I’m going to hell for this post. Oh well, it’s not like I wasn’t going there anyway. I’ll say hi to Hitler for you guys.

Let me tell you all a story about an ex-girlfriend. We had been dating for about a year and a half. You guys probably can’t imagine me as anything but a curmudgeony bastard who yells at teenagers, but I was quite smitten with this particular girl. She used to make me apple crisp. She texted me good night every single night. And, most importantly, she used to let me do, uh, certain extracurricular activities.

There was one problem that turned out to eventually lead to the end of the relationship. Led by her parents, the family was pretty hardcore religious. They went to church every Sunday. They prayed before each meal. My ex and her siblings were home schooled, because there wasn’t a school in the area that satisfied the family’s bible based needs.

Now, enter me. I am certainly not religious. Depending on the day and my mood, I go from being agnostic to a full out atheist. I have no idea why people will base their entire lives on a book. And yet, I dated a hardcore Christian girl for a year and a half. I also foolishly thought we could just agree to disagree with the religious stuff.

Of course we couldn’t. We broke up. But before we did, I had a conversation with my girl and her mom about saving money. As I maintain here, I think everyone should be saving at least 10% of their income for long term growth. I told them this. Mom responded by saying that was a good idea, but only if God was taken care of first. It took me a minute, but I realized she was talking about tithing. It was suggested that she should tithe before she saved for any long term goals.

Let me be clear before I finish up this post. If you feel the need to tithe, then knock yourself out. It’s your money and your business what you do with it. Even though I see no value in it, I can understand the desire to support something you feel strongly about. With that out of the way:

Tithing is a really bad thing to do if you want to get ahead financially.

That’s not really groundbreaking. Giving away 10% of your income is a pretty poor way to get rich. It doesn’t matter who you give it to, it’s gone. It can’t be invested for long term growth, or used to pay down debt, or even used to buy food. Getting ahead on 100% of your income is hard enough, cutting it down to 90% is just placing an unnecessary weight upon yourself.

Okay, maybe I’m being too hard on the church. Maybe they tell people not to tithe if they have debt. Or, maybe they don’t have to tithe if they’re paying off high interest consumer debt. Or, perhaps the church is lenient on young adults attending school.

No on all three counts. The church doesn’t necessarily expect 10% of everyone’s income, but it sure does encourage it. To paraphrase the old George Carlin joke, why does an all knowing and all powerful God need your money? The answer is, like every organization, money makes it a whole lot easier to expand your agenda.

This puts the church in a bit of an awkward spot. They need money for churchy stuff, so they hit up members for their 10% tithe. But members, like most people, don’t have enough left over at the end of the month. Which is why, according to a 2002 survey, only 3% of regular churchgoers actually give their full 10%. Another 3% gave the church something regularly, meaning a full 94% of attendees don’t regularly give the church a cent. I’m reminded of this exchange during a Simpsons episode, while the collection plate is being passed around at church:

Marge: 30 cents off Shake N’ Bake? Homer!

Homer: We can spare it Marge. We’ve been blessed.

Getting people to tithe is hard, apparently. And it’s no wonder. Most people can’t save anything. They struggle to make ends meet, and then they go to church and are expected to give 10% of their income. They can’t do it. Mortgages and other debts need to get paid first. So the church goes without.

Churches are starting to realize this. Dave Ramsey is so closely affiliated with the church, I’m surprised he hasn’t been named a saint yet. If churches can get their congregations on the right path with their finances, that’s more wealth to be passed back to the church. And yet, I’m sure these courses are always represented as a way to help church members.

Unless you’re super frugal or an exceptionally high earner, tithing the full amount and saving for retirement will be pretty hard. Which is why you, like so many other members of the church, just shouldn’t bother.

This was a recycle Friday post, originally published in 2011. You made it all the way to the end without realizing that, so why not leave a comment on how you think I’m a bad guy? Either for this or the tithing. Your choice. 

Tell everyone, yo!