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Sunday, April 26, 2015

131. Why the teachings on Tithing have failed the Local Church

I read an article recently and thought I’d revisit the teaching of tithing. I've actually written several posts on this subject as this topic directly relates to personal finance in a Christian's life. 

The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.   

1. Before even starting this post I’ll point out two passage I read recently:
  
”Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”- 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.

In case you missed it here it is again: The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.

Here’s the second verse that speaks for itself:

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, and do them.’” – Galatians 3:10

Is the tithe given as a command in the New Testament and is the tithe the standard to Christians today? The answer to both of these questions is no. 

2. Is the tithe given as a command in the New Testament and is the tithe the standard for giving to Christians today? The answer to both of these questions is no. The tithe was the standard for Israelites and directly related to the law. There were in fact 3 tithes in the Bible: One for the Levites and Temple paid yearly, a second for the feasts Israel celebrated paid yearly, and a third for the poor, widow, orphan, and foreigner to be paid every three years. This would result on average for a 23.3% tithe of the seed and flocks from one’s annual produce from the land. Notice this would only apply to land owners. 

See Deut. 14:22-27, Lev. 18:19-21, Deut. 16:16, Deut. 12:6-8, and Deut. 14:28-29

The book of Malachi was written at a specific time (around 430 B.C.) to a specific audience of Jewish people (Israel) who lived in a specific place (Palestine) prior to the exile to Babylon.  

3. Now, I'm sure some would say "Hold on a minute Jonathan! What about Malachi 3?" That is an excellent question. Before we go straight to our favorite passage relating to this subject and tear Malachi 3:8-10 out of context, let's look at the context of the entire book. For the sake of time I'll focus on two passages. But the rest of the book reads the same way. First, let's tart with Malachi 1:1. Who was the book was written to? "The Oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi."

Second, let's look at the actual verses prior to Malachi 3:8-10... Malachi 3:6 states: "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." 

Who are the children of Jacob? The answer still seems to be the same as it was in Malachi 1:1 - Israel. The book of Malachi was written at a specific time to a specific audience of Jewish people (Israel) who lived in a specific place (Palestine) prior to the exile to Babylon. 

Just because a person is not for tithing doesn't mean they are against giving to the local church.  

4. Please keep reading! Are you free to disagree with me? Sure. This isn’t a salvation issue. Just because a person is not for tithing doesn't mean they are against giving to the local church. I'll repeat that as some seem to have a hard time grasping the concept. Just because a person is not for tithing doesn't mean they are against giving to the local church. Several people have called me mean names and claimed I was a false teacher when I have shared my thoughts on this topic. Lol. One lady went so far as to say that I should start my own cult… Because I didn’t limit giving to a certain percentage of my income… All that to say, you are free to disagree but please be gentle. I'm thankful God’s not done with me yet.

Is the new standard for Christians generous and sacrificial giving? Absolutely! 

5. Is the new standard for Christians generous and sacrificial giving? Absolutely! The Bible talks about giving sacrificially on more than one occasion in both the Old and New Testament. One of the primary passages in the New Testament is 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15. There are others listed as examples below.

See Exodus 36:5, 1 Kings 17:13-15, Luke 21:4, Acts 2:45, Acts 4:34, Hebrews 13:16, 2 Cor. 8:2-4, 1 Tim 6:18

Stewardship is so much more than just giving 10% of our income to the local church.

6. Many Church leaders tell people to give their “tithes and offerings” and think it somehow fulfills their duty of teaching the local church about stewardship. Stewardship is so much more than giving 10% of our income to the local church. Our finances are just one aspect of the entire package God wants: time, energy, effort, love, and so much more. God wants 100%. He wants our very lives! Note: I think 10% or more is a good goal, but by itself it is an incomplete teaching. 

Let's be real. In the West, this teaching of modern tithing has failed. 

7. Let’s be real. In the West, this teaching of modern tithing has failed. The numbers speak for themselves. People are more in debt than ever in the West. Giving for many if not a majority of churches is down. Churches are closing their doors and shutting off the lights. In the U.S.A., less than 2.5% of evangelical Christians tithe (or give 10% to their local church). For comparison, about 3.5% of Americans tithed during the Great Depression era. 

Not only is the doctrine of tithing failed the local church, the other side of the coin is that Americans (Christians included) are drowning in debt.  

8. Why are Christians less generous today? The teaching on the tithe is only partially to blame. But let's look at this for a moment. The doctrine of the tithe is part of the Old Covenant based on the law. The law just points out our need for grace, mercy, and hope that only be found in our Savior Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant is conditional on how we perform. The New Covenant is unconditional and is all about how God has performed for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Not only has the doctrine of tithing failed the local church, the other side of the coin is that Americans (Christians included) are drowning in debt. According to this article the average American household in December of 2014 owes over $15,600 in credit card debt, over $32,200 in student loan debt, and over $155,100 in mortgage debt. 

The wrong motivation for giving is pride, guilt, greed, pressure, gimmicks, and power. 

9. Let’s switch gears to talk about motivation for a minute. The wrong motivations for giving are: pride, guilt, greed, pressure, gimmicks, and power. Right reasons for giving include: gratitude to God, recognizing God owns it all, compassion for others, desire to serve God and our church, love for God and others, passion for reaching the lost, desire for our faith to grow, desire to glorify God and expand His Kingdom. When we give out of love and gratitude rather than fear and guilt, our giving will naturally increase.
Given the opportunity, I believe Christians following the Holy Spirit's guidance will rise to the calling of giving generously.

10. Given the opportunity, I believe Christians following the Holy Spirit's guidance will rise to the calling of giving generously. Think of it this way. If you have a charity banquet and tell people that the cost to attend per person is $30 what will you get? You will get $30 per person. On the other hand, if you tell people that the dinner itself costs $20 and the attendees are welcome to donate as much as they want towards the cause, what will happen? You will get people giving to the charitable cause $50, $100, $150 or more, nine times out of ten. Why? Because you didn't set a cap or a limit on their giving. Many people view the tithe as a cap or a ceiling on their giving!

Perhaps you're thinking: “Talk of sacrificial giving is a bit heavy. May I have some good news?”

11. Yes! The good news is God will never love you less for how much you give. On the flip side, God will never love you more for how much you give either. God’s love is NOT dependent on YOUR giving: your tithes, offerings, gifts to ministries, to evangelists, to missionaries, or anything else you can think of. Salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ are both free to us without money or cost. There’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. We as Believers don’t give to be saved or to earn God's approval. Instead, we give sacrificially BECAUSE we are saved and BECAUSE we want others to be reached for the Gospel. 

As Christians, giving should be a part of our DNA!

12. Give! Whether you give to a local church, your neighbors in need, the local music radio station, your favorite charities, or something else, give! As Christians, giving should be a part of our DNA!


So it is perfectly fine for a Christian to choose to give a freewill offering to God of a tenth of their income (as did Abraham before the Law – Genesis 14:18-20). But if a Christian sees tithing as making them more committed, more mature, more deserving of God’s favor, more righteous, or in some sense more approved before God than those who don’t tithe, then that Christian is treating tithing as a Law – and in so doing, undermining the cross of Christ.


What do you think about giving, tithing, and stewardship? Leave a comment!


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