I am not an ordained minister. That fact is not only a disclaimer, it’s a benefit, allowing me to write freely on such subjects.
Those who insist that we must tithe are regularly citing two Old Testament passages to support their claims. In the first Abraham, they say, gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had, long before the law was instituted (Genesis 14:20a). This proves, they insist, that if we are truly godly, we are to give a tenth of our income to them.
They neglect to mention that neither Melchizedek or, so far as we can tell, God, told Abraham that he must give a tenth of his wealth: he gave of his own free will. They also neglect to tell you that Abraham won a military victory and the honor of Melchizedek, before parting with his cash. Usually the story that we hear these days is that if we will just part with enough cash first, then we will be blessed. Give to get. Name it and claim it. Blab it and grab it.
Abraham’s order of events is the other way around: blessing preceded Abraham’s gift, which came from his free will generosity. Abraham was not a blessed man because he gave a tenth of his wealth, but because of his faith:
So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:5-6).
BEFORE THE LAW
Remaining in the pre-Law period for a moment, Enoch was taken to be with the Lord because he walked with God. There’s no mention of him tithing, and to suggest that he did is adding to Scripture, a dangerous presumption (Genesis 5:24). Noah was delivered from the Flood because he was a righteous man. There is no mention in Scripture of Noah tithing:
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9).
Lot and his family were rescued from the destruction of Sodom because Lot was a righteous man. Again, there is no mention anywhere in Scripture of him tithing to win the approval of God.
Abel, killed by his brother, was considered righteous, but the account of his offering makes no mention of a tithe.
ARE WE ROBBING GOD?
Another common Scripture used to pour blame and guilt upon the reluctant giver is found in the book of Malachi, and this is what we’re told from the pulpit and our TV screens:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Malachi 3:8-10).
The “storehouse” we are presently admonished to place our tithes (and offerings) into is of course the minister’s bank account. But who is God speaking to in this passage? He is speaking to the nation of Israel:
“…your whole nation”.
Israel was the nation who were given the Law to live by, including animal sacrifice and required attendance at feasts in the city of Jerusalem-none of which the modern believer fulfills or is expected to fulfil. It was the nation of Israel who were given the words of God through Jewish Malachi, and tithing was a part of that Law. There is no such statement about Gentiles “robbing God” in the New Testament, in which the Law is superseded by grace.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Look, for example, at the decision of the Jerusalem church council in Acts. Peter addressed the council because some Jewish believers were telling Gentile converts to the gospel that they must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). When Peter had addressed the council, the council’s conclusion, and the message the disciples passed on to Gentiles included no mention or even a hint of tithing:
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things (verses 28-29).
Here is a quote from James’ letter, rarely quoted from money-grabbing ministries:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).
What is giving for, according to James? It’s for taking care of those who need help-those who are genuinely poor.
Occasionally those who want us to tithe highlight the words of Jesus, who told the Jews of his time that they should continue to tithe:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former (Matthew 23:23).
Notice that Jesus is speaking to those under law here. He never told anyone of his time to dispense with the law. In fact, he himself honored the law during his life on earth:
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).
However, we Gentile and Jewish believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ are not under law. Jesus spoke of tithing in the above verse on the subject as being a matter of the law:
“But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former“.
Moreover, Jesus affirmed the tithing of mint, dill and cumin. How many present-day ministries are busily exacting supplies of mint, dill and cumin? Are we to place a jar of dill pickles in the offering plate every Sunday? And why aren’t the ministers doing so, since it’s a requirement, according to Jesus?
THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
The modern church in the United States has become obsessed with material wealth. It’s “for the Lord”. Oh, really? Then why is it that the Lord’s self-proclaimed ministers are living in the wealthiest parts of town on the money given to Him? Yes, the Lords’ ministers certainly do deserve to be paid for their work, but where is their modesty?
When the unbelieving world sees the Church’s obsession with wealth, they are that much more disgusted with the Church, and the Lord’s name is sullied. I’ve been an unbeliever, and I’ve lived among unbelievers, and perhaps their number one gripe with the Church is that Christian and related cult ministries are always after money. Take a look at the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, and you will find that money and wealth was never collected to provide a handsome income for the claimed ministers of Christ, or for fancy, lavish buildings. Instead, giving was always encouraged to help the poor. I’m not at all talking about socialism here: socialism takes from us whether we want to give or not-which concept is far more in line with required tithing than giving from the heart is. Christian giving is willing giving from the heart without coercion. Paul stated it as plainly as he could state it:
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28).
What was Paul’s motivation for working? It was in order to give to those in need, not in order to help pay for more expensive buildings.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give generously, but if you read his second letter to them you see very clearly that the giving he encouraged was for the benefit of those in need-not for the construction of a more impressive building, or a better sound system, or a more admirable salary for pastoral or worship leader candidates. It was for those believers who were in need:
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
What’s more is that in this example of Paul’s discussion on giving, there is no mention of a tithe-it’s giving according to one’s heart and one’s ability:
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have (verse 12).
Some people are able to give generously, and so they should, if their heart is in it. Others are not able to give at all. If a single mother is struggling just to pay for small rented space to live in, how can she be expected to part with ten percent of her meagre income? In this case, she and her child would have to go without food, while others in the church-including the ministers-live well. No, this is not right: this is the opposite of God’s intention.
Neither is it correct to claim that if she will just part with her money God will bless her with more. This is the giving-to-get mentality, which, in my opinion, is worldly, greedy, selfish, and tempting the Lord, not blessing Him. Perhaps this is a subject for another post. Suffice to say here that this teaching is often a case of extortion, where a ministry will enrich itself by convincing its followers that if they will just give generously, God will repay the gift many times over. This is a lie.