to separate us from him and his provision. He promises to take care of us and one of his greatest desires is for us to actually believe him. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34


God also desires that we would learn to practice contentment instead of greed. Yes, it is something that must be practiced to truly develop. Even the great Apostle Paul admitted that it was something he had to learn in Philippians 4:11. And it wasn’t something that he did in his own power, he depended on God’s strength. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” is applied to everything from math tests to getting out of bed in the morning, but in context, it was referring to learning contentment.  

Once he learned to be content, Paul realized its benefits, as he tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” God wants us to experience those great gains, which is why he instructs us to learn contentment. Contentment is ultimately rooted in trust, as we see in Hebrews 13:5


When we learn to be content with what we have and recognize that it all comes from God and not our own strength, then we will hold everything we own with an open hand. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received; freely give.” There are Kingdom principles at play, as explained in Proverbs 11:24-25:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more;

another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous person will prosper;

whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

The Bible says that generosity will benefit us, but should not be our reason for being generous. Remember, it’s all about your heart. Your generosity should be a heart response to God’s generosity. After all, everything we have can be gone in an instant, like what happened with Job. If that happens, what are we left with? When you take away all of your worldly possessions, what you are left with is who you are on the inside and your relationship with God and others. And that’s what really matters. 

Gross or Net?

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t answer the gross versus net question. That was intentional. That question is firmly decided in my mind and I have very strong convictions regarding it. However, if I tell you what to do, it will simply be a rule that you follow to be a good Christian. And as I’ve just explained, that’s the opposite of what it’s supposed to be. 

You need to develop your own convictions regarding this question for it to truly matter. It needs to be between you and God and not someone else telling you what to do. How do you do that? Dig into the Scripture and take it to God in prayer. When you seek him, you will find him and he will lead you and guide you. Here are a few Scriptures to get you started:

Finally, I would like to end with this: What is the whole point behind the tithe? Luke 16:11.

About Amy Artiga

Amy Artiga is a Christian fee-only Certified Financial Planner™. She has a passion for helping people of all income levels make wise financial decisions and steward their resources from an eternal perspective using Biblical principles. Based in Vancouver, WA, she works with clients virtually throughout the country and abroad through Guide Financial Planning and serves pastors through Pastor’s Wallet. You can follow the links to learn more about Guide Financial Planning and our team and the services we offer.