Tithing as a Military Family

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Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for 9 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She has a Masters in Emergency Management from American Military University and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, on Many Kind Regards, and multiple digital magazines and blogs.
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Contrary to public opinion, no one is getting rich off the military, and in case you aren’t sure what people make, it’s public knowledge so google is your friend. There are many issues that plague those tithing as a military family that don’t affect the rest of the population.

As a military wife, I’ve struggled with tithing because sometimes, it feels like everyone else already gets so much. The Army gets more than its fair share of my husband’s time. There are so many military families that live paycheck to paycheck, an astounding number of them on public assistance, and a huge percentage in serious debt. So while we may live comfortably, just balancing on that paycheck, how can we be expected to tithe? What percentage of military families actively tithe? How do they do it?

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Are Their Rules on tithing as a military family?

Tithing is not simple, nor is it straightforward. The general consensus is 10% of income. The Bible does a good job of setting us up, but it doesn’t answer all these questions for us.

And this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth,” Genesis 28:22.

All that you give me? Well, the cut and dry answer would be ‘yes’…of everything we receive. God should get 10% back. But is that 10% before taxes or after? Does it include your tax return? Does it include gifts, bonuses, extra income? What are the rules here?

One thing I struggle with as a working wife of a military family is that I do not have a constant income. As a freelance writer, my income varies drastically month to month, so it is hard to know what to tithe. A friend at church recommended that I tithe on October in November, when I know what I made and can make it accurate. He always reassures me that God knows my intentions and a few dollars here or there, or a mathematical error is not going to put me out of favor.

When speaking to some of my military friends, I was relieved to find that there was not set way to tithe as a military family. I always knew there was no cut-and-dry way of doing this, but talking to women who have a very similar lifestyle as mine made this so much easier. One military spouse gives 5% to their home church and 5% to the church they attend at the time. One gives 10% total, but divides it up between church and other charitable donations. Yet another military family currently tithes at 8% and has a plan to move up to 10% after reaching the next “career milestone.”

How We Tithe as a military Family

We have given money to the church pretty solidly for about 5 years now. When we first began going to church consistently, we knew that we needed to play our part in supporting the programs we were benefiting from. But for quite a while, I had a hard time figuring out how much to give and how to make it work with our budget. When we were in the same church each Sunday, it was easy to write a check to them. When we traveled to visit family, I was conflicted. I felt guilty for not giving to that church and I felt equally not giving to our home church, even though we weren’t there.

We moved again, church shopped for about six months, and settled on going to church at the chapel on post. This was even harder for me to give because all the programs (some I didn’t agree with) run by the chapel are funded from the same pot of money. Religion in the military is one of those weird things. They have Chaplains of all faiths, Christian and not, and yet they are not encouraged to express their particular faith. So at a Protestant service, we could have any number of chaplains who all believed something slightly different. And, while we were encouraged to give during the Sunday service, we were also encouraged to give during the weekly AWANAs program and during our Women’s Bible Study. It was hard to juggle it all.

When we switched to a community church, we were immediately impressed with their approach to tithing. They make it easy to trust them with our money. They were completely transparent about where the money was going and what they had planned for it. They were open with their plans, they updated us frequently as to how the camp gains are going, and they are not pushy. In fact, one week, a pastor mentioned that if you felt the pull to give to another church you were visiting, or your home church, or a different program, then you should do that. That was what sold me.

Tips on tithing as a military family

Army wife Amy Bushatz was very open about her family’s tithing practices,

We believe that the Bible tells us to tithe from the ‘first fruits’ of our income, and to us that means all our income, before taxes.”

She admits this has been challenging and it has been hard to figure out just what they make each month. “I do my best to figure out what my income is, what his income is, and what we should give the Lord Almighty – and trust that He knows my intentions are good.”

You can split your tithe to multiple organizations

Amy again offers some great advice on the particulars of where the money is going to. They, like our family, split their tithe into multiple places.  “We give some money to a few organizations and to the local church we attend.”

My family follows this same method. Ten percent of our total income is the amount we spend on tithe, but we allow ourselves to split it up how we’d like, to benefit organizations in and outside of the church that are also important to us.

You can designate your tithe within your church

While we trust the church to be good stewards of our money, sometimes it calls for a conversation about where we want that money to go within the church’s ministries. Amy and her family had a conversation about this with their local church,

“We knew the church needed that extra space, but we also knew we wouldn’t be there to see it, and we wanted our money to go to other important things, so we talked to the church leaders and they were able to designate our tithe to those items.

At our church, we can give online and designate how much we want going to the General Fund, Building Fund, Children’s Ministry, etc. Not all churches allow congregants to split up their tithe like Amy or our family can, but it’s nice when they do!

Take Advantage of Automatic Payments

Another army spouse highly recommends automatic payments, either through the church themselves, or through the bank. “That way the church gets our money even if we’re on vacation,” she says. “We base our amount on take-home pay and add it right into our budget.”

One thing she also brought up was what to do when moving and during that period of “church shopping” that occurs each time a family settles in a new place. “When we aren’t physically attending a church on a regular basis (during a move), we week out a charity to donate to with our tithe money,” she says.

In the military we often see thoughts and reports summaries with “bottom line up front” or BLUF. So here it is:

Our intention to do good in God’s eyes is what counts.

We have to have clear, biblical instructions on giving 10%, but how and where we give that is up to us. We will know when we made a mistake, we will know when it’s time to give more, and we will know exactly where it should go if we listen and obey.

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Rebecca Alwine

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