2 to Tithe

Phil Lenahan offers advice to couples divided over a seemingly simple question: To tithe or not to tithe?

Is it normal for husbands and wives to disagree over tithing and charitable giving, even when both are devoted Catholics?

Such disagreements are very common, especially in marriages in which the spouses are in different stages of spiritual development.

I can speak to this point from firsthand experience. I’d been married to Chelsey for about a year when she came home from Mass convicted that we should tithe. We had both been influenced by the late Larry Burkett, an evangelical Protestant who specialized in Bible-based financial counseling, so my heart was somewhat prepared to make the change. Even so, my response was that we’d only give 10% of our net income. The accountant in me just couldn’t make the transition to giving from gross income.

Chelsey was patient with me and accepted tithing on net as the next step. She showed a great deal of wisdom in accepting my reticence, recognizing that we would be making a substantial jump in giving even at this “tithing beginner” level.

That gave the Lord an opportunity to accomplish some necessary work in me. I found that, over time, my heart was moved to be more generous. Eventually, we began giving from our gross income. We’ve never regretted it. In fact, paying our tithing “bills” is a real joy.

In your case, I suggest you start by letting your spouse know that you’ve been thinking about charitable giving and that you’d like to discuss the subject. You might point out that the Lord wants us to be generous not because he needs the money, but because we need to grow in our ability to love — and true love makes sacrifices.

If your spouse is still hesitant, let him or her know you’re amenable to starting slow. Maybe you’ve been giving at the typical Catholic level of 1% and your spouse just can’t make the leap to 10% right away. Or maybe your spouse won’t give on total income but is willing to give on a portion.

Maybe you are paying down unproductive debts and your spouse can’t see a way to increase giving at the same time. In cases like this, it’s my standard advice that you not quickly increase your giving to a full tithe, but work on a balanced plan that eliminates debt while gradually increasing giving.

I remember hearing from a woman who wanted to give more but her husband was resisting. She shared some of my writings with him, and, over time, he agreed to tithe. The results were exciting. She noticed a change in him. He had grown closer to God, to her and to their children. That’s what the call to generosity is all about.

God love you!

Phil Lenahan is online at


Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.