Tithing is a difficult topic to examine objectively for many
reasons. One of the most hidden and un-talked-about reasons is the issue of
If those teaching me a principle get their paycheck from my believing what they teach, then their teaching cannot be objective. It
might be factually correct, but they are not the right person to help me
understand the truth of the subject.
In my history, the people who taught tithing were nearly
always the people whose paycheck came from my tithe. I have almost never heard anyone whose
paycheck came from people’s tithes ever question the need for people to tithe
to their church. I cannot help but question their objectivity. Worse, I have
known pastors who will not allow anyone in their church to even ask questions
about tithing. And we’ve heard stories of religious groups who make membership
conditional on tithing. They’re called cults.
Tithing is a topic where truth is best revealed by personal
study, by prayer and counsel of the Holy Spirit, and by consulting with
knowledgeable, faithful friends whose objectivity is not so desperately
compromised by the topic.
God taught it to me this way: Never ask the car salesman if
you need to replace your car. Never ask a real estate agent if this is a good
time to buy a house. Never ask a pastor whether you need to tithe. It’s not
fair to put them into that position.
Note that there are at least three ways to compromise
objectivity on the subject:
a) If you believe what I tell you, you'll be morally
obligated to give me lots of your money.
b) If you believe what I tell you, then I won't be alone in
believing it, and my position will be easier for ME to hold.
c) If I choose not to give 10% of my money to you, then I’ll
have more money to spend on me.
It is not only those whose paycheck comes from the tithe
that are compromised on the topic.
I’ve made a list of some of the difficulties that I have
with the tithe as it is preached in American churches in this generation:
the Biblical teaching about tithing is in the Old Covenant
please, that the New Covenant began with the Cross. Jesus mentions tithing, but
does not teach it, but he is speaking to Old Covenant Pharisees during the time
of (the end of) the Old covenant. The only mention of tithing after the Cross
is in Hebrews
, where it is used as an argument that Jesus’ New Covenant has more
authority than the Levitical
The conclusion of the Hebrews passage on tithing is verse
: “Therefore, if perfection were
through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what
further need was there that another priest should rise according to the
order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
By contrast, the New Covenant addresses the Old Covenant Law this way: “By
means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting
in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one
new man and make peace.” (Ephesians 2:15
While not all teaching on the subject of tithing is
manipulative, a great deal of it is based on taking Old Covenant scriptures out
of context and laying that burden on New Covenant people. The most blatant case
, where we hear the oft-quoted, “Bring all the
tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house,
” but we
never hear the introduction
to that section: “And now, O priests, this commandment
is for you.
This was speaking to the priests, not the people. It’s manipulative to tell the
people that this passage is commanding them to give their money to the
The purpose of the Old Testament Tithe was a party.
And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to
make His name abide, the tithe
of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds
and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. Deuteronomy
Even the Malachi
section, which we now understand is commanding the priests, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be
food in My house.
” This is about helping others celebrate God, even if
they were too poor to chip in for the food: being broke is no excuse. This is
consistent with Deuteronomy
supports the wrong goals.
The goals for tithes were never to build
buildings, pay for clergy or create programs. The Tabernacle was funded with offerings
the Temple was
funded from David’s private
, essentially a sugar-daddy. The Levites made their own living
like anyone else, though the priests did eat of sacrifices
(not tithes) brought to the temple: their priestly work paid for the priests
who did the work.
The typical tithe-funded church budget (and I know whereof I write) spends
between 60% and 90% of those tithes on salaries and building expenses.
Therefore even if the Old Covenant law of tithing applied in the New Covenant,
it does not
apply in the way that
we’re applying it.
violates the principles of fatherhood
. The model from both Scripture
and culture is that fathers provide for their children; it is not the
children’s responsibility to provide for their parents.
Note: there is, of course, an exception, but that only applies when the parents
are old and cannot provide for themselves.
creates an artificial separation: Clergy vs. Laity
. Jesus was pretty adamant
the differentiation between clergy and laity: “Do not call
anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
The idea that some people (“clergy”) are supposed to do the work of the gospel:
visit the sick, teach the Word, and so on, while other people (“laity”) are
supposed to pay them to do that work is not found in the pages of Scripture.
In the Old Testament, we “owed” one tenth of our increase in the
tithe (“tithe” means “a tenth,” or “ten percent”). But if we eliminate the Old
Testament law about tithing, then we’re left with Psalm
: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell
The truth is that I don’t owe God a tenth of my increase; I owe him all
: everything I own, all that I am.
Having pointed out problems with the contemporary system of
tithes, let me put some limits on this:
is healthy and Biblical
. While it’s difficult to support a New Covenant
tithe from the Bible, the idea of giving
is well grounded
in the New Testament.
power in numbers
. Several thousand people giving money to a single cause
can accomplish more than all but the richest of individuals. Even billionaires
Bill Gates & Warren Buffett, two of the richest of individuals in the
that the contributions of many accomplish more than the contributions of a few.
tithing” does not equal “Not giving.” It only means “Not giving a specified
amount because of a law.” The alternative to tithing is not “I keep it all and spend it all on me!”
is an effective reminder. Those who give “to God” are using a very powerful
tool (their money) to remind them of the reality that God is their provider. It
is not the only powerful tool (a love relationship also works), but it is a
solid way of remembering.
By way of a conclusion, I offer this exhortation: This is a
good time to question what you have been taught about tithing. This is a good
time to study the subject on your own; I’ve added a great number of hot-links
to relevant passages specifically for that purpose. This is a good time to get in
God’s face, and ask Him to teach you about how He wants you to handle your giving. And this is a great time to participate
in conversations with godly people on the topic: don’t preach; ask questions.
Listen to answers and opinions.
This is a lousy time to respond in greed: to stop giving in
order to spend money on yourself. The principle of Sowing and Reaping is still true
And selfishness just stinks.
Be generous. Be free in your generosity. Reflect God in your