Skip to main content

What If My Spouse Doesn't Want to Tithe?

couple sitting on bench

"Dear CMR, my wife and I recently got married and are working on a family budget. I think it's important to budget in our tithe, but she didn't grow up doing that and isn't really on board. I'm having a hard time explaining why it's important. Can you help?"

Congratulations on taking the first steps of handling your finances together by building a family budget. Successful money interaction in a marriage comes down to simply working together in your financial decisions and clearly communicating your money desires. However, when it comes to giving there can often be conflict because it doesn’t make financial sense. Why would you give something away when you get nothing in return? Ron Blue says this well in Generous Living:

“If I could boil down everything I have learned into one sentence or thought, it would be this: Generosity and financial freedom are inextricably linked. If you want to replace fear, guilt, and frustration with freedom, confidence and joy, you have to hold your treasures – your money, your possessions, your time and talents – with and open hand” 

Fortunately, the Bible provides us with over 2,350 verses on handling our money and possessions. I would suggest reading them together and see how it affects your hearts towards giving. The Bible even mentions the patron women behind Jesus’ ministry – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, and the patron woman behind Paul’s ministry – Phoebe. What an amazing Kingdom investment these women made with their resources! 

Before even addressing the tithe or budget we need to determine who owns our money. Is it mine, or is it God’s? “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it contains.” (Ps. 24:1) “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.” (Hg. 2:4) God owns it all! When we have a proper perspective that it is not ours in the first place, but rather God’s, then the question isn’t about should I give a tithe (10%), but how do you handle all of it (100%). 

Why do we give?

We believe that there are six guiding principles to why we give:

  1. Giving is a tangible way to acknowledge God’s ownership and provision in our lives (1 Cor. 4:7; Dt. 8:16-18; Hg. 2:8; Ps. 24:1)

  2. Giving is commanded by God and allows believers to display obedience (Prv. 3:9-10; 1 Tm. 6:17-19; Lk. 6:38)

  3. Giving helps prioritize life issues and ultimately break the power of money in our lives (Lk. 16:11-13; Prv. 18:10-11; 1 Tm. 6:9-10)

  4. Giving is a way to meet the needs of others (Ex. 16:18; 2 Cor. 8:15; Phil. 4:16; 1 Jn. 3:17)

  5. Giving can lead to personal rewards (2 Cor. 5:10; Mt. 6:20; Lk. 12:33; Phil. 4:17)

  6. Giving is a great way to worship and show gratitude (Jn 3:16; Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8: 1-6)

How do we give?

Before telling your spouse that you want to tithe, spend some time determining what your motivation is for giving. Do you have a generous and cheerful spirit? (2 Cor. 9:6-8) Is it love for God and for others? (1 Cor. 13:3) Is it for recognition? (Mt. 6:3) Or is it just because of duty and upbringing?

If you are asking your spouse to tithe, just because you think you should or that it is your duty, then your heart could be in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong, I do think we should tithe and that there are biblical commands to give, but your heart needs to be in the right place. 

When you clean the kitchen for your spouse or provide a compliment, do you do it out of duty or joy and love? It is the same with giving! Giving opens our hearts to joy unspeakable. How is this? Is it because it makes us feel good or happy that we are doing good? Sure, but that isn’t the foundation. The foundation is that the gospel is about the greatest gift, the one that God gave us in his Son. Giving was designed by God. He was the first and ultimate giver. By giving we reflect God and enjoy the benefits of being in his presence and assisting in His work.

Where do we give?

A great place to start on your giving journey is to determine as a couple where you would want to give. Early on in our marriage we did not give consistently. We had not found a permanent church and didn’t feel passionate to give to one. However, we still had passions for the Kingdom, and so we gave to some ministries that we saw great value in. One of them was actually the Center for Marriage and Relationships! 

Eventually we found a church and more ministries we love, and we determine each year what we want to give to each. We pray about each ministry and our church and what figure we want to give each. We always make our most significant giving to the church. Don’t be held back by percentages – a tithe is a great reference point, but give as you are able. One key that we have found is that where you invest your time, skill, and influence is where you find the most joy giving. 

What now?

When there are differences among your giving desires and your spouse’s, lean into understanding why they want to or why they do not want to give. Finding unity together in all your financial decisions will lead to success and joy. Don’t let giving lead to strife. The most important thing you can do is pray for your spouse’s heart toward giving. It may take some time, and you may have to go through a season of not giving, but know that God sees your heart and will bless your intentions. We believe that as you start giving, no matter how small, you will both find joy, contentment, and a desire to give more. Our mission statement is 1 Timothy 6:18: “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share.”

For help building your financial plan, take advantage of this limited time offer for a free ebook copy of Russ Crosson’s newest book Your Money Made Simple, as seen in Christianity Today. Offer ends September 15. 

Resources for deeper reflection:

God and Money – John Cortines and Greg Baumer

Money and Marriage God’s Way – Howard Dayton

Master Your Money – Ron Blue with Michael Blue

The Treasure Principle – Randy Alcorn 

Giving Together – John Rinehart