Money Matters: Should You Tithe in College?

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Did you know that our use of money and resources are critical to our spiritual growth? Sometimes, we are motivated to live for God out of pure love for him, but other times it is just out of obedience. The Bible has so much to say about the use of wealth and possessions. If we get lazy and ignore living within our means and spending and investing wisely, we are not showing godliness.

It is worth thinking about some Biblical principles related to money.

1. God really owns everything.

Sometimes we think it is ours, but in reality the Lord owns those jeans, that shirt, those boots and pair of kakis. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (1 Corinthians 10:26; Psalm 24:1). That includes, well, everything. God owns it all. “The whole earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5). And he declares in the book of Job, “Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). We are just managers of God’s creation. We are responsible to steward what he has given to us to take care of. If you have a car, it is God’s car. If you have been granted money to go to college, it is God who allowed you to have it. The house, apartment or dorm room you live in has God as its landlord. He is Lord of the land. God declares, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8).

It is very important to start here. God owns it all. You don’t.

The question is not, “How much of my stuff should I give to God?” but rather, “How much of God’s stuff should I keep for myself?” Meditate on this point. Let it sink deeply into your heart. It will set the pace for how you view the stuff you have.

2. Since God owns it all, we should get in the habit of giving him some back in the form of an obedient act.

Giving money back to God is a spiritual act of worship. There are Biblical principles connected with financial offerings and the tithe (a tenth). This is why it is so important to be connected to a local church. It is a joyful act to give back to God for the work of ministry in the local church for the glory of God and the good of the world. Maybe you are thinking it would be too much sacrifice to tithe ten percent of what you have back to God because you are a poor college student or have a low paying job. Wait. Who provided the opportunity for you to go to college? Who gave you that job? It ultimately was not your hard work that paid off. It was God’s blessing. If you believe God owns it all and you are obedient to him, you will joyfully give in worship, ascribing worth back to God. This will be your first gift, not your last.

3. Giving reflects your faith that God will provide for you.

God wants us to trust him with all of our lives. This includes our finances. There is a story in the Bible of a poor widow who was willing to give all she had to live on as her worship of Jesus (Mark 12:41-44). This does not mean we should all give all of our money in the offering plate that would be foolish, but it does mean that we need to step out in faith and not let our money own us. Sometimes God is calling us to give more than we think is possible as a demonstration of our faith in him and watch him provide.

4. Giving should be generous and sacrificial.

Many different Gallup Polls show that believers in Jesus give on average of only 2.8 percent of their income to the local church.

Now, I know what you are going to say, “I don’t have an income. I am a poor college student or I just work at the little store on the corner making minimum wage.” It does not matter to God how much you bring into the bank. It matters where your heart is.

Are you a generous person? It is not a sacrifice unless it is sacrificial. No one who gave generously and sacrificially for the purposes of God regretted it. God loves a giver who is cheerful. God does not want someone to give their money away who is holding a grudge and folding their arms in disgust. Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

One man has said, “There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving and thanksgiving.” Believe it or not, God wants you to enjoy giving your money away for the Kingdom.

As you enter college, be intentional and cultivate a heart of generosity–no matter how much you have–and see what God does.

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Jeff Baxter has a doctorate in Youth and Family Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary and more than twenty years of experience on staff in local churches. He’s written The Ultimate Guide to Being Christian in College and Together: Adults and Teenagers Transforming the Church, and he’s a frequent speaker and consultant with Ministry Architects. He is currently the Lead Pastor at Light & Life Church in Lakewood, CO.