Daily Archives: December 5, 2010

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.

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What your pastor doesn’t want you to know about the tithe

Ed Young Goes After Access to Bank Accounts of Church Members from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.

What you say if I told you that the tithe, which is preached as gospel truth from most pulpits, like the one above, is not something a Christian is required to obey? Would say what one deacon did that he “didn’t care if it wasn’t in there, don’t give and watch you get you for it”.

It is rather interesting that the tithe is the least supported practice of the modern church today and at the same time the most hotly defended.

Defining terms

First, let’s examine what the tithe is.

In the Old Testament, there are actually 3 tithes, totaling 23.33%. Those tithes don’t all go to the storehouse (temple) as many preachers like to teach (by butchering Malachi 3:10).

Tithe #1

Numbers 18:20-30 – 10% was to be given to the Levites, because they had no inheritance in the land. (And the Levites had to give 10% of that to Aaron.) This was a tax under a theocracy.

Tithe #2

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 – 10% of the increase of crops or livestock to take to God’s specified place to worship (eventually Jerusalem) , to be consumed and drunk by the tither. If the way was too long to carry it there, then the tither was to sell it, get money for it, then go to the place of worship and “and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (v.26) This is a savings account for a pilgrimage.

Tithe #3

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” This is another tax under a theocracy. Amortized over 3 years. This is where the odd 3 and 1/3 figure comes from.

Not subject to the law

Christ fulfills the requirements of the law in the NT. So for the same reason we no longer sacrifice animals on alters or consider buildings as sacred or see the Levitical priesthood as being in effect, we no longer tithe to support a theocratic system of government. The temple no longer exists, so the whole concept of robbing it is rendered null and void.

Pastors who preach on the tithe may not be consciously lying to their congregations, they may just be ill or uninformed as to the facts.1 And the facts are simply that the tithe has not been reinstituted in the NT. And yes, the tithe would have to be reinstituted since in the OT the tithe was given to a specific place (the temple) to specific people (the priests) under a theocratic system or partially independent Jewish state as the case is in the NT until about 90AD when they were eliminated as a sovereign or even semi-sovereign state.

In the NT we are told that we are to give to the poor, the needy, etc. It may be the case that man-made organizations such as 501c3 non-profit businesses may do a good job of filling the needs of the poor and needy. However it is wrong to conflate the ekklesia or assembly of believers with either the temple of the OT (to which tithes were to be paid) or a building/man-made organization which is meant by most pastors who advocate tithing.

Not under compulsion

Finally, in the NT we are told that our giving should not be under compulsion and in accordance with what we’ve decided in our hearts to give per 2 Corinthians 9:7. A tithe, by contrast stands directly opposed to this sentiment as it is both compulsory (Malachi 3:8-12) and it is a specified amount (Numbers 18:26).

In the NT we are called to practice grace-based giving to those in need. While some may choose to give to organizations that can and often do meet the needs of those in need quite well, others don’t. Neither, however, are sinning in how they choose to spend their money. However it is wrong to assert that the tithe is still in effect today. Especially when what we are supposedly tithing to is 1. not the temple and 2. often horribly mismanaged and/or spent almost exclusively on infrastructure (like props for the big show on Sunday morning).

Framing the issue

A simple formula to remember when dealing with this subject is

tithe = compulsory = tax

The tithe is compulsory, that contradicts the clear teaching of giving found in the NT. The tithe is also a tax designed to support a political system that does not exist anymore.

Errata

1 Corinthians 16:2 tells us that we are to set some money aside “in keeping with his income”, “saving it up”. In modern parlance this would be in another personal bank account, like a separate savings account. “so that when I come no collections will have to be made” Begging for money was not a laudable part of the gathering of believers back then. Neither is it today.

Many proponents of the tithe also like to use regarding Abraham and Melchizedek, the King of Salem in Genesis 14:14-20. However the most you can draw from this section is that we should give once in our lifetimes and of that, only of the plunders we’ve accumulated in battle.

It is also worth noting that this collection mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:2 was for the persecuted church in Jerusalem. It was not for “the local Church” to keep and use on bigger buildings and more elaborate programs and presentations.

Conclusion

Tithing is an OT concept that has absolutely no place whatsoever in the NT. We are called to give graciously, not under compulsion. Tithing is a compulsory tax. The two are incompatible and pastors who preach that their congregations are obligated to tithe are either ignorant of the facts or are flat out lying. In either case they need to repent and stop fleecing the flock.

Additional resources

  1. Though this poses a problem in itself. []