Probably the biggest question that I received from my sermon Breaking the Curse with the First has to do with marriage and the tithe. I have heard many people ask this question: “What if my spouse doesn’t agree with giving the tithe?” This is a very REAL question, and one that is also very difficult to answer.
First, let me just empathize with this situation. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for a married couple to not share the same spiritual fervor for Christ. I am so very blessed to have a spouse that loves Christ and His Church. We are very much on the same page when it comes to honoring God with the tithe. We are also very blessed and have lived The Blessed Life as long as we’ve been married.
Let me also say this is why I always tell single folks that your spiritual compatibility matters when it comes to picking a spouse. When you are single, these issues rarely come up. You each have your own jobs and your own financial means. But when you unite in marriage, everything changes. Don’t be unequally yoked with a non-believer!!
Let me try to address the question of marriage and the tithe. It is tricky to navigate through God’s Word to find a specific answer, when it doesn’t clearly deal with this situation. I do believe that the Bible is very clear that we can live with a curse when we withhold from God what is His. Yet, I also know that God is a God of grace, and He knows the intent of the heart, even if the opportunity is not there.
At the risk of sounding sexist, let me approach this question from two perspectives.
What if a wife has a husband that doesn’t follow Christ or refuses to return the tithe to God? This situation seems even stickier if the wife works in the home rather than in another job outside home. What if both make money, shouldn’t both have a say in how it get’s spent? (All good questions.)
To this, I encourage women to ultimately submit to their husbands. The Bible tells us clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:13 that a believing wife should remain married to her unbelieving husband as long as he’ll have her. I don’t believe that a non-believing husband should be pushed away from the Gospel because he doesn’t understand the tithe.
Perhaps, the woman could tell her husband that she wants to give at certain times. I believe that although the wife may want to give to God the tithe, but cannot, God sees her heart and offers grace in these situations. Will they be free of the curse? I’m not sure, since her husband is bound by the curse of his sin regardless.
I have had some women tell me they got a job in which they received tips, and they were going to give a tithe on that money. I encouraged them to do it as long as it doesn’t cause strife at home.
Let me clear about this, every situation is different. Every marital relationship is different. My best advice is to “pray about it.” This is NOT one of those clear situations from Scripture, and I believe we have to ultimately trust God to lead us uniquely.
What if a husband has a wife that does not believe in Christ or refuses to give the tithe?
I would say that the same answer I gave for the wife would apply here. However, I believe there is also another principle at work here based on the situation.
The Bible clearly shows there is a level of authority delegated to the man to lead his wife and family. It is stated in 1 Corinthians 11:3. If I were counseling a couple in which both claim to follow Christ, but the man wants to tithe and the wife does not, then I would point them to Ephesians 5:22 which says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
Scripture clearly calls Christian wives to submit to the leadership of their husbands. If a husband wants to lead his family to experience God’s blessing, then I believe he should be able to make that decision. If a Christian wife refused to submit to her husband, it really reflects a bigger issue in that she refuses to submit to the Lord. I would question her spiritual place in Christ at that moment.
However, if a believing husband has a wife that is not a professing Christian and doesn’t want them to tithe, then I would encourage him to pray about this situation and tell his wife that he at leasts wants to be able to give at certain times. I would also encourage him to continue to pray for his wife to be open to the Gospel and for God to change her heart.
Please remember that these type of scenarios are all unique. The Bible does not clearly address this situation. It does warn us not to get into this type of situation by choice, but sometimes a husband or wife experiences radical change after marriage.
I am thankful at these times that our God has grace for us, and that ultimately He sees our hearts. I believe in each situation we have to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us. I hope this is as clear as mud!