Should Pastors Tithe on Housing Allowance?
One of the benefits of being in vocational ministry is that pastors can choose to designate part of their salary into a housing/parsonage/rental allowance.
According to Investopedia, “Parsonage allowance is an allowance designated by the governing board of a church to its clergy or ministers for the expenses of providing and maintaining a home. This allowance is exempted from the minister’s gross income for tax purposes.”
Since this income is exempt for tax purposes, it begs the question – are we supposed to tithe on it?
*Side note: I’m writing about this on a pastor’s wife’s blog because a lot of women are in charge of their family’s finances. I know in my family, my husband and I make all of our big financial decisions together and talk about our budget often, but I am the one that sits down and actually pays our bills and balances our checkbook. Not because my husband is incapable, but because I am capable. He has a ton of stresses on him that I can do nothing about. I cannot write his sermons, manage the church staff, attend meetings in his stead, do counseling sessions or a plethora of other responsibilities that fall squarely on his shoulders. But I can pay our bills. I can sit down and deal with the stress of bills so he doesn’t have to. Because of this, questions about taxes and which money should go where often come to me. And while this is a decision we reached together, I did a lot of the research about our options on my own.
While there aren’t any passages in the Bible specifically about tithing on the tax-exempt portion of your salary designated to pay for housing expenses, Jesus is pretty clear about how we should handle money.
Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Mark 12:17
In this passage, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him. They came to him and asked if it was lawful (according to the Bible) for them to pay taxes. Jesus answers plainly telling them to pay taxes and tithe.
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To me, this seems to be a pretty obvious yes as to whether or not ministers should tithe on their housing allowances.
All of the money we have comes from God and he only asks for 10% back?
That seems like a great deal.
But if you find yourself wanting to debate the technicality of net income versus gross income in regards to giving back to God, it seems like there may be more a heart problem at play here.
Because if I believe (and I do) that you should give (at least) 10% of all money you receive back to God, and I convince you to do the same, but you do so begrudgingly, that doesn’t please God.
“….For God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
See, the entire point of tithe is to help us remember where all of our blessings come from.
We are simply giving back a portion of the rich abundance God has gifted us.
That great ministry job your husband has?
God could take it away tomorrow.
That really difficult ministry job your husband has?
God could take it away tomorrow.
That mediocre ministry job your husband has?
God could take it away tomorrow.
See the pattern?
Every single thing you have is a gift from God.
And if you find yourself feeling bitter about having to give back a portion of that, it’s probably time to really dig in and get to the root of it.
Are you feeling angry with God about something going on in your life?
Do you disagree with the way your church is spending money?
Do you feel like your husband deserves more money than he’s currently making so you don’t want to give away any of it to the church that’s underpaying him?
And they were all miserable places to be because I wasn’t trusting God with everything.
I was holding a tight fist around our finances while begging God to answer my prayers.
Which is ridiculous.
Can you imagine if you gave your child a new pack of 20 crayons and asked to use 2 of them? But instead of sharing all of the crayons you bought with you, they wouldn’t even let you use two. Then they cried because you wouldn’t color with them.
That’s what we’re doing to God when we don’t tithe on everything.
I mean everything.
We tithe on my husband’s gross income, our tax return, any unexpected monetary gifts we receive, etc.
All money gets 10% taken out for God, and we get to keep 90%.
God is so faithful.
in the seasons of life where finances have been tight and we’ve chosen to tithe and give back even though it meant we would not have enough money for our budget that month, God has always provided.
And not just enough.
He’s God, and He does it big.
When we’ve trusted him with our little, he’s blessed us big.
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” – Matthew 25:23
What are your thoughts on pastors tithing on a housing allowance? Tell us in the comments!
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I agree I think every Christian should tithe on every single income they receive. It is not a money thing; it is a heart thing. If we trust God with our salvation, we can surely trust him with our finances.
Halee Anthony says
“If we trust God with our salvation, we can surely trust him with our finances.” I LOVE that! Thanks Carolina!
Even gifts cards and cash gifts we will tithe on that as income. We’ round up when we tithe and been so blessed to give above and beyond. We don’t deserve a penny, and God is so faithful to provide, even when we have been with no job. God has given us the self control to watch our spending so we spend within our means each month. If we are picking apart the details of the pennies and taxes vs not taxed, I agree there may be more of a heart issue.
Pastor Jeff Grant says
If your Church is gracious enough to give you a housing allowance or even if they provide a parsonage, you should figure out the fair rental market value of the property, and tithe on those amounts. I am actually not a believer of tithing. It was an Old Testament Jewish Income Tax. We do have a New Testament basis for giving though. Pastors love to quote the last part of 2 COR 9:7 during the offering, but never quote the first part. The verse in its entirety says: Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. The fact remains that Churches have bills, and Churches need money in order to keep the doors open. We should do our fair share of giving. If you don’t feel comfortable with 10% then you do not have to give that amount, but if you are using the tithe as a guideline, Pastors should show their appreciation for their housing allowance or Parsonage, and give back to the Lord for the great blessing he has provided.