Should You Tithe on Social Security Death Benefits for Your Children?

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You don't have to tithe Social Security death benefits, but your children can.
You don't have to tithe Social Security death benefits, but your children can. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Tithing is faith-based giving from your own personal income, so Social Security death benefits paid to you on behalf of your children aren’t subject to tithing by you. There’s nothing wrong, however, with your children tithing their own money. In fact, some Christian leaders say there’s everything right with children learning the value of tithing while young.

Tithing

Tithing is a practice in which you give at least one-tenth of your income to your place of worship or related faith-based organization. As a Judeo-Christian practice, tithing has its roots in the Old Testament of the Bible. Important figures in the New Testament, such as Jesus Christ and Paul, reaffirm the importance of tithing. The first account of tithing was carried out by Abram, who became Abraham and the father of the Jewish nation, when he recovered his nephew Lot, his wives and possessions in battle. He gave one-tenth of everything to a king who had tried to fight off the army that took Lot. Later, Moses would declare tithing as part of the laws of the Hebrews once they left Egypt. Tithing is somewhat comparable to the Muslim practices of zakaah and zakat. Answering-Islam.org describes zakat as roughly 2.5 percent of your total wealth and possessions, rather than income.

The “Increase” Concept

Central to tithing is the concept of increase. Income is a form of increase because it results in regular financial gain. Time, inheritances, insurance payments, increased wealth, gifts and even public entitlements like Social Security and cash benefits from welfare count as “increase,” according to Crown Financial Ministries. The ministry explains that although you may think tithing your income while you work should absolve Social Security benefits from tithes when you retire, most people exhaust the amount they pay into Social Security within a few years. The rest is “increase.”

Benefits and Entitlements for Children

There’s obviously no passage in holy scriptures that could account for modern-day tithing on Social Security death benefits for children. However, Crown representatives say benefits like child support and death benefits are technically your children’s money; they are not part of your increase. In explaining death benefits from a tax perspective, George Saenz, CPA, says that although the benefit is usually paid to the surviving parent, the income really belongs to the child. Now, you can argue that death benefits for children also help parents, but the opinion of some Christian leaders is that your duty to pay tithes is solely based on your own personal income.

Children Can Tithe

You certainly are free to talk with your children about tithing. However, the New Testament speaks of God loving a “cheerful giver,” and the book shows a disdain toward giving “grudgingly” or out of “necessity.” See 2 Corinthians 9. Some Christian leaders say teaching your children the value of tithing is an important part of growing them up in the faith. Several online resources offer lessons and “teachable moments” to help parents instill the tithing ethic. Crown Financial Ministries, Millionaire-Kids.com and ChurchandTea.com are a few examples.

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