Monday

Money Mondays: Tithing, the conclusion

I guess it’s high time I revealed my position because one would assume I am AGAINST giving to the church with the information I have provided here to date, but keep in mind, I have only laid out the scriptures and have done very little giving of my own interpretation. I didn’t want to get into espousing traditional beliefs because they don’t necessarily follow scripture. The bible isn’t as hard to understand as one would be made to believe. So, there is no need to always depend on the Clergy to break it down for you. So, for the record, in my lifetime I have been neutral on tithing, pro-tithing, and con-tithing. At the height of my belief, I gave nearly $10K one year because I had bought into the whole prosperity theology of sowing and reaping. Keeping in mind, I was not earning anywhere near six figures but I had purposed to go above what you would consider a tithe. I don’t present that with a bragging heart, but as a testimony to the fact that when I believe in something, I’m all in.

I started studying this subject a few years ago for a book project, but kept getting stalled because what I found never lined up with what I was being taught and the reality was that, at the time, I trusted my Pastor more than the spirit in me so I would always believe that I just didn’t have all the necessary books needed to fully study the subject. But the thought that I was on to something wouldn’t let me go. The other thing that gave me pause was that no matter what church I attended or visited, the ministers would be sure to drive home the ideology that tithing was the way to go. I didn’t have a problem with believing in tithing, but I found it odd that when it came time to give, most churches would have a brief lecture on the subject as if parishioners forgot that God required them to give since the last time they were at church. During the discourse, ministers rarely failed to mention that if you didn’t want to be subject to being “cursed with a curse” that you would find it in your heart to give ten percent of your income. So this week, I want to present the biblical backing behind whether you are cursed or not.

Malachi 3:7-12

7 "From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept {them.} Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. "But you say, 'How shall we return?' 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. 9 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation {of you!} 10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11 "Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast {its grapes,}" says the LORD of hosts. 12 "All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the LORD of hosts.

This set of scriptures sets forth that by withholding the tithe, you are robbing God and because of it you are cursed with a curse. As some ministers will say, you can not expect God to be concerned with the matters pertaining to your finances when you are robbing God of what is His, week in and week out.

One of the things I have always not appreciated is getting part of the story. I like to be informed and I like to get the whole truth, not just the truth in part. Having the truth in part can easily lead to being told a lie.

It is interesting to note that the book of Malachi deals with the sins of the Priests as well as the Israelites.

Chapter 1 of Malachi deals directly with the Priests offering blind and lame animals as a sacrifice. God was clearly not pleased and He was calling them on it; admonishing them to give Him the respect that He was due. A common form of deception among the Priests was to offer a pitiful sacrifice knowing good and well that they had an acceptable one available. So, in effect they were trying to lie to God about what they had available, forgetting that HE could see all.

Chapter 2 starts by saying, And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. – God let them know that he had already cursed their blessings because of their decision to offer inappropriate sacrifices. Midway through the chapter the audience broadens as God deals with behavior God’s deems intolerable. The character of the people is called into question and the Lord calls on them to re-accept a life of holiness. Apparently, one of the major issues at that time was that men were committing adultery as well as divorcing their wives, even when the wives remained faithful. God let them know he hated divorce. God also let them know that they were giving Him a bad name because their actions caused non-believers to think there was no justice when it came to unholy living because God had not openly punished them.

Chapter 3 leads in with a warning that while it doesn’t look like it, God will bring correction. So God’s people are encouraged to turn from their wicked practices on their own volition. He let’s them know that because of their relationship and the promises that he has made that he has already withstood destroying them. This now set’s the stage for the famous scriptures. God implores the people to give the tithes and offerings properly so that there will be meat in his house. This meat is not figurative, it is literal. God wanted the people to do right so that the Levitical Priesthood wouldn’t be tempted to give inadequate offerings. He wanted the blessing to flow all around. The tithe was also God’s way of providing for those who couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves, so it was the Israelites duty as his people to worship him in their giving. Because they had not done so, he reminded them that they were indeed under a curse. In order to be rid of the curse they had to obey his statutes (Mosaic Law) and give accordingly. If they did so, he would once again pour forth his blessing.

I know I summarized that but I wanted to get to the question of the day. Does NOT tithing cause me to be cursed with a curse? If this was the end of the story I would give you a big emphatic NO. Why, because the curse was predicated on their not fulfilling God’s statutes in the first place; his statutes clearly being Mosaic Law in this instance. Without the Law, how can you transgress it and thereby be subject to its penalty?

What about metaphorically speaking? Since the times have changed can we apply Malachi metaphorically such that God requires us to tithe so that He can be glorified in the earth? Is there a case for being cursed today?

My response to that is not as straight forward because of the power of our minds. What do I mean by that? You can become so convinced of a thing that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy even if what you are believing is a lie. In other words, if you buy into the belief that you are cursed for not tithing, then you will seek evidence of that truth subconsciously. Anytime something doesn’t go as planned financially, you will attribute it to not tithing. On the flip side, when those same unexpected events happen to tithing Christians, what is the defense then?

The bottom line is this. The penalty of the curse was predicated on breaking The Law. God does not have us under The Law, we are under Grace. Nevertheless, even with our being under grace, there is an expectation to give.

In the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the type of giver that God approves of – a cheerful one.

What does it take to be a cheerful giver? A cheerful giver is one that gives to the things of God in a manner that reflects that person’s heart towards God. It’s as if you are in a relationship with God and your giving shows how much you care. The problem is most folks talk about loving God, but the proof ain’t in the pudding. People have their cable/satellite with their movie channels/sports channels, flat screens, tivo, cell phones, satellite radio, closets full of clothes and shoes and then when it’s time to give to the things of God out come the excuses.

Let’s look at an example of how God dealt with “church folk” who took care of their stuff and their lifestyle as opposed to his.

Haggai chapter 1, verses 3 - 11.

3Then the word of the LORD came by Haggaim the prophet, saying, 4"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" 5Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways!

6"You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes."

7Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! 8Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the LORD. 9"You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says the LORD of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. 10Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. 11For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands."

The thing to point out here is that God was not dealing with the people about tithing (scripture already proves that God's people didn't tithe money). He was dealing with them about giving. It’s also important to see that he “blew” on their money. So even in our giving there is an expectation. So, are you under a curse? No. However, if you do very little in the way of giving to God, yet you question why you can’t catch a break. Maybe, just maybe, God is blowing on your funds and you should reevaluate how much God really means to you in lieu of everything else in your budget. If you prefer your life’s luxuries over giving to the Kingdom of God, then chances are God is dealing with you on your finances because you basically give to the church called “ME”.

So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I believe in giving not tithing. I think tithing is taught simply because it is profitable for ministries to do so. However, I reject it because a person’s giving really depends on where a person is in the cycle of understanding. If you are un-churched but come into the knowledge of Christ and truly have a heart to worship God in your giving, it may take you a minute to get to the place of giving ten percent or more of your income. Depending on your situation, God may not be requiring that of you anyway, so to have that stipulation placed on you by a minister is just wrong and in my eyes deceitful. People know when they are cheating God. Self evaluation isn’t that hard to do. We know when we are pleasing to God and when we aren’t. If you need a litmus test for your giving try this. Think of something you pay for monthly that you love (barring your home since it’s usually the largest expense people have) and measure that payment against what you give to church or charities monthly. If you aren’t giving at that level, then I would say you need to make some adjustments. But again, you don’t have to answer to me, you may make so much money where a house note is a suitable offering -- but if that shoe fits you, you already know what time it is.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms?

18 comments:

Blah Blah Blah said...

...how about this...
I give what I can. whether that is more or less than the 10% is between me and my god.
to the point...i don't even bother filling out the little tithing envelopes they hand out. and I know the reason for that...but still...i don't fill them out.

i think if your relationship with your god is a personal one...as it should be... then what you give...as what you pray about, as what you give thanks for...is no ones business.
and that is not to say that you don't share those things (because you don't know what could inspire others)...but i'm saying your walk is a personal one...you decide for yourself how much of that hand and hand walk you need to share with others.

I find that those caught up in religion are more interested in the rituals rather than those that are spiritual. As well as, those caught up in religion are quick to judge those that don't do as they do or say as they say, or act as they act.... sad but it's true.

A New Man said...

I like the format, the research, and the straight talk in this series. Reading through the remainder of the series also explained to me why you took my lengthy comment on one post in this series as a "preaching" moment. I'm against so-called "prosperity theology" because I see how it has made mockery of heartfelt giving. I choose to tithe because I believe that all my wealth--life, intellect, and possessions--are God's stuff loaned for earthly use. I seed money into ministries that provide for communities' needs both spiritual and physical. As your research shows, tithing is a part of a Jesus-centered faith walk. As you wrote truthfully and eloquently, how we perceive giving and how God sees it are often different. Your research seems to support tithing--despite your opinion of the practice--so I'm a bit confused.

The Dreamy One said...

This struck me Rich:

"God wanted the people to do right so that the Levitical Priesthood wouldn’t be tempted to give inadequate offerings. He wanted the blessing to flow all around. The tithe was also God’s way of providing for those who couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves, so it was the Israelites duty as his people to worship him in their giving. Because they had not done so, he reminded them that they were indeed under a curse"

do we even see that today, you know the preachers preach about giving and tithing but are riding in Lexus's and having big fancy houses.

i mean do they really help the ones that are giving and cannot afford to tithe but do???

im just asking because last Sunday was the first time that I had been to church in a yrs. it was refreshing and i need to hear the word...... but if ever I join a church, am faithful to it, and tithe will they provide for me when I cant afford to feed my mouth or fall upon bad times???

i dont know maybe i read that wrong but, let me know Rich

Rich said...

@blah, blah, blah -- "giving what you can" is a lot better than giving what u want. Giving what you can says, "I wish I had more, but this is my best gift today." Giving what you want says, "here, take this, this should do." The heart in which you give in those two instances is different.

I also commend you for not giving to get the tax benefit. Some folks feel better about giving on the grounds that its a tax write-off. I don't have an opinion on that. I can see it as a blessing to givers and a crutch as well. I wonder what would happen if the gov't snatched the tax credit away -- would people still give at the level in which they do now?


@a new man - I'm glad you stuck around for the conclusion. The main thing I was trying to accomplish was a forum that everyone could feel comfortable in. A lot of times we feel so strongly about our beliefs that the opposing view gets beat into submission.

As for your confusion, let's put it like this and this is not my quote, but I like the way it was laid down. If God owns it all, it's not about how much you give, it's about how much you can keep. With that said, modern day tithing says that no matter what you are facing, give a tenth - period, if you don't you are subject to a curse. On the other hand giving says, you know what "New Man" instead of dropping what you normally do at the church this week, take your wife out, she has been feeling pretty low lately, and I want you to express some of my love towards her - OR - God could say, your boy Stan lost his job a few weeks back and is really struggling with believing that I will provide, take him a few hundred dollars and tell Him it was from me.
Now, you may say heck, I can do that and give my tithes, but not everyone falls into that category. What if God told something similar to a single mother whose budget was tight and all she had extra was her "tithe" in those situations. Should she listen to the preacher or listen to God?

Tithing happens as a result of being told to do it. Giving occurs out of a willingness to do. You do it because you want to, not because you are told to. So in that instance whose heart is pure towards God, the tither or the giver?


@Dreamy - I would say approach joining a church like getting married. Get to know what they stand for before you tie the knot. Just like you wouldn't marry every dude, you shouldn't join every church, even if they look good on the outside and have the "flash" to match. Look around a while, find out what they believe. See if they will allow you to attend a "new members class" before actually joining. A great deal of the time, that is where you find out the real deal.

12kyle said...

@ rich
much like blah blah blah...i give all that i can. most of the time it's 10% or better.

i have struggled with the concept of tithing for most of my adult life so it is refreshing to read posts like this.

Kei said...

Very interesting. I believe in giving what you can to your place of worship. Tithing is very complex, and I just feel it is important to not only raise money, give money, and raise money, but to give back to the community and give yourself. Also, nothing can replace the beauty of sacrificing negative things for the love of God. That just may be stronger than giving money in many ways.

Literary Felonies said...

Rich, what is strangely noteworthy is that you lack scripture stating where God says man is off the tithing hook. You & I have tirelessly had this heated debate and while I acknowlege that people will do what they want to do, (and will also suffer equal consequences) I find it hard to employ the notion that on the one hand HE (GOD) instructs the Nation of Israel to tithe, but the rest of the world is off the hook?

And, if I understand it correctly, giving and tithing are two different things. Is not the gift to God above the tithe requirement. And, why wouldn't he impose a tithe requirement? Really? There are requirements/rules on how to behave, treat your neighbor, stay out of your neighbor's stuff, walk up right by not killing, stealing, lying- you know, those pesky little things called The Ten Commandments? I mean, this is God, he who changes NOT- so, if HE instructs HIS to tithe, when/where did HE say, "ok, here's Grace- tithe no more?"

Yes, I emphatically believe that the tithe is purely the Christian disciple's church supporting responsibility. Oh, and dig this old fact: WE ARE THE CHURCH! The tithe is beholding to support the efforts, outreach, in-house administrative issues dealing directly with ministry. And, if WE don't support WE the church and OUR ministerial efforts, yes with the tithe, albeit additional forms of financial support, than puh-leeze inform a sista, pray-tell, how ministry can be conducted off simply 'hoping' your committed congregation will 'give' enough, give cheerfully (whether tithe or gift) to provide support. Oh sure, large faith networks can provide themselves enabling financial support, but what about the store front church? Or start-up ministry effort? I mean, the Catholic church is sitting on fat street, but I'm thinking more or less of the fledgling neighborhood church whose efforts are emphatically retarded 'cause there ain't no ends in the storehouse. But, of course, you'll direct them to an endless financial source right? Or, will it just have to suffice for them to pin their sustanence on a wing and a prayer?

Though it is apparent I am diehard in this belief, that the TITHE does in fact belong to GOD (also knowing that God is smarter than his people, knowing ALL to well the people HE created would work their freakin' tales off to find some kinda biblical loop hole to get out of their pre-existent obligation- I mean, look at all the other fun sins we offer up excuses for)AND that Jesus came to, hear this, FULFILL the LAW- not obliterate it. The visual would be much like a skeleton (foundation) that is 'fulfilled' by the addition of blood, muscle-tissue, organ infrastructure capped off by skin. This body is fullfilled, not forelorn nor foreboden.

As for Grace, well "should we continue to sin that Grace may abound? GOD FORBID!

A New Man said...

Literary Felonies, you said it well.

I would be silly in repeating the thought, Rich, so please accept my cosign of LF's words.

Rich said...

MOSAIC LAW went away with Jesus dying on the cross. If you want to hold on to tithing why not stroll on over to Leviticus and hold on to some of those other outdated laws, like the one about women on their cycles. Look that one up. -- LOL.

On the real, Literary Felonies is my people, so y'all forgive my jabbing, but on a serious note, have you considered that God can move HIS people to give just as he did in the days of old. God still brings correction. If you followed my study, I didn't read into any scripture that I presented and I clearly showed where the Tithe as presented in the bible was not about money, although there was money available. But that wasn't what you called into question. What you want to know is when did the requirement for tithing end - again Mosaic Law - touched on that in the opening.


Now as far as churches not making it without the tithe, to be honest, most churches already are. According to Barna Research Group fewer than 10% of Evangelical Christians tithe. Yet giving abounds and churches survive. Those that don't, I'm inclined to think God didn't ordain them in the first place, because it's many churches in existence that are run by crooks.

There is always this talk about churches not making if preachers stop teaching tithing. I say stop the manipulating and let God show himself strong. I don't know of any church that isn't making it that God called into being or have you seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread in your neck of the woods? Show me one church that is not making it as opposed to just giving hypothetical situations and we can discuss that point. On the flip side, I can drive through any major city and show you church after church doing nothing but collecting from people while the minister and his family go up in stature and some of the parishioners continue to struggle. What about the teaching on tithing where the tithe was used to benefit those that gave it. Should we institute the tithe, change it to benefit modern day churches and throw out the remaining precepts God put into existence for the Israelites? To that I would say, God forbid.

Darius T. Williams said...

So interesting...here's a little known fact. I graduate from Moody Bible Institute w/a degree in Biblical Studies.

I can appreciate the effort you've given this series on tithing.

ShellyShell said...

I give what I can which is normally more than 10%. Up until two years ago I really struggled with giving to the church. I had to really sit back and see if the church I chose to join was being a good steward of my money.

Ticia said...

Good job Rich......

I know I need to step my game up with tithes and giving....

A New Man said...

Rich, the tithing question is as old as the faith is. In the early church during the 2nd century, most saved Jews were accustomed to tithing because it was their custom, but some newly converted Gentiles and even some newly converted Jews raised a fuss about the same issue now that they were under Christ. The early leaders went to the Word to hear Jesus' take on the subject and found that He answered it very plainly:

(Matthew 23:23) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. 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.

Notice that Jesus said, "You should have practiced the latter (justice, mercy and faithfulness), without neglecting the former (tithing)." Jesus, the Author and Finisher of the faith, did not abolish the tithe. Instead, He put a huge "wake up" stamp on the issue by reminding believers and scorners of tithing's purpose to the true believer.

Another thing that people miss is that tithing PREDATED Mosaic law. The laws given to Moses simply set a minimum and provided for the proper usage of the tithe. The first tithe was Abraham's gift to Melchizedek 400 years before Moses came on the scene.

As for Mosaic law and how grace replaces it, Jesus was always consistent in laying down what the law--the guidepost leading us to Him--still said to the believer. He even summed the Ten Commandments in two in Matthew 22 to help us in fighting our "inner lawyer." I am a willing tither because Matthew 22 , Hebrews, and 2 Corinthians set me straight about my attitudes.

Human nature is selfish and self-deceiving. This is a faith walk. If you don't trust that God will keep his promises to meet every believer's honest needs, don't tithe. We are no longer under a curse that says that we will suffer for failing to tithe, but we hurt ourselves with selfishness and disobedience. Have faith in God, and trust Him not to lie.

People lie; the Lord doesn't. If we promise to follow God's Word when we start this walk, we can rest assured that something along the way is going to test that first decision. Don't lie to God, and don't lie to yourself. This question of tithing has the same answer that the question about giving study time for the Word daily, giving love to neighbors, giving love to enemies (the kind that decide you're a problem even when you do nothing to them--not an excuse to mistreat people), and giving time to attend any gathering of believers in the faith all share: we love God by obeying Him.

Rich said...

@ new man - I have to go back and check but I thought I mentioned Abraham tithing. It's also good to note that his Grandson, Jacob tithed but it was his decision to do so based on an agreement he made with God. Tithing was an extension of their covenant. Prior to that God said nothing to him regarding the issue. As for Abraham, outside of him giving a tenth of the war spoils we see no other time where he tithed. However during Mosaic Law, we have no doubt about how and why tithing was instituted.

The interesting thing about the scripture in Matthew is that Jesus was letting them know that they needed to continue to obey The Law, but not forget the weightier matters. Matthew resides in what is known as the New Testament but the New Covenant (Testament) didn't start until the book of Acts after Jesus died on the cross, rose the third day, then ascended into heaven. That aside, God always had a system of offerings in place SINCE again the tithe was not money. Just as the New Covenant under Jesus is better than the Old, so is giving better than tithing.

As I'm sure you know, God is not interesting in breaking our will, he wants us to establish a relationship with him out of pure love for him and not because he has a set of rules in place that says do this or else. With the exception of the 10% rule, you and I are basically saying the same thing. People tend to think that when a person says that they don't believe in tithing that they are trying to get out of doing something that they should. I'm not saying that in the least. There is definitely an expectation on Christians to give. I have just ascertained from my study that God is not interested in applying a hard and fast 10 percent rule to believers. God is not interested in law keepers, he wants our hearts to be sold out to him, and the true measure of that is to allow you to give from your heart -- to choose freely. God wanted that from the beginning -- See Adam, so this is not a change in position on his part.

But don't get it twisted, we will all be judged and some people will have claimed to have loved the Lord and he will say they didn't love him in the least DESPITE their giving ten percent and whatever else they try to hold up as proof. He will hold them accountable for their heart (Man looks on the outer appearance but God looks at the heart).

Like I also said in an earlier comment, getting folks to buy into ten percent is profitable to those in charge, they've done the math and they are twisting the scripture. Scripture warns of not only adding to the word, but also taking away from it. God is not pleased in either case. So don't be so ready to defend the improper teaching of the tithe as a modern day practice yet at the same time forgetting to hold the same persons who teach it incorrectly accountable for not administering it according to scripture and biblical tradition. So lets assume tithing was giving money, that does not remove the fact that the Children of Israel were partakers of the tithe, regularly. So how about these churches that insist on collecting tithes share the wealth and help some of these folks who struggle make it against this wicked system of manipulation. It makes no sense especially in Mega churches that you have the well off thanking God for the many blessings they have and the poor begging God not to let them go hungry.

I'm not trying to give anyone an out and I think that is where the real conflict is. There is also this fear that if people are told the truth that they would not give. Some folks aren't going to give regardless of what you tell them. I just see no reason for the word to be manipulated because ministers lack the faith for God to provide.

Most teaching regarding tithing is not based on the word, it's based on tradition that has been passed down. The sad part is that people can buy into an untruth to the degree that they aren't even willing to consider that they have been lied to.

At the end of the day, it still is a matter of the heart and no Law will change what's in your heart. If anything, teaching according to the law causes a person to give out of selfishness -- they give simply because they don't want their blessings hindered. It has nothing to do with a love for God.

Rich said...

@ a new man, either way it goes, we are still on the same team. It is clear that you are for Christ and make no bones about it, so am I.

A New Man said...

I'm glad that you posted the subject, Rich. The soul-searching and study required to discuss it was a growth moment for me, but we don't agree completely. It's okay, though. I agree to disagree, and I feel grateful to have a chance to get a little sharper. Thanks for being "iron" in a blog setting. I'm sure we'll break bread and dive into this and many more topics face-to-face one day.

Rich said...

Ced, it is an absolute pleasure to be able to mix it up with brothers as knowledgeable as yourself. I am sure that I am better for having known you. Can't wait to break it down in person.

Stay up.

deaconandusher said...

Deacon & Usher just have one question:

http://deaconandusher.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/pastor-pastor-oh-wont-you-tell-me-please/