Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Seven Things Your Pastor Doesn't Want You To Know About Tithing

These points will serve as a roadmap for where we're heading over the next several posts. I'll develop each of these in more detail later, but here's a sampler to whet your appetite:

Nowhere in Scripture are Christians commanded to tithe. Nowhere. In fact, Christians are never even gently encouraged to tithe. There are several opportunities in the New Testament where Paul or the writer to the Hebrews could have easily slipped in a verse to that point, but there is no such exhortation.

Malachi 3:8-9 does not apply to Christians. This is the tithe-teacher's bludgeon-passage about robbing God in tithes and offerings. It contains the scary "you are cursed with a curse" threat and is often used to intimidate congregations in a manner that amounts to ecclesiastical extortion. But, it was written to those under the Law of Moses (see Malachi's remedy for the readers of his letter in 4:4). Christians are not bound by the Law because it was fulfilled in Christ and the debt of guilt created by the Law was cancelled at the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) is not binding on Christians. This is important. Abraham's tithe to Melchizadek is a favorite way tithe-teachers try to get around the pesky Law issue, but it is an illegitimate argument and violates basic Bible study and application principles.

The Biblical means of supporting the local church is through the freewill giving of its members. The New Testament is not vague on the issue of giving as some would have you believe. In fact, Paul devotes two full chapters to the issue of giving - 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. Very briefly, he says that Christian giving should be done liberally, cheerfully, and under no obligation. It's interesting that in this thorough treatment of the subject, Paul never once mentions the tithe (that's because it wasn't required of New Testament Christians).

Jesus only spoke about tithing twice. Both times it was to condemn the Pharisees who loved to boast about their tithing record (incidentally, they were supposed to be tithing - they were still under the law).

Newly converted Gentiles were not required to tithe. There was a huge debate in the early church about which Jewish practices were to be required of the new Gentile Christians (circumcision was the main area of controversy). In the end, the church leadership decided there were only a few things required of Gentile believers (Acts 15:28-29): three of them were dietary and there's an obligatory warning to abstain from sexual immorality - but no mention of tithing (or circumcision, for that matter!).

The Church didn't practice tithing for the first 700 years of its existence. As the Church of Rome started to grow, it needed the people's money to operate. It has been posited that the doctrine of the tithe rose as the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer eroded under Rome.

Just for clarification, I'm delving into this topic to hopefully set a lot of people free who are currently under a bondage of guilt and fear. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for binding heavy burdens and laying them on men's shoulders (Matthew 23:4), and I see the tithe doctrine as being just that.

In order to better understand much of what is going to be discussed, we need to have a quick primer on the Law of Moses - that'll be the next post.


Letha said...

Hmmmm. What do you do with Jesus' words in Matthew 23:23 where he says that tithing is something that should be done?!

Gil said...

Hey Kip, Just curious. Did you ever discuss these things with the pastors at these churches? and if so what kind of reaction did you receive?

Spenx said...

Wow! I'm enjoying these posts Kip - seems to be very insightful. It reminds me of when I first heard the point that never in the Bible does it state that Heaven is NOT here on Earth. You're always taught Heaven is "waaaay up there" but there is no mentioning in the Bible that it is anywhere BUT here on Earth - the New Jerusalem.
And Letha... your post intrigued me so I hit up a site that had every translation of that verse.
It doesn't seem that Jesus pushes us to tithe at all in that verse; if anything, he says tithing isn't AS important as mercy, justice, etc. Perhaps you meant another verse - I'd love to hear both sides of this. Very very interesting.

Pastor Kip said...

Letha - great question! Regarding Matthew 23:23, it's important to keep in mind that Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees who were still under the Law of Moses. In the verse Jesus says, " . . . you have neglected the weightier matters of the law . . ." Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, but are under a new covenant through Jesus.

Gil, I have discussed tithing with several different pastors over the years, but not necessarily all these points. I've had the tithing teaching engrained in me since I was a child, so I'm well acquainted with the position.

The points I've listed and will be discussing are points I've gleaned from the works of John MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, and The Billy Graham Association to name just a few.

Pastor Kip said...

Good point, Spenx.

I think it's revealing that the only times Jesus mentions the tithe is in a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees - to condemn their self-righteous pride.

Is this really the ringing endorsement the tithe advocate wants?

Letha said...

In response to the questions about Matthew 23:23. Yes, Jesus definitely emphasizes that the weightier matters of justice, love and compassion must come first. But he does say regarding tithing to "NOT leave this undone." Indeed, the structure of this verse is what is called a chiasm, a Greek literary device to set up parallels. Jesus is, in fact, saying that we must first to the most important things, yet not forget to tithe.

Pastor Kip said...

True that, Letha, but like I said - Jesus was talking to the Pharisees who were still under the law at the time. Of course Jesus would affirm their obligation to tithe - they were still tithing under Old Testament regulations. That didn't change until the cross.