Tithe. Why We May Not–Must Not

Glenn W. Harrell  12-17

True or False Test

1-______Tithing was an Old Testament requirement of taxation for the theocratic government of Israel.

2-______Tithing is a New Testament Teaching. We Christians are commanded to tithe.

3-______There were 3 tithes/taxations in the O.T.  Each with designations:

1 for Levites, 1 for temple/priests, and 1 for the poor.  (total appx. 23%)

4-______Christians who don’t tithe are robbing God, as taught in Malachi 3.

5-______Temple storehouse treasury (As in Malachi 3) and NT church offerings are the same.

6-______I Tithe.

7-______I prefer to give offerings.

8-______The local church is the only place for our offerings and or tithes.

9-_______I give a weekly/monthly/annual offering to the church as a demonstration of gratitude to God.

10-______If every church member cheerfully and faithfully gave just 5% of their income, our churches would rarely be in need.

11-______Jesus talks about tithing.

12-______Modern day Jews still practice the tithe-tax.

answers at end of article

 

Jesus has much to say about the matter of money and he also mentioned the tithe.

1-Matthew 23:23 -Luke 11:42 Scribes and Pharisees tithed mint and herbs but left weightier matters undone.

2-Luke 18 -The self-righteous Pharisee who tithed and fasted is contrasted with the tax collector who crumbled in sin and humility.

 

“You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. (Lev. 27; Deut. 14) Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either.

You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel.”  Matthew 23:23-24

Over two dozen times in the gospels he speaks of money and only twice does he refer to the tithe. In each case, it was to expose the hypocrisy of the giver, not to establish tithing for his followers. These Pharisees were entrenched in their theocratic governmental legal system. Jesus was telling them, not us, to observe all their laws since they purported to live by them.

 

What from the Old Covenant did Jesus bring forth into the New era of Grace and the fulfillment of the law?

He certainly did not bring the tithe, sabbath, circumcision, ceremonials and food laws forward. As much as we may want tithing to be on this list, it was not to be. Neither Jesus, nor his disciples were Levitical priests, so they were not governed by the rituals of the Temple services in Jerusalem. They were supported by private funds throughout Jesus’ ministry, not the Levitical tithe.

 

What did St. Paul say about tithing? Nothing. He only spoke of voluntary offerings and gifts to God, ministers who are faithful and effective at teaching, and the local church. Of all people, Paul would have reasons to re-institute tithing as a “principle” or even a pre-Abrahamic law, be it voluntary or not. He was a bi-vocational apostle who, despite his great needs, refused to require payment/salary from the churches he started. He would likely have had the same ambitions for Titus, young Timothy and other ministers who shared similar financial burdens.

 

SILENCE

What do we make of the silence in the New Testament concerning tithing?

Answer: The same as we make of all other law and pre-law-based requirements meant for old-covenant people.

 

What does it take to make the Tithe work for the New Testament church?

First, we need to up the ante. The actual percentage is closer to 23%, all said and done. There’s a lead balloon for us.

Second, we need to re-institute the Priestly, Levitical system. The Jewish people, no longer tithers, won’t even try this one.

Neither Jews nor Christians can tithe without a temple.

Third, we must comply with the tithe of crops and live-stock, not money.

Fourth, the “robbing God” passage in Malachi must be stripped of its context and stretched into a literal or figuratively principled type-ology. These passages are related to the restoration of the promised land and a newly rebuilt temple, and a “Storehouse”.

This storehouse was the treasury of the Jerusalem Temple and cannot be identified with bank holdings of the local New Testament church. Non-tithing church members too often hear how they are robbing God and yet no one is doing anything about it.

No court proceedings, trials, sentences served or jail time have been noticed as far as I have seen.

Fifth, tithing is to be compulsory as a taxation. We must be prepared to lose a good portion of our memberships over this, not to mention finding a way to theologically contradict the grace, free-will giving and living taught in the New Testament.

Sixth, don’t forget about circumcision, Sabbath and dietary laws. Circumcision, like the tithe, was required to maintain a proper relationship with God. And, if we are to observe the tithe, why do we not give the sermons on our disobedience for not worshiping on Saturday Sabbath, or observing Ceremonial washing’s, etc.? Dietary laws and Temple worship have not been required of Christians as of late. How is it that tithing gets to be the lone, popular teaching? Answer: $$–budgets, salaries—bigger the better. Circumcision and food laws, as painful as they are, don’t pay the bills or create excitement. Nor can they be converted to “Seed-Faith” for the sad hucksters on TV.

Seventh, and most significant. To make the tithe a legal requirement again, forget grace. According to Galatians 5:3-4, not to tithe would not only be robbing God, it means that we could not have salvation. Breaking this one law would constitute breaking them all, and we all would remain under the curse of the Law, despite Christs sacrifice.  If the Christian made giving to be a legalistic matter as if we lived in the era of Jew, Levite and Priest, tithing would be both required and enforced. In other words, not relying on the law is yet another great truth and a visible presentation of the Grace of God triumphing over the law and its curse.

 

Why then do many churches and church leaders insist that the tithe, not agrarian—but monies, is to be practiced in the New Testament church, despite the obvious?

1-Predictable income. Budgets and budget makers do not want to live “by faith alone”.

2-Equal standard for all. 10% is a convenient figure and since it is “somewhere in the bible”, why not?

3-For their parishioners to know “the joy of giving”. Many ministers and churches proclaim “10% is a starting place for your joy.”

 

Church Leaders, Elders, Bishops, who teach that Christians are to tithe 10% of their income:

If we must teach tithing, then let’s at least be consistent with other OT laws, both pre-and post-Abraham, and require them as well. Figure out how to translate crops and livestock into monetary sources. Try resolving the taxation obligation to a Priestly community and a theocratic nation that no longer exists. Following any choice, might we cease insisting poor Malachi into the equation? This is a stretch well beyond any healthy standard of hermeneutics and exegesis. Eisegesis extremism is necessary if we are to maintain tithing at the sacramental level proposed by many.

 

The number 1 reason tithing is still taught, despite New Testament teachings,

in the New Covenant Era is that GOD REQUIRES 100%

10-23% is not nearly enough. A Christian must give 100% of everything to God. In fact, God even wants our bodies as a complete, living sacrifice. (Rom. 12:1-2) Might the tithe be a convenient out for the believer and a spurious sermon of the insecure Elders of the church who want a predictable income for the church’s needs, including salary? 10% tithe sounds pretty good, if it only worked.

Regardless of how I might view tithing, one of the greatest frustrations of the local church is how to do ministry with only 20% of the average congregation giving anything like 10% or more.

And, would Christians give to God less than Muslims give to Allah?

For those who feel that God is impinging on their wealth at 10-23 %, you might consider the Islamic faith.

Muslims only give 2.5% compulsory, annually.  Think of the savings!

 

Yes, Christians now give less to God than Muslims give to Allah.

An October 2013 Washington Post report by Kathrine Burgess of RNS reads,

“The percentage of a church member’s income given to the church dropped to 2.3 percent in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), down from 2.4 percent in 2010.”

Centuries of pulpit slamming and guilt-driven sermons on tithing have done little to make the church stronger or to cause Christians to give more. The opposite effect has taken place and the pulpit has lost integrity by teaching the tithe as new testament doctrine.

 

What to do? Teach the Word! Instead of guilting these few of our folks into giving a tithe, teach the bible and trust God that He will make cheerful givers out of non-givers and those of us who think our duty is done with 10%.

Here is a nice 3-point sermon: (please find your own poem)

God wants 100%. We use each penny as a manager, not the owner. (Matthew 25:20)                          This is called Stewardship.

God wants our lives first. “They first gave of themselves to the Lord.” (II Cor. 8:5) (Romans 12:1-2)  This is called Lordship.

God wants our heart. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”   (Matthew 6:21)      This is called Kinship.

 ____________________________________________________________________

6 Solid New Testament Teachings on giving from II Corinthians:

      1. Attitude. It is just like God to care more about what we look like on the inside than outside–Just like Him to care more about why we give than what or how much. In fact, why we give governs how much we give—every time.

“It doesn’t matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have.” (8:12)

  1. Deliberate thought given

The Christian may choose to give 10% of their income and this is fine, understanding that it is not a legal, religious tithe.

Regardless of the amount chosen, 12,3, or 23%, it must be the decision of a non-coerced mind.

“Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give.”   (9:7)

 

  1. God has feelings too.

“God loves people who love to give.” (9:7b) This anthropopathic expression is common in the scriptures. We have a Savior who feels. God inspires us to give by his example and he loves it when we respond in kind.

 

  1. God is our source for our own needs and others.

“God can bless you with everything you need,” (8a) Our needs are important.

Our trust and faith in God is made real when we give, knowing well that he can and will bless us as we are willingly obedient.

 “and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others.” (8b)

As God blesses you and me, our compassion/generosity antenna rises in height and sensitivity. Suddenly, we notice genuine needs around us. Whether through our church, or as an individual, or a corporate expression, others are awaiting our response.

God does not bless us so that we may selfishly amass our own wealth and keep it to ourselves.

“God gives seeds to farmers and provides everyone with food. He will increase what you have, so that you can give even more to those in need. You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous.” (10-11)

 

  1. Master motive and true wealth.

Our wealth cannot be measured by our possessions and bank accounts. When we try this, we miscalculate.

“I am simply testing how real your love is by comparing it with the concern that others have shown. You know that our Lord Jesus was kind enough to give up all his riches and become poor, so that you could become rich.” (8:8-9)

How can a person who has little of this worlds wealth and money be considered “rich” to Jesus? To learn the answer to this question is to be financially free. Jesus was far from being a Wall Street mogul. How could he possibly make any of us rich? To answer this question is to understand grace. “You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else.” (9:13b)

 

  1. The Local Church, and

Support where you are fed. Never support a ministry/leader who disregards or abuses the scriptures. (Seed Faith-Prosperity)

Our financial offerings must sustain valid, biblically centered ministries that demonstrate fruits of the Spirit. Local churches spending more than half of their offerings on staff salaries, or salary amounts out of character with the lifestyles of its members, do well to obtain wisdom for repair.

“When you collect money for God’s people…Each Sunday, each of you must put aside part of what you have earned.” (I Cor. 16:1-2)

Christians are often led to give to other needs and ministries beyond their own local fellowship. Equal due diligence is needed, if not more. Greed is not only in the pulpits of America, it is with CEO and boards. How much of your dollar and mine does more than create monsters who line their pockets and accounts with what was meant for the poor? Before giving, as good Stewards of God’s money, we must do our research.

 

  1. Needs are to go full circle.

The free-will nature of New Testament giving encompasses social need as it reminds us that no one is beyond disasters reach.

My life, my family, my health too may someday present needs I cannot manage on my own. And it is important to note that the persistent social demands of welfare-need must never be met with forced equations of lifestyle, (socialism/communism) rather willing generosity.

Absorb this wisdom: “I am not trying to make life easier for others by making life harder for you. But it is only fair for you to share with them when you have so much, and they have so little. Later, when they have more than enough, and you are in need, they can share with you.”  (13-14)

 

In our churches, there are many practices (orthopraxy) that follow poor orthodoxy (belief and teachings).

Tithing is but one of them. The Sabbath is another. How is it that tithing is such a persistent practice? It can only be because we have leaders who teach it and believers who trust their teachings.

The unfortunate is that a tithe has been instituted and regulated by guilt and law into the grace community for so long. The harm is where a minister knows better and teaches the tithe anyway for personal financial security over sound doctrine.

We teach the tithe like we do eternal security. We are afraid. If we tell the truth, might not Christians go on a sin-rage since they are secure anyhow, and might they stop giving all together, absent the rule of tithe? What we are really saying is, “Better keep a bit of legalism in tact just to be certain that God doesn’t fail”.

Our lack of faith in the truth of God’s Word assures that we have yet to see what comes of giving by a Christian majority who freely and joyfully gives without the tithe. Christian victory is when I understand and accept that I do not own anything. I am merely a Steward/Manager of what God provides. And, “I do not give to get. I get to give”.

 

True or False answers:   1-T     2-F     3-T     4-F     5-F    6.     7.     8-F      9.    10-T    11-T    12-F

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