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What’s More Important: Your Tithing or your Mortgage?

If you had to choose between paying your mortgage and tithing to your religious organization, which would you do?  I’ve recently had first hand experience with people who are facing this crisis, and the dilemma is a mixture of deeply rooted religious belief, morality, and fiscal responsibility.

Tithing Or Mortgage?

If you tithe 10% of your income, and your ARM resets, how do you come up with the money to pay the mortgage?  If the last option is to possibly cut tithing, many people are choosing to do just walk away instead.  What makes this interesting is that if the mortgage could otherwise be afforded, where does the lines of ethics, faith, and responsibility converge?

Keep this in mind:  I recently saw a case where a certain large lender refused to do a loan mod because they saw that the owner was paying a monthly tithe.  Because the owner could afford to tithe, the bank decided that he could easily decide to pay the mortgage instead, and refused to modify an ARM that was getting ready to reset.  The question becomes one of personal conviction, is it more important to pay God or pay your lender?  I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer here, so I don’t want to blame anyone who makes one choice over another.

Choosing Between Tithing and Solvency

Obviously, the bank has a point.  The owner COULD afford the mortgage, provided he break a deeply held religious belief that it is his duty to tithe to his church.  For him, to not tithe is a sign that he does not have faith in God.  Part of the concept behind the tithe is faith that God will provide for those that help others.  The belief in that core concept eliminates the argument of morality in regards to not paying your mortgage.  He believes that regardless of the outcome, it is his solemn responsibility to tithe, no matter the consequences.

Religious Discrimination?

It’s apparent that for many, tithing is a core principle of their religion.  When their home gets in the way of religious duty, the home has to go if no other way of paying the mortgage can be found.  In the case mentioned above, it begs the question.  Because providing to the church is a core religious belief, has the bank violated non-discrimination laws by telling him they won’t provide a loan mod because of his tithing?  If he makes $1,100 a month, tithes 10% ($110), and is refused a loan mod, would there be a case for religious discrimination if the owner finds the neighbor got a loan mod because he only makes $990/mo and doesn’t tithe?

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I think someone might have a case in a situation like this if you could prove that tithing is a required core principle of your faith.  A bank can’t discriminate when providing a loan to someone because of their personal faith, so what gives them the right to discriminate on a loan mod because the borrower’s faith dictates that a certain portion of their income be given to the church?  On the other hand, the lender didn’t get the option of providing the loan knowing that the borrower tithes part of their salary, so who’s right?

Photo Courtesy of jemasmith via Flickr cc

Written By

I'm a Realtor in Southern Maryland. I grew up surrounded by the RE business, spent time as an actor, worked as a theatrical designer and technician, and took the road less traveled before settling down in real estate. I run my own local market website at https://www.somdexpert.com and when I'm not at the office or meeting clients, I can usually be found doing volunteer work, playing with my 3 rescued shelter dogs (Help your local Humane Society!), or in the garage restoring antique cars.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Gary Arnold

    June 9, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    NO CHURCH taught tithing on one’s income until the second half of the 1800s. According to the scriptures, tithing ended at the cross along with the Levitical priesthood per Hebrews 7:5,12,18.

    God defined His tithe in Leviticus 27:30-33 as a tenth of crops and every tenth animal in herds and flocks. Pastors changed God’s definition to gross income.

    God gave His ordinances, or instructions to take His tithe to the Levites. Pastors changed God’s instructions to bring the tithe to the truth.

    There is absolutely no Biblical basis for tithing in the Christian Church. The Bible DOES, however, teach stewardship and morals, and no Christian who follows the teachings of God would be in a position to lose their home. Unfortunately, too many church goers are following the teachings of their pastor who is NOT teaching the true gospel.

  2. Jonathan Benya

    June 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Gary, I think you’re missing a big point here. I’m not targeting christian belief, or any other belief specifically. I’m talking about the concept of tithing as a religious practice, be it Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc. While you may believe that tithing “ended on the cross”, there are others who may not share that belief.

  3. LesleyLambert

    June 9, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I really avoid including my opinion on religion because I know for a fact I have a lot less of it in my life than most people, but this is an interesting little kettle of fish.

    For myself, I would do whatever it took to preserve my family home and assume that my faith would include the understanding of the higher power that my situation was temporary and I would return to my tithing duties as soon as my family was financially settled again. That is what I would do if I was in that situation, but I get that there are many people who might not agree with that opinion.

    However, it seems to me that if I were the lender I would consider making tithing something that a consumer has to report when applying for their mortgage, much like alimony or child support.

    • Jonathan Benya

      June 9, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      Interesting thought, Lesley. I’ve considered this as well, but I would worry that such disclosures would directly violate fair housing laws, which is why lenders don’t ask now.

      At any rate, I’m in your boat; I’d want to do anything to keep the family afloat, even if it meant not tithing. That being said, who knows how I would feel if I had the strong religious convictions that others have.

  4. Gary Arnold

    June 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Jonathan,

    I didn’t miss the point. Being a Money & Finance Minister, my whole ministry is exposing the false teaching of tithing. No denomination taught tithing on income until about 140 years ago. It is a false teaching and God will hold the pastors accountable for this false teaching.

    It is unfortunate the so many of God’s children are misled by false teachers. The Bible warns this will happen. And once a person forms their strong beliefs from these false teachings, it is very difficult for them to accept any other teaching.

    It saddens me deeply that so many have lost their homes because of this false teaching. These people that falsely think they would be robbing God if they didn’t tithe do, in fact, rob the mortgage company. It all comes down to believing a pastor, or studying God’s Word for yourself.

  5. Jonathan Benya

    June 9, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Gary, we’re not talking about Christianity here. Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, and Christianity all have currently or previously had some form of tithing, and this isn’t about what any SPECIFIC religion does or does not teach.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe

  6. Eric Hempler

    June 10, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Giving 10% of your income sounds like a lot of money to me. If you also factor in how much of your income you’re suppose to save and then you’re also suppose to give 10% to the church? How much are you left with?

    Here’s another way I looked at…this was a few years ago when I first heard about tithing. For example, in my case I figured out that if I gave 10% of my income that was equivalent to two months of car insurance payments or a car loan payment or two weeks of groceries.

    To me giving 1% made more sense. You should only give what you can afford and 10% sounds like A LOT. I think if you’re going to donate that much money then you should report it as an expense of some kind on your mortgage app. That’s a pretty big expense in my opinion.

    I don’t think God would ever want someone to give money to the point where they risk losing their home. The idea of faith isn’t to bankrupt yourself. The idea of faith is to help you get through the difficult times in life. It’s a symbol of hope.

    I probably didn’t answer your question, but those the thoughts that came to mind.

  7. Ken Montville

    June 10, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Interesting post.

    Many years ago, I was working with a buyer client who, according to the lender was qualified for much more than the price range of the houses we were looking at. We were having a hard time finding a place he liked an I mentioned that we could probably get a wider choice in a higher price range. He refused because he had already factored his personal tithe into his budget and a higher price range wouldn’t allow him to continue his tithing and be responsible about his mortgage payment. Eventually, he found a place he was happy with where he could afford BOTH his tithe and mortgage payment.

    At some level, this is about a contractual obligation vs a voluntary contribution and about responsibility for things like budgeting for life’s necessities such as food and shelter. Will his church provide this home owner shelter when the bank forecloses. Does his church teach that “walking away” from contractual obligations is moral and right? If I were irreligious but felt compelled to “tithe” to a charitable organization (Komen Race for the Cure, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) wouldn’t a bank take that into consideration when reviewing a loan modification.

    This gets tricky because of the religious aspect.

    To Eric: If 10% is a lot of money to tithe, is [x]% too much to pay a Realtor for their services? Is [y]% too much to pay for State sales tax? If someone is tithing 10% to either church or charity that means that have 90% left for life. If they save another 10% for the future (retirement, rainy day, whatever), they still have 80% left for the rest of life’s expenses.

    The real question is not the percentage but what the absolute dollar amount you have to work with. I would guess parting with 10% of a $1,000,000 hurts a lot less than parting with 10% of $50,000.

    • Eric Hempler

      June 10, 2010 at 8:26 am

      I agree with that.

      I was also taking in to account taxes. Maybe I misunderstood the pastor, but I thought when they said 10% that was before taxes not after. So I looked at it as 30% to taxes, 10% to savings, 10% for tithing and 30% towards a mortgage. That would have left 20% for everthing else. Recalling where we were financially at the time 10% was way to much for us.

  8. Joe

    June 10, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Yikes! I think a person in a position to either tithe or make the mortgage payment has missed the point. A person who tithes if accounting for the other principles in their faith as well, would not be in the position where they are borrowing to purchase things they cannot afford.

  9. Joe Loomer

    June 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Psalm 62:8 – Trust in Him at all times, O people: pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

    As a Christian, I tithe when I can, but not at the expense of the obligations I’ve incurred. I often choose not to tithe when I’ve participated in a philanthropic venture of any nature that has involved my time and/or my money – or when unforseen events require expensive outlays. It may not be about a particular religion, but in mine – I have faith that my God knows my heart, and therefore I don’t sweat it. I also chose my place of worship carefully specifically because I have issues with most forms of organized religion and their interpretation of the Word.

    What diety would encourage you to not pay your obligations first as a sign of your trustworthiness?

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  10. Bruce Lemieux

    June 10, 2010 at 9:19 am

    This is an interesting problem. I can understand the bank’s point. It seems like they should simply look at the homeowners contractual obligations when determining if he can afford to meet his loan obligations. If the bank did consider non-contractual church obligations, what else should they consider?

    I would also think that the church should encourage their parishioner to at least temporarily forgo tithing so he can stay in his home. If he loses his home, how will he be able to support the church – financially and spiritually?

  11. Tony Isaac

    June 10, 2010 at 10:31 am

    During the reign of the Greek kingdom under the leadership of Alexander the great, the Jews were being forced to obey the Greek custom. Something their religion forbade. And this led to a revolt by some of the Jews under the leadership of a man called Judas Maccabees. This revolt led them into exile because they were being hunted by the Greek authorities. And it happened that one of those confrontation with the Greek authorities happened on a Sabbath day. In a bid not to break the Sabbath, the exiles did not run nor defend themselves and this led to a lot of them being slaughtered. Some years later, Jesus Christ and his disciples were picking ears of corn on a Sabbath day and they were accused of breaking the Sabbath to which Jesus responded “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”

    This is the same faulty theology that makes people pay tithes at the expense of their mortgage. They have let themselves become slaves to religion instead of the other way round. And they expect God to be impressed at this hare brained decision. Why take out a mortgage when you know you cannot pay? This very act shows how bad they are with money anyway something no amount of tithing can ever remedy.

  12. Lani Rosales

    June 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    From facebook.com/agentgenius:

    Laura Nelson Brown said, “Interesting dilemma. I would think that if tithing could be shown as something that has been done throughout the history of the mortgage, then the borrower would have a very strong suit against the lender.”

  13. Elizabeth Cooper-Golden

    June 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I’m shocked that someone would even say this: ” no Christian who follows the teachings of God would be in a position to lose their home.” I know plenty of Christians that DO follow the teachings of God and have been put in a position to lose their home.

    If someone has serious health issues or their job has been elimated, can you seriously say and believe that they are not God fearing if they end up losing their home? If they bought the home in good faith but circumstances have changed, can you honestly believe they have no morals or stewardship?

    I typically keep my opinions to myself when Religion based, but had to pipe in on this one.

  14. Nick Sweeney, DotLoop Social Media

    June 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    This is why Agent Genius is one of my favorite real estate sites to visit; what an interesting topic!

    A few points:

    1. If we’re going to go Judeo-Christian, charging interest is considered exploitative throughout most of the Old Testament. I wonder what the lenders would say about that.

    2. When applying for the initial loan, did most borrowers give their full income to qualify or did they give their income, less their tithing? Was cake both given and eaten here?

    3. If one cannot afford their mortgage, but can afford cable, a $100/month smart phone bill, and eating at restaurants every week, should they be denied a loan mod, too?

    4. If we are going to incorporate some religion in our finances (which we already do; hence the 7 year statute of limitations on bankruptcies), let’s bring in something that’s actually useful: Jubilee. Every seven years, everyone starts with a clean slate. I’m sure Tyler Durden would approve that.

    Very interesting topic, Jonathan. Thanks for posting!

    • Jonathan Benya

      June 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! These are some great points you’ve made here, there’s a lot of complicated layers here and I appreciate you commenting on that!

  15. Tim Golden

    June 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Oh my gosh …Real world awaking here!

    Sadly it is true that some people still live primarily in ‘the here after’ vs the ‘here and now’ …even though ‘the here after’ is merely a matter of ‘faith’ while the ‘here and now’ is of very rational determination.

    I would not characterize this segment of the population (at least in the western world) as large or ‘many’ as the OP does, in fact I think this population segment is a very small minority, nonetheless they very much exist.

    There is no way to place judgment on those that make this type of choice if they are sane minded adults. E.g., many devoted religious people still to this day will decline needed medical treatment of varying types based on their ‘faith’.

    How have the Courts responded when faced with these family disputes?

    The Courts today will immediately intervene with needed medical treatments in the case of minors but will abstain from intervention in the case of medically sane adults and just let them to perish according to their own will. Nonetheless to understand this kind of ‘faith’ one would have to mentally imagine how a parent who would refuse a blood transfusion that would in all likelihood save the life of their very own son or daughter. You may think this wild and absurd yet if not for the Courts this would happen on a very regular basis throughout every year …right here in the good ole USA.

    – Enough Said

  16. Matthew Rathbun

    June 11, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Not to put my head in the lion’s mouth, but Gary is using a weak argument to justify hording his money. That’s between he and God and this isn’t the platform for theological dispute.

    I’m not going to debate theology here, but there is a certain amount of wisdom that needs to take place. It’s too lengthy to layout, but a offering of time can be provided to the church for those who cannot afford money. I work with a good many church goers, and we’ve established a plan for them to volunteer at their church a few hours a week to help the church save money, while the homeowner cannot afford an offering. “First Fruits” was exemplified in this context in the New Testament, especially for widows and orphans. I bring this point up, only because it may be a good counseling technique for agents working with faith-based clients. I don’t think it’s ever the role of the agent, even when sharing the same beliefs of the client, to convict the client that their belief’s are untrue.

    As a sidebar: If the church was fulfilling it’s function, than counseling and benevolence teams would be helping this couple make these decisions and offering financial support and I feel it’d be less of an issue. If no one in the church is tithing than the church isn’t in a position to help their congregation.

    As far as Religious rights, the Lender didn’t deny the loan or limit the choice of the client which would be the two tests of Fair Housing regs. No, in this case the borrower is asking to be forgiven on a financial debt (also considered a sin in some circles – so your faith clients may struggle with this more than tithing issues). I think the lender would say no to forgiving the debt regardless where that 10% was going, if it wasn’t going to debt. Since it’s considered a charitable contribution, I would actually side with the Lender on this. If your client is truly holding to a Biblical principal than they would also insist in paying back the forgiven debt after closing. So – let that sink in for awhile. See the issue with a lot folks is that they are good at the outward stuff (like showing their dedication by writing a check) but not so good at the other aspects of faith that hurt and are less visible.

    As a church leader, I would also suggest this – If you’re a person of faith (regardless which one) don’t ever blindly do anything. Study your religious principals (in my case the Bible) and go with your spiritual convictions along with counseling and teaching from trusted people. In my case, I give because I know that I would have nothing without the giver. I also see first hand how that money is used to invest back into the congregation, if the church is healthy. It has little to do with what part of the Bible it was first stated. It has everything to do with my thankfulness to Him. #justsayin

  17. Tony Isaac

    June 11, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Matthew, you have spoken like a true preacher! Once anyone speaks against the tithe, he has to be stingy or “using a weak argument to justify hording his money”.

    Of course if one does not have the right information, one would always walk in error hence the relevance of Gary’s argument. The tithe is a religious concept which is very poorly taught in many of today’s church and as a result well meaning Christians find themselves at crossroads when they have to make a choice between tithing and paying their mortgages. They’ve been so browbeaten Sunday in and Sunday out that they finally succumb to the force of this false doctrine and believe wholeheartedly that it is something God requires from every Christian.

    The only way to cure this misconception is to attack it from the root by examining scriptures properly to fully understand God’s take on the topic. The simple biblical model is – give what you can afford and share what you have with the brethren. No mandatory 10% is commanded. Why are you trying to legislate what people do with their time in lieu of an inability to give offerings? That should purely be a personal decision. I too would not like to go too deep into theology but volunteering time in lieu of money is not the concept of “firstfruits” in scripture.

    It is so unfortunate that we have turned a good thing on its head and made it into a burden. Religion was made for man and not the other way round!

  18. Jim Whitlock

    June 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I could really jump in deeply on this with all the thoughts provoked within me by the well-written comments, but it would take hours or days to type it all. So, in a nutshell, these are the bullet point thoughts that seem key to me (based on the Bible):

    – Give with a joyful (hillarious) heart – OR it’s much better for you NOT to give
    – Render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and to God what is God’s
    – Honor your committments… let your Yes be Yes and your No be No
    – The Lord does, indeed bless back the joyful giver
    – Giving is a very individual personal decision between ONLY you and God and “religion” should never dictate
    – God doesn’t need your tithes/offerings …. you do

    Before I get preachy I’ll end by thanking you all for the great comments and thanking Agent Genious for the great forum.

  19. Jason Lewis

    June 12, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Spurgeon responded to the question of tithing much better than I ever could… he said, “But you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the Gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality! There is no law to tell me what I should give my father on his birthday. There is no rule laid down in any law book to decide what present a husband should give to his wife, nor what token of affection we should bestow upon others whom we love. No, the gift must be a free one, or it has lost all its sweetness.”

  20. Barbie

    July 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    There is so much to consider about the mindset of tithing and losing your home. I am in the middle of foreclosure and I am not one that follows tithing because I know that it is not of the new testament and it is something that ministers promote to keep money coming in to the church. I am in the mindset of service to my family, my community and others in need. I know the how much I get paid an hour and the value of my time and I always look for ways to give which amounts to a significant amount. My husband who is in a different religion is choosing to tithe while we are in the middle of foreclosure and I feeling I am the only one trying to save the houses and it puts him in the position of not having enough money to help with the housing obligations. He has tithe off and and on for about 20 years and now right when we are dealing with the courts and trying to get a loan modifiacation he starts back to tithing again on the gross. He is doing this after he had given the bank a letter telling them he would make a regular payment each month and $400.00 a month to the arrears. He has not been able to do this and he is choosing to tithe in the middle of all of this. So I am doing what I can the home so I can have a place to live for myself and he has inform me he would rather divorce me after 40 years of marriage because as he said we are not on the same page. I think the mortgage companies should look at all spending and people’s focus as to how important to have a place to live. Just another perspective to consider from a spouse who wants to save her home and the other who has a different focus base on what he has hear from the ministers and people he has read on the internet.

  21. Charlie Pitkin

    July 29, 2010 at 12:25 am

    It’s no doubt why this post was so hotly debated…money, religion, and real estate all rolled up into one! If only the subject’s political perceptions were thrown into the mix. 😉

    Anytime the things of value a person holds dear are challenged, it’s really sad to see. We could go back and forth on what WE would do relative to our own beliefs & backgrounds. At the end of the day, one thing is for certain, it’s a privilege we have to make that decision for ourselves rather than have it made for us.

    In a perfect world, no one would have a debt to pay and everyone would give cheerfully without obligation or duty. However, until that day comes, these rough decisions and debates will remain.

  22. jen

    November 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I’d rather pay my mortgage and take care of my family and pets any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I believe in God, I worship and pray to God!!!!!! That’s that in a nutshell!

  23. Anita

    August 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Now for the person who has had their house before receiving Christ and can afford everything concerning it this is my thoughts in this case: First of All God wants us to be responsible and trust worthy Christian for the reason of we now represent Him so continue to do what you have been doing and give in faith a free will offering faithfully pray and exspect increase because you desire to tithe. Now if God can’t trust you to take care of your house then how can He trust you to take care of His house.
    Now for the new in Christ who just started and for the Christian who’s been with Him and has been tithing for year’s and now you both want to buy a house here are my thoughts in this case: Less just say each of you find a house you love to buy and you have barely enough to make the payments buy 10% and you buy them anyway. You have just excluded your commitment of tithing to God to now having to struggle making payments with chances of now lossing your house because you couldn’t afford in the first place. Now we say God will supply our needs and this is when we start saying we can’t afford to tithe any more. We are wrong, remember it’s the old Adam and Eve trick Satan still use today starting with the look then we say yes we can have it now, when wisdom tell us not now.
    That’s why I have problem when the church teaches you to do something wrong first, and then tell to do something right where is God in that? Giving is a matter of the right heart not a weekly or by weekly practice, so less not forget who’s character we are now giving in, in the first place His. More Christ Like.

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