Tithing Under Attack

To tithe, or not to tithe, is that even a question?  Apparantly for some it is.  What has been understood for many years to be a sound Christian principle has come under attack, and the attack seems to me to be getting broader and wider.  There are not many blogs, or ministry websites that I follow but there are a few. 

Because my wife and I attend the Pastor’s Conference in Jacksonville, Florida every year I became aware of the “fbcjaxwatchdog” controversy that has surrounded Mac Brunson.  Because I pastor in Corinth, MS and because Steve Gaines was born here, and has preached at our church I am aware of the issues surrounding his ministry at Bellevue in Memphis.  That being said, regardless of any other issue, both men have become points of contact for critics, and both men have been lamblasted for preaching the doctrine of tithing.  (Of which I have never heard a criticism of Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, or W.A. Criswell for teaching the same thing.)

I have also taken note of the “moderate” blog of Wade Burleson.  I do not know Mr. Burleson, but it is apparant that he does not understand landmarkism, or the difference between “tertiary” doctrine, and just outright truth.  That being said, he too has criticised those who teach the doctrine of tithing.

Even within the association of churches that I am in, critics of the teaching of the tithe have risen.  All of which has left me wondering, why the angst, why the attack, and why the backlash against such a plain Biblical principle?

That being the case, I want to put down right here, why I teach and preach the doctrine of the principle of tithing.

First of all, it is a Permanent Principle, not a  Religious Rule.

Leviciticus 27:30 and 32 express the principle that “the tenth is holy unto the Lord.”  That is a settled fact.  The tenth of what?  The tenth of anything that is measured as gain.  It is a timeless principle that is not bound by the law.  The “principle” existed before the law, during the time of the law, and was encouraged by Christ the fulfillment of the law.  What many critics have done is miss this fact that tithing is a  “stand alone principle”, and declare that we have taken it out of the context of the rules that it is placed in.  The fact is that this “principle” of the tenth, is placed in many different contexts within the scripture.  There is a stark difference between a rule and a principle, and preachers like me are accused of making it a Rule, when in fact I teach it as the scriptures teach it as a principle to desire to live by in any context.

It was placed within the context of farmers, Levites, shepherds, different kind of offerings, and different times of offerings.  It is calculated different ways at different times for different purposes.  My point is this, while the context changes the principle stays the same.  “A Tenth is Holy Unto the Lord.”  A tenth is Holy unto the Lord in Abraham’s day, in David’s day, in the days of the Apostles, and in Jeff’s day.  Whatever the instructions of offering be for whatever age, the principle is that “a tenth is Holy unto the Lord.”  Know the principle.

Second – It is a Personal Practice, not a Righteous Ritual  

Another criticism that is levied at the tithe teachers is that lay heavy burdens on the poor and condemn them as wrong for not giving 10%.  Let it be said here, I think some people who do give 10% are wrong.  And it’s not because they could give more either.  I’ll put it this way.  If you won’t give “a tenth unto the Lord,” then you are in the wrong.  If you do give “a tenth unto the Lord” but do not want to, then you are wrong.  The issue is not whether or not you give the 10th, the issue is whether or not you want to give the tenth.  If you’re heart and will are not in it, then it doesn’ t matter how much the offering is.  The Bible tells us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.”    The issue is in our heart and will, not in the stone cold obedience to a rule. You and I are to Want to live by and practice the principles of scripture.

Can you forgive but not want to, not really.  Prayer is a principle that transcends every context, and if you pray but don’t want to, you’re not really praying.  The principle of tithing is in the same sense as the principle of praising.  You’ll not find a “ritual form” of praising in the New Testament church, yet if we do not, we are sinning by not praising the Lord.

Thirdly – It is a Precious Present, not a Rigid Reverence

The Bible makes it plain that to knoweth to do good and doeth it not it is sin.  I am no longer under the law, but I do know what my Father loves.  When I was growing up there were family rules in the house of my parents.  I am no longer in their home, and am, “free” to do as I please.  However because I love and respect my parents, as long as I live I will abide by those “family rules”.  I don’t have to, but I want to, and I believe that I would be wrong if I didn’t want to because of the command to honor my parents.

I tithe not because I have to, but because I want to.  Every child of God ought to want to, because “a tenth is holy unto the Lord.”  If there is anything wrong with people not tithing, it is not that they do not, it is that they do not want to.  Those who know the principles that “were written aforetime for our learning” and have rejected what they clearly see that our Father required in the past, are rejecting the counsel of the scriptures.  Whether you want to make the case of His “requirements” now is not the issue.  He has required it in the past, and in doing so has revealed to us His personal opinion.  The fact that anyone would “want” to do less than the principles that God has revealed indicates that they do not rightly understand what it means to give a tenth to the Lord.

I have much more in defense of this issue, but will take them up at another time.  My hope is not for people to start giving a tenth to the Lord.  My hope is that people will start giving all of themselves to Jesus.  Changing how much we give doesn’t really change anything, unless we have made the change to give Him everything.  Jesus is the only change worth making, and I’ll stop right there for now.

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13 comments on “Tithing Under Attack

  1. Jon Estes says:

    Thank you for your post. It was timely and to the point. It is obvious that the watchdog is out to get Dr. Brunson using the tithe argument as one of the ways but I am waiting to hear him share the same attitude towards his former pastors. Call them false teachers or at best, unable to comprehend the depths of scripture and unable to know the Lord’s will on this subject.

    It won’t come. I guess heroes are allowed to be wrong.

    Once again, thanks.

  2. Gary Arnold says:

    When the principle is wrong, the conclusion will also be wrong.

    You said, “Leviticus 27:30 and 32 express the principle that “the tenth is holy unto the Lord.” That is a settled fact. The tenth of what? The tenth of anything that is measured as gain. It is a timeless principle that is not bound by the law.”

    You have invented a principle that doesn’t exist in the Bible. God defined His tithe as a tenth of crops and animals. These come from God’s increase, NOT man’s increase. These are items man could not make. God did not say that a tenth of anything else was Holy unto The Lord.

    If there is a principle in The Lord’s tithe, it is God putting His claim on a tenth of the crops and animals, and then telling the people to take His tithe to The Levites, FOR EVER, in Numbers 18.

    At no time does God’s Word show that He commanded anyone to tithe on anything that man made or earned. To say that God expects man to give back to Him a tenth of what man makes or earns is elevating man’s importance to God.

    Church leaders have REPLACED GOD with man in the tithing formula. The Lord’s Tithe was all about God and nothing to do with man. Man only transported the tithe.

    The New Testament clearly gives the principles of giving. To place any percentage is to say that The Spirit needs assistance in determining the amount to give.

    It amazes me how church leaders invent these so-call “timeless principles.” It shows a complete lack of understanding what God’s tithe was all about.

    • Bro. Arnold,
      Thank you for your comment. One thing I would say here is that I would remind you that ALL increase comes from God. There is no such thing as man-made gain. All of the monies in all of the economies of the world belong to Him. When I buy low and sell high, it is God that has given the increase. When I work 40 hours a week and I am paid a fair days work for a fair days pay, it is God that has given me the increase. Some church leaders may have REPLACED GOD, but not all. Rightly understood, the tithe is a defendable Biblical stand alone principle that I will defend more in later posts.

      • Gary Arnold says:

        Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV): But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

        God gave me the ABILITY to produce wealth. Therefore, when I work, it is me doing the work because God gave me that ability.

        The tithe was always from God’s work. There is a big difference between God’s labor and man’s labor.

        The Lord, Himself, spoke to me through The Spirit and told me to tell the people that He never intended man to tithe on man’s labor.

        I agree that everything belongs to God. I don’t agree that God has ask, commanded, requested, or wants us to give back to Him a tenth of what comes from man’s labor.

  3. Tim G says:

    Very well done. I am doing a series on this at sbctoday.blogspot.com

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Rob George Fox says:

    What was stated was:

    “Leviciticus 27:30 and 32 express the principle that “the tenth is holy unto the Lord.” That is a settled fact. The tenth of what? The tenth of anything that is measured as gain.”

    The “tenth of anything that is measured as gain” ignores the content of verses 30 and 31. They read as follows from the New International Version: “30. A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.
    31. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it.”

    A tenth of anything that is measured as gain? Not according to 30 and 31. In verses 30, it is food from the land which excludes other food such as fish which would exclude Peter’s income. According to verse 31, if you have the right type of food, but would rather pay money, you could redeem it for 20% beyond it’s market value. That is not 10 percent, that is 12 percent. So is eternal principle 10 or 12%?
    The tithe Abraham paid was from the spoils of war that he never considered his own, and said so. Jacob vowed a tithe, but there is no recorded that he ever followed through. So the two other examples were, one, from somebodies elses capital and two, a conditional vow that he may or may not of followed through with. Both of these were voluntary freewill offers, not God commanded tithes. This is not a rational basis to state that it is an eternal principle. If it were eternal why doesn’t scripture record either Abel or Cain offering 10%? Why didn’t Paul command a specific 10%? If Christians gave according to the law during Paul’s time, they would be commanded by the Mosaic law to give it to the Jewish Levites, not to the Christian priesthood of all believers!

  5. “The Lord, Himself, spoke to me through The Spirit and told me to tell the people that He never intended man to tithe on man’s labor.”

    Bro. Arnold,

    I’m sorry, but that statement alone indicates that your Biblical theology is greatly mistaken. That is in the same category as Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, and all the other false preachers.

    The Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible, and never in contradistinction to the Bible, and the Bible never needs supernatural voices to help explain it. In the dispensation that we live in, the Bible is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

    I fully agree and believe that the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of men, and is active in our world today. But He no longer “singles men out to speak to” to say things that are already said in the scriptures. Apostles and Prophets are no longer.

    I do not intend to sound sarcastic or mean spirited. I simply want you to understand that the sound of what you are saying is desperately in error.

  6. Bro. Fox

    Thank you for your comments and visits to the site.

    You are correct about the context of the Leviticus 27, and I would never dispute that. My point has been missed altogether, and probably because I haven’t explained it as well.

    I intend a later post to further exegete the defense of the principle of tithing. But for now, the short version in a nut shell is this:

    I know what my Father DID require, when He was doing the REQUIRING. Now I am free. Knowing what my Father DID require, but using my freedom to do something else is, in spite of knowing My Father’s desire, is morally wrong, and personally dishonoring to Him.

    Take money and tithing out of it.

    Let’s say that as a boy I was required to stack the firewood a certain way and in a certain place on my Father’s porch. I did. I did it just the way that he wanted it done, but out of stone cold obedience. Now that I am a man, I can do it however I want to. But I know how He really wants it done. As his son, if I am going to honor my father, I would be wrong to do it my way knowing what he really wants and likes. I am bound by honor, and love, and care, to use my freedom to do what I would do if my Father still required it of me. The principle is, I’ve seen what my Father desires. And it is wrong for me to use my Freedom to do something else.

    I will expound on that later.

  7. Tim G says:

    “The Lord, Himself, spoke to me through The Spirit and told me to tell the people that He never intended man to tithe on man’s labor.”

    WOW, are you sure you want to make that statement?

  8. Rob George Fox says:

    Thank you for your gracious response! I await your further explanation. In the mean time, let me suggest what I believe the Father’s will is. I believe that tithing in the Old Testament were training wheels for us to learn from, not that it was the Father’s perfect will to keep us under the tithing aspect of the law forever. I found a website the other day that capture the thinking behind what the tithe should mean to us now. I will copy it, including the link. The man only left a first name so I don’t really know who to credit it to.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    The Purpose of the Tithe

    Deuteronomy 14:22-23 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God (NLT).”

    Why did God want the Israelites to set aside a tenth of their crops, grain, new wine, olive oil and firstborn males of your flocks and herds each year?

    Answer: “Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.”

    Galatians 3:23-25 “Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian (NLT).”

    Since tithing is an aspect or “matter of the law,” and we are no longer “placed under guard by the law” as under a schoolmaster. Also, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, we no longer need to be taught the fear of God, we have it already (Matthew 23:23).

    Why? Because we are God’s ambassadors. It is “because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too (2 Cor. 5:11, NLT).”

    Besides, as believers in Christ, we fulfill the laws requirements by loving God and loving others (Rom. 3:8; Gal. 5:14). Therefore, since we fulfill the laws requirements, we are under no obligation to tithe legalistically.

    On the contrary, we are told in Scripture to “give in proportion to what we have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have (2 Cor. 8:11-12).

    Remember the widow’s mite? In Mark 12:44-45 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on (NLT).”

    Why had the widow given more than “all” the others? Because of her heart, it was NOT because of the amount!

    Again, this is another reason to stop tithing 10% of your gross income and start freely giving food, shelter and clothing to those saints who are poor and in need. If it is necessary to give money to the poor saints, then so be it.

    Deuteronomy 15:10 “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.”

  9. rory says:

    The simple truth is the tenth was defined by God as food produce, not money. Never.
    The modern “moneychangers” in Gods house are still misleading Gods people.

    The simple New Testament truth is that not a single one of the apostles, (you know, the guys who wrote the New Testament from God), not a single apostle or elder even once instructed any church or saint to tithe.

    We are commanded to meet the NEEDS of the poor and needy, not fund buildings and organizations, or clergy lifestyles.

    Repeat: there is not a single verse in the New Testament instructing any saint of church to tithe EITHER foodstuffs or money.

    If you think there is, send me the verses. heydadd@pacbell.net

  10. Rob George Fox says:

    You said:
    “Let’s say that as a boy I was required to stack the firewood a certain way and in a certain place on my Father’s porch. I did. I did it just the way that he wanted it done, but out of stone cold obedience. Now that I am a man, I can do it however I want to. But I know how He really wants it done. As his son, if I am going to honor my father, I would be wrong to do it my way knowing what he really wants and likes. I am bound by honor, and love, and care, to use my freedom to do what I would do if my Father still required it of me. The principle is, I’ve seen what my Father desires. And it is wrong for me to use my Freedom to do something else.”

    The main argument that I have seen for the tithe teaching is called
    “eternal moral law or code” Saying there are 4 traits to solidify the teaching.
    1. It predates the law- There for the NT scriptures that teach we need not
    follow the law do not apply to tithing.
    2. It’s in the law- Which means that even though God did not tell us directly,
    it reflects His will for His children.
    3. Jesus spoke about it in the “NT” and did not denounce it- If we weren’t
    suppose to tithe, Jesus would have said so here in Matt 23:23 (I put quotations
    on NT because the NT had not yet come. Jesus was fulfilling the Law. It had not
    yet been abolished)
    4. Yet it was not taught by any of the Apostles.

    The trouble is that other doctrines are derived by the same criteria. I feel the clearest doctrine is that an unmarried man should marry his dead brother’s wife. Do you advocate this with the same weight that you advocate tithing?
    If you would like the scriptures for this, here they are:
    Gen 38:6-11, Deut 25:5-10, Matt 22:23-32.
    1. It predates the law – Gen 38:6-11.
    2. It is in the law- Deut 25:5-10.
    3. Jesus spoke of it in the “NT” and did not denounce it- Matt 22:23-32.
    4. It was not taught by any of the Apostles.

    One other principle I believe we can agree on:
    Deut 25:15-16:
    15. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live
    long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

    16.For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals
    dishonestly.

    I suggest proper hermeneutics would avoid the appearance of dishonesty and either stress that both of these doctrines would apply to today’s Christians or that neither of than neither of them apply.

  11. Bro. Fox,

    Thanks again for your point of view. I said that I would post another defense of the teaching, and I will as the time is allowed.

    I fully understand what you are saying about “deriving” other doctrines, and your “marrying your dead brother’s wife example.” What I would point out though, is that there is no imperative to marry in the NT, but there is an imperative to give.

    The Righteousness of the Law is a glimpse into the heart, character, and standards of God. He has never taught me, told me, or commanded any individual that they must marry. He has said that there is to be the practice of giving.

    If I am going to give, then I am going to look “past the rules” and into the heart, character, and demands of God, to find where it is that He would want me to begin. The Old Testament is not the law, it merely contains the law, but all things were written “aforetime for our learning”, and so if I want God’s guidance on giving, then I am going to begin with what He originially said.

    In fact, as I have previously stated, it would be wrong to not want to give whatever amount it is that God may have revealed.

    I do not detect this from you, but from some of other stuff that is out there, it sounds to me like sour grapes in the hearts of lots of people, wanting to eliminate the teaching of the tithe so they won’t feel so bad when they throw a token in the offering plate. It also sounds to me like there are wolves in the fold doing their best to get sheep to devour shepherds. I agree that there are many “hirelings” in the clergy today. However those Undershepherds will be dealt with by the Lord. The backlash against “mega-churches” because they are “mega” is uncalled for. It never happened in days of Lee, Truett, Criswell, Rogers, Vines, Lindsey, Havner, or Moody, or Spurgeon for that matter. Only in recent times has there been so much angst about the pastors of the large churches preaching on tithing.

    I will put together a new post soon.

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