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.