On Tithing

There are few subjects that Americans are as touchy about as Money. It seems like a very sensitive subject to preach from the pulpit. It seems that we would rather talk about just about any other subject under the sun. But since I am not American, I have no such compunctions, so off we go…

Yes, I tithe; have done for years. I wouldn’t even mention it, but I have heard so many misconceptions about the practice of tithing that I felt the need to hold forth on the subject.

  1. God needs your money. Of course he doesn’t — and the preacher who says otherwise will one day have to answer to Him for it. Think about it; a god that needs your money is not really God. However, if the local body of believers (collectively known as “the church”) is to do it’s job (spread the Gospel, feed the poor, look after widows and orphans, etc).
  2. Net or Gross? The bible says that you tithe on “The Firstfruits”, but it also says that you tithe on “your increase”. Every preacher I have ever heard expound on the subject has said “Tithe on the Gross”… but then they would, wouldn’t they? (For those who are wondering, I tithe on my take-home to the local church, but donate enough elsewhere to make up the difference).The sad fact is that most churches, are short of cash – particularly the young, growing churches, which seem to have a lower proportion.To my mind, this issue is something of a red herring; it is not about whether you tithe on your pre-tax total or your take-home, it is whether you tithe at all.The simple fact is that if everyone who called themselves a Christian tithed on their take-home pay, the churches would have more money than they know what to do with… and with that money they could feed the hungry, help the poor and afflicted… and the Government would not have to.
  3. Tithing makes you a good Christian: Nope… Jews tithe. Besides, my aim is to be a Godly Man, not a good Christian.
  4. You can’t afford to tithe. Jesus said “your heart is where your money is”. As one wise man put it, “show me your bank statement, I’ll show you your priorities.” If you can’t afford to tithe, but you can afford Cable TV, DVD rentals, trips to the mall and eating out, then you have just shown your priorities.

As for me, I can’t afford not to. Scripture says “Don’t put God to the test”, but tithing is the one exception where God says “Test me in this, and see if I don’t pour out more blessings on you than you know what to do with!” In the years that I have been tithing, I have always had more than enough. Perhaps you can’t afford to tithe; I can’t afford not to.

So… why tithe?

For the same reason that you fast, pray and rest on the Sabbath – God does not need it, you do.

  • It teaches generosity.
  • It teaches reliance on God.
  • It teaches frugality.
  • It reminds us that we are not the center of our universe.
  • It teaches financial discipline.
  • Most of all, it serves as a continual reminder that money is not your God.

Now Reading: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

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  • russkelly  On December 2, 2008 at 12:04 PM

    You do not tithe in the biblical sense and you must get your definition from a secular source. Although money was common in Genesis and essential for sanctuary worship, money was never included in any fo the 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe.
    True biblical tithes were always only food products from inside Israel. Those who did not have a miraculus increse of food products, those from outside of Israel and Gentiles did not tithe. Period. And no texts say otherwise.
    Firstfruits were the FIRST of a very small token offering (Deu 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37). Tithes were the TENTH after the complete harvest. There are no texts which teach otherwise.
    There exists no consistent biblical principle which allows you to separate tithing from the other 613 commandments of the law. In order to claim to blessings from tithing you must keep all of the law. That is clearly taught in Galatians 3:10/Deuteronomy 27:26. God tested OT Israel to keep ALL of the law –not just tithing. Violation of ANY of the law brought the curse of the law. You cannot be blessed by tithing if you are breaking the remainder of the same covenant.
    You may personally have had more than enough, but there are thousands in ghettos who have “tithed” for generations and are still dirt poor while many of their pastors are wealthy. Tithing is not the lottery and it does not replace a good education and good motivation.
    Freewill giving which is sacrificial, generous, joyful, not by commandment or percentage and motivated by lvoe for God and lost souls also:
    • It teaches generosity.
    • It teaches reliance on God.
    • It teaches frugality.
    • It reminds us that we are not the center of our universe.
    • It teaches financial discipline.
    • Most of all, it serves as a continual reminder that money is not your God.
    You, my friend, have been blessed by the NT principles of sowing and reaping and not by the OT principle of tithing. “Who has bewitced you” to believe otherwise?
    Russell Earl Kelly, PHD, Author of Should the Church Teach Tithing? http://www.tithing-russkelly.com

  • Wizard Prang  On December 3, 2008 at 6:30 PM


    I seem to have attracted the attention of a “big gun”. I am obviously moving up in the world!

    Your comments are obviously all well-researched and well-informed, but they miss the point. I was not seeking to make a theological point, I was attempting to make a lifestyle one.

    You are quite right – I do not tithe in the Old-Testament biblical sense. I do not tithe as a salvation issue. I do not tithe because the law requires me to do so (would that I could say the same of the IRS!); in fact, tithing predates the law, as you well know, but failed to mention. As a Christian I am not “under the law” of the Old Testament, but that does not mean that that all 613 (I’ll take your word for it) of the commandments are bad ideas.

    Your “ghetto” comment does not hold water; while there are Preachers who fleece their flock for their own gain – and may God have mercy on their souls – the flip side is that those who make little give little; those who have no income need give nothing. If a preacher tells me to give $X, I treat it with suspicion. If my wife and I are both independently moved to give, then that is another matter entirely.

    It is easy to pose questions like “should the church teach tithing?”, but there are three sides to every truth. I observe that free-will offerings are far lower and more sporadic than tithes – and are generally falling off over time. Also the “free-will” nature of an offering makes it a low priority that falls off the budget too easily. I also submit that if the church did not teach tithing, would there even be a church to teach anything else?

    “Tithing is not the lottery and it does not replace a good education and good motivation”. I never said it did. Once again, a straw man argument.

    The purpose of my original post was not to justify the Old-Testament tithe, it was to make a case for generosity to the me-shaped secular world out there who does not understand how generosity can be a good thing. Just as people with religious beliefs/faith live longer than those without; just as long-term married couples show less stress than those who live alone or change partners often, generous people seem more happy than those who are stingy (Proverbs 11:24, anybody?).

    The crux of the matter may be more one of terminology rather than anything else. I give 10% of my earnings to my local church. I choose to call it a tithe, since that is a convenient and reasonably meaningful term to most readers. You take exception to it; you may call it a free-will offering if you wish.

    Perhaps I should have re-titled this post “on Generosity” instead.

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