The Final Word on Tithing

Please note: When I speak against the “teaching” of the tithe, I am specifically talking about someone teaching Christians that God expects them to tithe. I am not talking about teaching about how God gave Moses laws requiring Old Testament Jews to tithe and some of the principles we can learn from that.

Before I stopped attending traditional church, I had a vigorous discussion with my then pastor about tithing. The point under discussion was whether or not it should be commanded in the church. You may have read some of the fruit of this discussion in another blog I wrote at the time, entitled “The Law & Christian Giving.”

The purpose of this post is economy. What’s the bottom line on tithing, the short version? The fact of the matter is that teaching or commanding churchgoers to tithe is putting them under Law. The New Covenant nowhere commands believers to tithe, though believers are simply expected to give, which should come as no surprise. With the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, what believer is not excited to give?

Perhaps you go to a church in which tithing is taught or commanded, and you have felt that it was wrong but weren’t quite sure what approach to take with church leadership on the subject. I will make two points that nail the case shut on commanding the tithe. After all I went through discussing this, I would recommend you start and end here. If your church leaders refuse to see these points, I doubt anything else will move them.

The first point is made in 2 Corinthians 9:

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

The NIV translates “of necessity” as “under compulsion,” for a little added clarity. Does not teaching or commanding the tithe put people “under compulsion” and require them to give out “of necessity?” Of course it does. It certainly gives people the false understanding that God needs their money and that they “had better be obedient or else…” If you compel people to give, especially a specific percentage of their money, it becomes much more difficult for them to obey the verse above. So which covenant shall we follow?

The second point which buries teaching or commanding the tithe is more subtle, yet equally convincing. Many church leaders, including my former pastor, defend teaching or commanding the tithe using Matthew 23:23, in which Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Matthew 23:23)

While there is the first point that, at that time, the Jews were actually still under the Old Covenant Mosaic Law (thus requiring Jesus to endorse the command to tithe); there is another point that at first escaped my notice regarding Jesus’ statement here and the modern application of it.

Let’s continue reading what Jesus said:

Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. (Matthew 23:24-26)

When is the last time your pastor solemnly addressed the congregation and said, “Look, people. One of our duties as Christians is to give all our cups and dishes a ceremonial washing, OK? If you don’t, you’re violating the command of Jesus, because he endorsed it right here in Matthew 23:25!”

Never heard that? Hmm, I wonder why. But of course, you probably have heard this: “Look, people. One of our duties as Christians is to tithe, OK? If you don’t, you’re violating the command of Jesus, because he endorsed it right here in Matthew 23:23!” Does the ridiculousness of this argument make sense now? I hope so. No one today seems to have a problem seeing that ceremonially washing cups and dishes is Old Covenant Law that we no longer need to obey, even though Jesus clearly commanded the Pharisees to do it in the above passage (even though he is obviously speaking metaphorically of matters of the heart). But jump up two verses, and everything changes. Suddenly, a much less forceful command (“without leaving the others undone” – hardly a ringing edict) is heralded as “Jesus Christ Commands All Believers to Tithe.”

What could possibly be the motivation for such a double-standard? In the secular world, when there is a scandal or mystery, people often say, “Follow the money, and you’ll get to the bottom of that.” I contend that the same is true in this case. Pastors understand that the tithe pays their salary. It also pays for all their pet programs, ministries, and building projects. The sad thing is that simple faith in the Lord to provide by moving in the hearts of His people to give has been severely damaged by this error, an error which frankly reeks of Roman Catholic influence. (See Exodus 36:3-7 for an inspiring example of what can happen when people are allowed to give freely, as the Lord leads, and not under compulsion.)

I pray that you take seriously the error of churches teaching or commanding the tithe today, because it points to a much larger misunderstanding of the reality of the New Covenant; and it potentially points to other issues such as greed, lack of faith, and lusts of the eyes and the flesh in church leaders who directly benefit from tithes. It should go without saying that these are all issues which demand corrective action from vigilant laypeople, if they desire to see God’s Church walk in faith and see His Word honored.

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6 Responses to The Final Word on Tithing

  1. Gary Arnold says:

    Very good and accurate article.

    I would like to take this to another level, if I may, to at least be considered. Whether you agree with me or not, it is something to think about.

    If you tithe out of obligation, or because of Malachi 3:8-10 (you are robbing God if you don’t tithe), have you then put yourself under the Old Testament law and thus, fall from grace? If you have fallen from grace, does that affect your salvation? Each must decide for himself, but consider the following before making your decision:

    Galatians 5:1-4 (KJV)
    1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
    2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
    3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
    4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

    Notice in verse 4: “ye are fallen from grace.”

    Ephesians 2:4-10 (KJV)
    4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
    5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
    6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
    7That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
    8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Notice in verse 8: “by grace are ye saved through faith”

    IF you have fallen from grace, can you still be saved by grace? Of course, only God knows for sure.

  2. Braden says:

    Gary, thanks for chiming in. To answer the question you have proposed, I would say that it comes down to the heart, to the motivation of the person. Not to get too graphic here, but I am circumcised, and I imagine you are as well. We do this in America for hygienic reasons. Does this mean I have put myself under Law because of Galatians 5:3? Of course not. But if I am placing trust in my circumcision as a means of righteousness, that is an entirely different matter.

    The same can be said of tithing. I ignorantly tithed for years, since I sat under that teaching for many years, like pretty much everyone does. But my tithing did not endanger my salvation; I did it out of joy and understood that it didn’t make me righteous, which is in agreement with scripture. Whether I give a strict 10% or whether I give as the Lord puts upon my heart, if at any point I begin to trust in my work of giving for any shred of righteousness with God, that moment is when I fall from grace.

    I’ve enjoyed some related study, in terms of “falling short of the grace of God,” in Hebrews 12:14-16. I’m not trying to redirect the conversation; I’m just noting that the grace of God is an amazing thing that I feel I’m only beginning to understand. I’ve so often been told it’s simply “God’s unmerited favor,” but scripture has so much more to say about grace. But I digress…

  3. Jason Rowland says:

    Yes, I definitely see a problem if a leader states that tithing is a command. And I do think that Christ expects us to give out of the love Christ gives us. Afterall, Christ expects us to give all we have such as the widow did (Mark 12:43-44).

    Another point I wanted to make is that your reference on the Pharisees in Matthew 23:24-26 is really referring to the Pharisees hearts as the inside of the cup and their outside appearances as the outside of the cup. It’s a metaphor to illustrate this point and to make it more clear on how silly it is to do things just to look good without getting rid of the muck in their hearts. So proper giving needs to come out of pure motivations not in order to attain wealth or to look good but for our desire to serve God and His kingdom giving out of the abundance He has provided for us. I do think that giving can be taught in this way at a church. It needs to be done in a loving way and not in a threatening way, where people feel pressure.

    Basically I think my comments are in agreement with you, but maybe stated slighty different. Good article Braden.

    -Jason

  4. Braden says:

    Amen, Jason. Great illustration. Thanks for sharing that.

  5. Jim says:

    Braden,

    “Will you rob God?” This is the common one we heard at our AOG church.

    The other one was “God will make your 90% go farther then other peoples 100%”

    As a very lukewarm and greedy pew warmer of course I fell for it. I started tithing to “test God in this” and to “get more back in return”. How else are you going to get mostly lukewarm and unconverted church goers to throw away money on new pews and youth group trips to Cedar point though. Its actually a very “good” tactict if you think about it.

    Those who teach tithing either have a personal agenda to do so, or have simply been poor bareans and accepted the false words of those with the agenda. I know there are true brethren that fall in that catagory. Over the summer I met a brother who left his position as a pastor at a denominational church because there was so much pressure from mothership to get the people’s money. This is not an exception sadly.

    I have been very edified by what I have read on your blog and it seems like the Lord has shown us a lot of the same things. God bless you in Christ Jesus.

    Jim (Sean and Lisas friend)

  6. Braden says:

    Praise the Lord, Jim. It’s a real pleasure to “meet” you. I think Sean has told you how edified I was by a post on a “random” forum out there someplace that I read. Any friend of Sean & Lisa is a friend of mine. I look forward to meeting you someday, whether in this life or the next. God bless you.

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