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Tithing as a spiritual practice

“If you tithe a portion of your income to God, you will find that, far from depriving yourself, you will be blessed by the Source of all abundance, God. The more you live for Him, the more you will find Him taking care of you — even in the smallest details of your life.”
— Swami Kriyananda


Invite God in

The way God has structured this world, almost everyone has to spend a lot of time earning money. Some people may not like to work, but almost everyone likes receiving money. It makes us feel safe, powerful, and is the key, we believe, to getting lots of other things we need or want in life.

Because money is so closely related to the desire for material things, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that having money or earning money is somehow separate from our spiritual life. But God is in everything, and the more consciously we relate to Him in everything we do, the better off we'll be.

The 10% solution

Tithing is a way to bring God into our work and our relationship with money. To tithe means to give a certain percentage of our income to God. Of course, we can’t give directly to God, so in practice, we tithe to that which inspires us to draw closer to God. Tithe means “one-tenth,” so traditionally we give 10%, but in fact we can give any percentage we choose. Sometimes we need to start small until we can build up our faith. Occasionally, people go higher. One famous tither reversed it, giving 90% to God and keeping only 10% for himself. He was a very unusual man—and became a very wealthy one as well. Watch an 8-minute video on tithing by minister Asha Praver.

If a certain percentage of everything we earn goes back to God, then the more we earn for ourselves, the more we also earn for God. It’s a partnership, and a way to make work a divine service.

And if fortune comes in other ways—investments, inheritance, or winning the lottery—a percentage of that, too, goes to God. Everything is shared, nothing is kept entirely for ourselves.

Tithing also benefits society, for if everyone tithed, all the sources of inspiration would also thrive. Tithers get good karma for helping others to be inspired. Then those people begin to tithe, and their sources of inspiration flourish, and more people are uplifted and more people tithe and—well, wouldn’t that be a wonderful world!

“In the beginning...”

Tithing is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Among other more well-known commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai are detailed instructions about tithing. In the New Testament, Jesus simply assumed that tithing was something everyone did.

So tithing is not new, it’s been around for a long time. Still, it is always good to think things through for ourselves, that’s why we’re sharing these ideas with you. Yogananda said to “test your beliefs, just as science does...don’t remain satisfied with the claims of others.”

Give back to God what is His already

How does tithing differ from donating regularly? Obviously, there are many similarities: both are ways of giving money to a good cause.

The differences are subtle, but important. When we donate, we may pray for guidance, but the basic thought is, “This is my money and I’ll decide how to spend it.”

When we tithe, we are saying, “This is God’s money.” It’s like a commission we owe for the gift of life itself, for without God’s grace, we wouldn’t be able to earn money at all. The rate was set by God with Moses on Mount Sinai. Jesus endorsed it and it hasn’t changed in all these years.

When we donate, we may say “This money is to be used for a certain project.” When we tithe, we give without any conditions—after all, it’s not our money. In other words, beyond identifying the source of our inspiration and sending the tithe to God through that channel, the ego has no part in it.

Once we have returned to God His 10%, the remaining 90% is ours to use in whatever way we choose, including donating to causes or projects we believe in. In practice this may mean that we give away more than 10% of our total income. In practice, it may also mean that 10% feels like too much to tithe. That’s fine. God understands.

Who is in charge—me or God?

Why is tithing so powerful?

Well, tithing helps break down the ego’s thought that “I am in charge.” It challenges us to answer the question, “Where does my security come from: Money? Or my relationship with God?”

People with small incomes naturally think it would be easier to tithe if they earned more. People with large incomes are often so dismayed by the size of a 10% tithing check that they, too, hesitate! But our very hesitation tells us how much we could learn from gathering our courage, plunging in and trusting that God will provide.

Some people say that if we aren’t a little beyond our present faith when we tithe, we ought to tithe more!

In a nationwide survey people were asked if what they earned was enough to meet their needs. Interestingly, the majority of people in every income bracket from low to high all said, “No, I don’t have enough. But I would be fine if only I earned 10% more!” Imagine! So many people, from all walks of life, united by the common feeling that they don’t have enough! Maybe there is no pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow. Maybe the pot of gold lies in the opposite direction, by giving up 10% of our income in order to give more to God. Tithing activates a subtle connection between our faith and the flow of God’s blessings in our lives. Amazing things can happen when people begin to tithe.

Try it yourself and see what happens

A personal experience from Asha: “Years ago, before David and I were married, my income was so small as to be nearly invisible. Many times the money ran out in the middle of the month. Instead of thinking, ‘I’m so poor, I can’t afford to tithe,’ I thought just the opposite: ‘My situation is so precarious, I don’t dare stop tithing now!’ I couldn’t explain it then; I can’t explain it now. I just knew, beyond any doubt, that as long as I kept giving to God, God would keep giving to me. But if I broke the flow, He would break the flow, too.”

“Several times I didn’t even have money to buy food. But then I would get invited out to dinner—ten days in a row. At other times I just found money—forgotten in a coat pocket, once even on the ground. It became the kind of miracle that doesn’t even seem like a miracle because I was so certain that God would provide. But ah, how sweet!”

There is a story about a businessman who was sitting in his office when his clergyman came in, soliciting funds for the church. The businessman wrote a generous check and had just handed it over when a messenger rushed in and announced that the man’s business had suffered an enormous financial setback.

“Give that check back to me,” the businessman demanded.

The clergyman had no choice but to hand it over, saying, “Of course, I understand. This news has changed everything.”

“You bet it has!” the businessman said, tearing the check into little pieces. Then he wrote another check and gave it to the clergyman for twice the original amount!

Perhaps only a few of us would have the faith to act so boldly, but all of us can stretch a little bit and try out this practice of tithing for six months or a year, and see what happens.

Paramhansa Yogananda assures us: “God is our stocks and bonds.” 

“Those who give and share,” he says, “whether they have much or little, will attract prosperity. That is the law of God. The more one sacrifices for God’s work, the greater will be his reward.”

“Those who gladly share with others feel themselves bathed by a constant inner stream of happiness,” Swami Kriyananda says. “Sharing is the doorway through which the soul escapes the prison of self-preoccupation. It is one of the clearest paths to God.”

Expand your faith, expand the light

We encourage you to consider tithing as a spiritual practice. It will help build a strong foundation of faith in your own life, and help expand the light of Yogananda’s teachings throughout the Bay Area. 

A gift to members

In appreciation for your financial support, and in return for your generosity, we offer you an invitation to attend many of our classes for free. We offer a huge number of classes (as you well know, if you are thinking about membership). 

There are a few classes and events that we are not able to offer for free, and those include:

  • classes at the Ananda Yoga Center

  • classes by visiting instructors

  • immersions such as The Art & Science of Raja Yoga, Ananda Meditation Teacher Training, Ananda Yoga Teacher Training, and other multi-month classes

  • holiday banquets

If you have any questions about what you may attend at no cost, please just contact us or chat with a staffer when you are here. 

How to become a member 

The best way to explore membership is for us to meet personally and learn more about each other. It will be a joy to welcome you into the spiritual community of Ananda. Contact us to arrange a time to talk with Shanti or anyone on staff.