I went on my own fact-finding mission about tithing. What led me down this road was the fact that I was about to tithe to what was my home church. Seeing how some of the funds were being misappropriated by that particular church’s pastor and “first lady” and the biggest beneficiaries were the Pastor and his family, my wife elected to end tithing to that ministry.
Still having the residue of loyalty to the teaching I grew up with, I elected to give my tithe. At the time we were struggling financially and this tithe would take a significant chunk of money out of our account that we needed desperately. In my ignorance and zeal, I tithed anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, financially things didn’t get better. I thought I had done the right thing. My wife asked me to investigate tithing. She had a hunch that something was wrong with it. That hunch was the Holy Spirit.
I started looking and found www.tithing-russkelly.com. Dr. Kelly gave an exhaustive analysis of tithing for New Covenant believers. While reading this, I learned the argument for why tithing was wrong for the New Covenant Church, but I wondered why this argument was not being taught. I thought about many of the pastors I either heard or knew of. Many of these pastors had multiple degrees from seminaries and bible colleges. These men had to have poured over tons of scriptures on this subject. With that said, why had I never heard the argument against tithing ever taught?
I also thought I received breakthroughs as a result of tithing. I was operating at a level of faith that supported my understanding. I innocently viewed tithing like a rigged lotto. My concept of tithing was that tithing was a “heavenly mutual fund” that God would pay back at some point. Maybe you have heard misused terminology referring to receiving a hundredfold return from God. This terminology comes from Matthew 13:8. I thought that hundredfold meant getting 100 times my investment. God allowed me to be blessed to write a hit song, but it had nothing to do with tithing and had everything to do with faith. As a young Christian, tithing was a representation of my faith in God and I believe God honored that. Things took a turn when tithing became the object of my faith. In other words, my faith was not in God but in the act of tithing and that is when my fortunes changed. When I started to tithe to receive, instead of tithing as an act of faith, things changed.
What really opened my eyes was what Dr. Kelly wrote. I found out that all these years I tithed and God never commanded me to. I never considered giving directly to a mission or to Habitat for Humanities, as a way of giving to God. I never thought that giving to friends or a stranger in need was how God wanted me to give. I was taught that I was supposed to give to the church and the church would do the rest. I was taught it was the churches job to build missions and missions programs. I was taught it was the organization most call “the church” mandated to build programs to help the homeless. I never considered that I am the church. I gave to this entity called the church instead of personally giving as an individual to those in need. Matthew 25:40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!”
As I looked back, I realized that many of the pastors I observed, drove everything from Range Rovers to Bentleys. For some pastors this came from smart investments or from for-profit ventures. For a lot of pastors this income usually did not come through investments or business ventures. This income usually comes to pastors though tithes and offerings. There are a few that have refused or returned their salaries because they have made huge incomes from sales of books they’ve authored and other ventures that proved profitable. Many wealthy pastors don’t gain the bulk of their wealth through writing books, but from a salary derived from tithes and offerings. Those tithes and offerings usually come from people giving 10% of a hard earned income they can’t afford to pay but feel obligated biblically to pay. Some give like I gave, in complete ignorance, hoping one day, supernaturally, God would send a “breakthrough”. An eye opener happened when I read one thing Dr. Kelly wrote, “Old Covenant tithing was motivated and mandated by Law, not love. In fact, during most of Israel’s history, the prophets were God’s primary spokesmen – and not the tithe-receiving Levites and priests.”
In many churches the main spokesmen for God were the pastors. If we were under the Old Covenant, pastors would be the prophets. It’s also important to note that under Old Covenant rules, the janitorial staff and the music staff would be considered the Levites. Under Old Covenant Law, prophets would never receive anything from tithes, only the Levites and Priests would. As a side note, priests’ main gig was to go before God and give sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. God took care of his spokesmen called prophets. People took care of the priests and Levites. As a side note, according to 1 Peter 2:9 all Christians are priests.
The whole thing boils down to money. Getting people to donate would be difficult unless it were biblically mandated. It would be especially difficult to gain donations if those donations were going to extravagant lifestyles and concert venue-styled buildings as it is for some pastors. OK, now you are scared and probably ready to call me a heretic, but before you do answer these questions:
- Where does Jesus, Paul or anybody tell us specifically to tithe under the New Covenant? Oh, and don’t come to me with Matthew 5:18 until you give up pork and shell fish and begin sacrificing animals.
- Where in the scripture do you find tithing that does not involve food? (Gen 14:20 doesn’t count. 10% went to the Melchizedek and 90% went to Aner, Eshol and Mamre who all were not God’s people.)
- Why is it that some pastors and those close to those pastors the greatest fiscal beneficiaries of tithes and offerings?
- Why would God allow poor people who tithe to remain poor?
- What windfall has happened for you as a result of tithing as opposed to windfalls do to smart business decisions and or gifts or talent?
This all may sound like I am bitter or even a little angry. I am not bitter but I am angry about God’s people being fleeced regularly to support the upkeep of “church” buildings and the lifestyles of some jet-setting “men of God.” Should pastors receive a salary? Yes. Should they receive a large salary? A pastor’s salary should be determined by the shareholders of the company (parishioners). If a group of people decide to invest in a pastor’s pursuits as a leader, that’s fair, as long as it is not because they are under the illusion that it is scripturally mandated. I would submit that that is probably not the case in many instances. If most parishioners knew that they had a choice, and that God would love for their dollars to be spread out through philanthropic efforts in and outside the organization we call “the church”, not only would offerings go way down across the country, but attendance would probably drop, as well. A lot of these big church campuses would close and Oprah would get a lot more donations to her Angel Network.
To tithe or not to tithe is still an interesting question. Principally, charitable giving is admirable and biblical. With that said, I believe we should all take everything in and weigh things evenly ask the hard questions.
It’s worth it.
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