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Giving vs Tithing

Some churches, mainly more fundamental churches teach that Christians are required to tithe. Tithing is giving one tenth of your income to God’s work. I have personally heard tithing taught in Baptist, Full Faith, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal churches. Most of these churches teach that not tithing is robbing God.

In contrast, Catholic and mainstream protestant churches may or may not mention tithing to their congregations, but they ask for support. Some evangelical and other protestant denominations may teach the tithe (10%) as an example of what is good to give back to God in recognition of God’s provision. They definitely teach that God does not want your gift if it is given begrudgingly. They teach an attitude of giving. They teach that the law of sowing and reaping; you reap according to how much you sow is the key factor. And that God loves a cheerful giver. I have been in Bible Churches, Evangelical Churches, mainstream protestant and Catholic churches that teach this attitude of cheerful giving.

2007 research revealed that only 5% of adults tithed.i The inference is that even if the church teaches tithing that there is not compliance. In other words, the church may teach tithing, but the attendees don’t necessarily follow or agree.

Biblical Basis

Most preachers of tithing emphasize the teaching in Malachi 3.

Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.Mal 3:7-12

This is a powerful section of scripture. The first verses start with a reproof for Israel to return to God’s ordinances. Then we read about robbing God, and the curse that follows for not tithing to God. Then we read about testing the promise of tithing to see if there isn’t an incredible blessing. Tithing was part of the law for Israel. As a theocracy tithing was how Israel received its income to function.

Proponents of tithing cite that Abraham tithes to Melchizedek. However, this appears as a one time event in Abraham’s life, not a regular practice and there are no other examples of tithing until the law. Furthermore, Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, we are no longer under it. Therefore, since we no longer practice the dietary laws, use the priests to offer sacrifices, or even support a Levitical priesthood, why should we continue to be required to give tithes to support the operations of Israel under the law?

Teachers of giving or sharing focus on 2 Corinthians chapter 8:

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God. Insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he had made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace also. But as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.2Co 8:1-8RV

This first section gives important teaching on the attitude of giving. We are instructed to abound in this grace (charis, describing giving as grace) just as we abound in believing, speaking the truth, in zeal, and in love (agapeo, the love of God). And abound in this grace is exactly what the Macedonian church did. They set an excellent example, giving “beyond their ability.” Whenever we do something that is beyond our ability, then the power must come from God.

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.2Co 8:9

Here the example of Christ is given, that he exemplified the right attitude.

And herein I give my judgment: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will. But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also out of your ability.2Co 8:10-11

The Corinthians are reproved here because they started to collect an offering a year ago, now they are told to complete the offering and send it.

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. For I say not this, that others may be eased, and ye distressed: but by equality; your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack.2Co 8:12-15

This section says that having the right attitude, the attitude of giving to support God’s work is what is important. In fact, it expressly says that if someone doesn’t have any money, then they shouldn’t give thus resulting in them being distressed so that others could have their life eased. Giving should be according to your capacity to give. So, if a person is truly poor, living, for example, in inexpensive housing and not purchasing more than basic food, clothing, transportation and health care, they shouldn’t give up eating so that someone else in the church should have their life eased. On the other hand, if you can afford better things, go on vacations, buy nice gifts at Christmas time, but feel your income is too tight to give very much, then where is your attitude?

This last section is telling the Corinthians to collect whatever they could according to their ability to give. Concerning the right attitude and the ability to give we have this following section from 1 Timothy 6:

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.1Ti 6:17-19

Statistically, the more money people have, the less they give percentage wise. (I did accounting and tax work for a number of years and can personally testify to that fact.) These verses in 1 Timothy exhort those with money to do just the opposite. “To be ready to distribute, willing to communicate” is to have an attitude of giving. Importantly, this giving is important in living a life that is truly abundant.

Flaws

So what’s the problem with requiring tithing? The first problem is that it says that the non-tither is gone away from Gods ordinances. What ordinances are they? They are the law. We are not under the law. We are under grace. Malachi does not explain grace, grace as it pertains to giving is explained in 2 Corinthians chapter 8.

Summary and Conclusion

From this study we can determine that it is not a function of giving a specified percentage or amount of money that is the important principle here. The attitude of giving is what is important. In that vein if you can’t give money because it is all you can do to have the bare necessities, then give time if you can, or support. On the other hand, if you have resources, and can’t see to share very much this is an important signal that your Christian walk may be more focused on the material that the spiritual. If so you are especially included in those to whom Paul, by the Holy Spirit, is directing to follow the example of the Macedonians who so excelled in giving that they gave beyond their power to give and so participated in the abundant life that Christ came to give to us all.

This is another example where Christians don’t agree. Furthermore, it can be very devisive when Christians who don’t believe that Christians are commanded to tithe are told they are robbing God because they aren’t obeying this law.

i. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/41-new-study-shows-trends-in-tithing-and-donating

(c) copyright 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

April 21st, 2009 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

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