The Truth About Tithing

You are meant to be free. In the beginning, God made Adam and Eve as free as possible; with the exception of one rule, they had freedom in the Garden before Time began to unwind at the Fall. But since that time, our sin nature has worked against the intent of God, so that we cannot be truly free without the atoning work and sovereignty of Christ in our hearts. Even now, some who read this, who think they are free, labor under false hope and deception. They think they are free, but because they have not held to the Scriptures, they have been ensnared by the doctrines of demons, as well as the willful disobedience and ignorance of those they've entrusted with their spiritual well-being.

Oh, Christian, do you not know that those who continue in His Word are truly His disciples? And if you are, He says this of you, "You will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Are you one then? Are you a true disciple of Christ? If you think so, let me offer you a test to see for yourself if you know the truth of Christ and are free.

How much ought you give to the church you attend? It's a simple question, really. The one who is taught of Christ knows the truth. The one who is taught of man does not. What do you say? What is right? Is the answer fixed in your mind? Okay, well, at least you know whether you think you know or not.

Now then, I have lived in several cities over the course of my life and have attended several churches, which is not a boast but a way of qualifying my next statements. Those churches were all protestant, mostly Baptist, Pentecostal, or Bapticostal if you will, with some Methodist, nondenominational, and miscellaneous others tossed in, so my experience is limited somewhat. But, given what I've witnessed firsthand, if you believe that which your pastor teaches on this subject, I'd be willing to say that you are more likely than not improperly informed regarding this subject. In fact, I'd be willing to estimate more than half of you gave an answer that might be technically acceptable but fails to properly hit the mark due to lack of knowledge or even wrong-thinking on your part.

Some of you have stopped reading at this point, but those of you who genuinely want to hear what I have to say are still with me. I thank God for you. Still, you want to know how I can be so sure that more than half who answered are wrong. I can say this because, given my (albeit somewhat limited) experience, a good many pastors, if they teach anything regarding the matter at all, teach that a Christ-follower ought to give 10% of his or her income, based upon the commands of God in the Law. Some who think themselves particularly scholarly say this isn't all that Israel gave because there were, in fact, three tithes. And almost always, the person speaking will point to Malachi and God's statement to Israel, "Test Me in this." Sometimes this message is accompanied by well-intentioned members of the church who testify of all the ways that God has blessed them for their tithe or 10% gift.

Even though I believe they mostly have good intentions, I am sorry to say it seems as if they teach Christ-followers that God is like a vending machine in the sky. In a sense, it's almost as if they want to live under the Law as ones taught by men rather than living under Grace with all united under one head in Christ Jesus with their attitude of insert-10%-here-get-blessings-in-return. What if I told you that such teachings actually hinder God's desire for you and your life? What if I told you that, although you think you do well giving 10%, you have missed so much more by only giving 10% because that's what somebody told you that you're supposed to give? Pastors who teach the tithe of 10% as the mark for Christians or the minimal entry point to giving have actually held you back by their fears and lack of faith in both God as their provider and you as their congregant. Some are clearly ignorant of the truth, but some have bills to pay and likely think that 10% is better than nothing. I'm not sure which is worse, but you ought to have complete understanding in these matters so that you make the best choice in alignment with God's Will. I am going to share with you the truth so that you will be free to be blessed fully by God.

We might look at the story of the temple tax in Matthew 17 for clues. Here we find that Jesus says the sons of God are exempt from paying the temple tax, just as earthly kings exempt their own children from their tax collections. And so we must ask just what is this temple tax? What bearing does this story have on modern Christ-followers? The temple tax was money collected to support the upkeep of the temple in Jerusalem. If your financial gifts are going to support the upkeep of a place of worship rather than to help others and support ministry, one might consider that the modern equivalent of the temple tax, which Jesus paid even though He did not have to do so. He did this to keep the collectors of the temple tax from stumbling in sin on His account. You may go to the roots of the words in the original language to see this for yourself. The word translated "offend" there is the source of our modern word "scandal." Some will argue that this has nothing to do with tithing, but I think it establishes a tone regarding the purpose for giving as being essential to the value of an act of giving.

We also might look to commands given to gentile followers of Christ in Acts 15 for added insight. No requirement here is given regarding gift-giving or tithing. The commands, which are all but forgotten in modern Christianity, are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. Apart from these, we find only commands to love, do good, and be generous. So where will we find what the Christian ought to give? Is there no guideline given apart from 10% tithing as it appears under the Law?

Oh, yes, there is a guideline, and it just so happens to run counter to the 10% tithing principle taught by so many. We may find it in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, verses 6 - 15. Go ahead and read it. God willing, I'll be here when you're done. The gist of it is this:

The one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap generously. Each one should give what he has purposed in his heart to give, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   

So, if you're giving 10% thinking that covers it, and you're doing it because you're expected to, you know what that means? It means you sow sparingly, and you don't even really gain as much as the one who gives less but does it cheerfully because you do it as something owed by you to God rather than as a generous gift. And that's not all! Oh no, that's not all!

The Scriptures essentially say that being really generous with God as a cheerful giver not only results in a generous harvest, but also God will ensure that you have all you need, be abundant for every good work, and that He will increase the harvest of your righteousness. The end result of great generosity toward God is that He will make you able to be even more generous as your generosity causes others to praise Him and spurs them on to greater generosity themselves. And how does this generosity express itself through the generous?

In 2 Corinthians 9:12, the direct result of this generosity is that the needs of the saints are met. The important secondary impact of generosity is that many give thanks to God. So, while Jesus may not care much for the upkeep of buildings, He certainly does care for the upkeep of people made in the Image of God, especially those who follow Christ. Brothers and sisters, let us continue doing good to all, but especially to the brethren. If someone has the goods of this world and sees a brother in need, yet closes off his heart from that one, how can the love of God abide in him? Let us not love in word and speech, but in action and truth. If you want to know why the world tires of hearing about thoughts and prayers, it's not because they expect you to solve their problems. It's because they want actions rather than just another round of words. If there is a brother or sister lacking clothing or food, and you send that one off with kind words but do nothing to provide for his or her needs, what does that profit anyone?

I once reached out to the lead pastor of a megachurch in my hometown that takes in over $8,000,000 in donations each year, seeking assistance for myself in acquiring a job. I thought surely the man has someone who might be willing to talk to me to at least point me in a direction. His response to me? "I'll be praying for you." I recently read an article saying that the world is fed up with thoughts and prayers because they expect too much of us, that they want us to solve their problems. The author was wrong. They don't expect us to solve their problems, but they do want to see more than just words thrown around. Prayer is powerful, but too often Christians think that prayer is all they need to offer. I do not lessen the importance of prayer by my words, but I challenge you to do more than just pray. Nehemiah prayed to God AND posted a watch. He asked God to do what He would do, but then he also did what God enabled him to do.

Speaking of Nehemiah, if we wish to go to the Old Testament for guidance on giving, we ought to consider what that repairer of broken walls did for God's people. He actually went and bought his brothers out of debt. Are you willing to get your brothers and sisters in Christ out of debt? No? Hmm. Some of you are, but are unable to because of your own debts. Can you not sense the wrongness of our position before God? Here's a radical view for you: While you defend the tithe, why not go all the way to implement the economic policies that go with the tithe? You want cafeteria Christianity? You want to pick and choose that which we keep and that which we ignore? Every seven years, all your brothers and sisters in Christ are to be released from their debts without question. If we're going to live by the tithe, then we must live by the other provisions of the Law as well.

And while you're at it, when are we going to hold the celebration where we purchase many lovely things to consume with joy in the presence of the Lord? That's part of the tithe as well. Oh, see, I suspect that one reason why only one of the tithes is preached is because if all of the tithes were preached, we'd actually be using some of it for a celebration where, according to Deuteronomy 14, we could have a real feast and drink strong drinks. I'm not advocating drunkenness, but if we're going to live with the economics under the Law, we need to implement every bit of it.  

Under the Law, if there is a poor brother in any of your towns, you must open your hand freely to him and lend him generously whatever is sufficient to meet that which he lacks. See, under the Law, we'd pretty much be required to have universal healthcare to meet this requirement with surety. We'd also need to ensure that home mortgages and all other debts would be wiped clean every seven years. We'd also probably need to think about free education to really meet the needs of every poor brother and sister in Christ. Socialism? Communism? No, that's Christ-centric-ism. Paul said he'd rather never eat meat again than cause a brother or sister to stumble. Well, I'd rather ensure that good is done to all rather than let it be said of me that I ignored the needs of the least of these brothers and sisters in Christ. But that's just me. You can determine for yourself what you will say to Christ that day. Too often Grace is being used as an excuse to fall far short of the mark without really trying to do as God would have us do.

God says that whoever shuts his ear to the cries of the poor will also cry out and not be heard. A lot of American kids are going to bed hungry tonight. Did that prick your ears or heart? What about the starving in other places? Well, I will put it to you then, what have you done today for the least of these? But there are so many in need; however shall we meet all their needs and still feed ourselves? God has already said that if you are very generous, He will provide all you need. But if we address the poor of our nation, there will be others outside our nation who also need help. In fact, the poor will always be with us. True, but should that stop you from having faith in God and doing what He has enabled you to do for them? We could change this world tomorrow if every Christian lived in accordance with the teachings of the Word. If we loved and were generous the way we are supposed to be, we could practically eradicate world hunger within just a few years. Or do you worship a different God than I do? Do you not know that the miracles of feeding the masses that Jesus did were done in part to show that when we are generous in Christ, God makes what we have sufficient to the task? They were also done in part to show you that when you obey the commands of God, nothing can stop you but your own lack of faith. Or have we forgot that Peter walked on water, too? Why do you think he told the Lord to command him to come to him? Peter understood what we have forgotten or ignored.

So, while you're paying your 10% to upkeep that big building you worship in, while you're sleeping in a warm bed with a satisfied stomach tonight, what do you think will be required of you who have been given so much, comparatively speaking, tomorrow or the day after, or even this very night? I wonder if we'd have to imprison so much of our population compared to other nations if we just invested a little more doing the will of God for our poor brothers and sisters. How many others might turn to God if they saw people doing the Word instead of just hearing and repeating the Word?

So, how'd you do? Have you kept to the Scriptures? Have you known Truth, and are you free? Are you truly a disciple of Christ?

I pray that you give good thought to these matters, and may God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Ed MyersComment