Goldingay’s Proposal for Tithing

John Goldingay’s new book, Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers, collects his studies that address significant church issues. One of those pertains to giving of our monies. At the top of the list when it comes to giving money is the age-old, and for some little more than old-fashioned, question:

Is tithing the norm? What do you think the Bible teaches about “giving”?

Never count Goldingay out for a suggestive, if not provocative, angle on what the Bible says.

Goldingay will argue that “tithing is a norm” but has a fresh proposal.

Let’s look at what the Bible says today when it comes to the tithe. I will be interested in your response to his proposal, but I’m also interested in your thoughts about the implications of his proposal. Perhaps the word “sustainability” needs to be considered.

Before we go through the various themes, I want to observe that the OT is not as uniform on this as many might think. It’s not a simple but a multi-themed approach when it comes to the tithe.

1. Tithing emerges in Genesis 14, when Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek. God didn’t tell Abraham to do this, Abraham volunteered it and Melchizedek accepted it. From this Goldingay says tithing taps into the instincts of humans. God will harness such instincts but the first occasion is not a command.

2. In Genesis 28:8-10 Jacob tells God he will give God a tithe since God promises to bless him. Goldingay sees here another instinctual, but perhaps even selfish, manipulative act on Jacob’s part.

3. At the end of Leviticus 27, vv. 30-33, tithing is both assumed and an occasion for God to remind Israel that it should not be evaded — they are to tithe on everything, even the best of their flock and produce.

4. The most common perception of tithing is that it is for “clergy” and this anchored in Numbers 18:21-32 where tithing goes to the Levites. Here we find a pervasive practice in ancient Israel — tithes take care of the people in the Temple.

5. But Deuteronomy 12 and 22:22-29; 26:12-13 (see below) clarifies this situation. The calendar is cut into seven years at a time. In year one and two, four and five, a normal tithe; in year three and six, a special tithe; and in year seven a sabbath. The special tithe went to the aliens, orphans, and widows. (At least 3/7 years concern the poor: year 3, 6 and 7.)

6. The other reference to tithing, other than warning Israel to resume tithes after not tithing, pertains to the warning that kings will tax through a tithe (1 Sam 8:15-17).

Goldingay sorts through this and combines it with Jubilee visions of the OT and then makes the suggestion that Christians today should give their tithe to “causes that will thus provide nourishment, education, basic health care, and health education for people in the two-thirds world” (169). He suggests also that another tithe be used to care for the local church.

Four results: A significant redistribution of resources; our disproportionate consumption of the world’s resources does not make our lives any happier; we can model that life is more than goods; maybe God will pour out blessings on us (Mal 3:8-12).

Deut 14:
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deut 26
12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Tom

    If we did this, I think we would be closer to what the Bible seems to be saying. We currently spend a lot of money on the local church programs and buildings. Even in places where there are multiple facilities in the area we build gyms, classrooms, coffee shops,- massive facilities in order to “draw people in” when we should be getting out to them.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Most of the money goes to keeping the local country club, excuse me, I mean church, running instead of giving to the poor.

  • http://www.soulgardeners.com Tom Smith

    In life of Israel, he said that ” There is no basis for saying that tithes must be paid to the church. Indeed instead of using tithes to pay pastors and keep church buildings ambient, we might use them to offer nourishment, education, basic health care, and health education for people in the two-thirds world.”

    Did he move from “might use” to should?

    Personally I am deeply troubled by the tithing practice in South Africa. Much of the white church tithe 10% of the church budget to mission, implying that the other 90% goes towards our own enrichment. I think Jesus calls us towards a re-evaluation of that.

  • http://facebook.com/jessephillips1 Jesse Phillips

    I’m afraid the Church is WOEFULLY misusing tithes. Jesus said to love our neighbors, to help poor people & those in need, to store treasure in heaven – and we mostly just spend tithes on ourselves (our buildings & staff) – this sucks.

    If we did use tithes more outwardly, not only would we be doing what God told us to do, people would actually start believing us, and becoming Christ followers.

    We shoot ourselves in the foot by misusing our resources. Please, God, help us see the TRUTH!

  • pepy

    Jesus Creedish in focus: loving God and loving others in our giving.

  • Kelly

    I am interested to see this conversation continue. I don’t think that paying the church staff a living wage is “woefully wrong” as #4 Jesse says, and I would venture a guess that many churches are not paying their staff incredibly high wages (though I know there are exceptions). I certainly think we should be constantly evaluating just how much goes to inward luxuries within our buildings and seeing how we can use more on the things Goldingay proposes.

  • Robin

    Our church has dedicated 50% of its entire budget solely for missions and mercy, so I feel pretty good about Goldingay’s 3/7 observation.

    On the broader issue of what churches should be spending their tithe on…it isn’t as simple as “we shouldn’t be spending our money on these luxuries”, you also have to take in account what those luxuries are used for, and if the purposes behind them can be supported.

    So when I look at the apparently average churches around me I see sanctuaries which usually aren’t very ornate, I see gyms, I see nursery rooms, etc. The nursery rooms usually serve double duty as nursery rooms on Sundays and facilities for childcare throughout the week and for mommy’s day out. The gyms seem a little less worthwhile, since they’re mostly just used for upward basketball…I’m really not sure what their ministerial purpose is besides that. And then you have the sanctuary.

    I’m just not sure how much fat there is to cut (besides the gym) if you think that a church needs a sanctuary and a place to keep the kiddos (which often gets used throughout the week as a kind of continual ministry). Our church has only been able to meet the 50% to missions and mercy because our staff is primarily volunteer and we meet in an elementary school cafeteria.

    I don’t see how churches with actual facilities and mortages can meet this goal.

  • David Himes

    Interesting discussion.

    My understanding of scripture is that the only thing that matters is my heart. What is my heart about giving? It should not be limited by a percentage. I should be using everything to honor God and follow the example of Jesus.

    The best definition of agape, in my view, is: giving yourself to others, for their good expecting nothing in return.

    This cannot be measured in percentages or dollars.

    I agree with those who observe Christians devote too much of our resources on facilities and not enough on those who need our help.

    But the norm for giving is “all of me.” Not just 10%

    It’s also very interesting to note in the OT, that only once every three years did the tithe go to the poor and the priests. During the other two years, the tithe was sacrificed to God and consumed in honor of God.

  • Robin

    I agree with Jesse that I wouldn’t be examining the salaries of the staff with too much scrutiny. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I doubt very many pastors and their staff are living high on the hog. I suspect the true culprit is facilities.

    I looked up Piper’s church just for a comparison. 48% to staff, 10% to property, 6% to discipleship type ministries, 10% to outreach ministries, and 20% to global outreach. So broadly speaking, 70% ($6.5 million) for US, and 30% ($2.75 million) for THEM.

    Pastor Piper’s salary is not directly available, but I was ablt to find out he stills lives in the same home he purchased in a bad part of town in the 80′s for $65,000 and it is currently valued by the assessor at $165,000.

    The total staff costs (48%) seem high, but I checked and including pastors and staff (excluding lay-elders and deacons) they have 159 staff. So the budgetary numbers comes out to about $28,000 per person in a decent sized metropolis. Obviously some of the pastors probably earn more than that, and some of the custodians and coordinators less, but overall it doesn’t look absorbitant.

    If you assume that things like nursery coordinators and youth group leaders and custodians are necessary to provide ministry to the church and surrounding community, the expenses look reasonable.

  • Kyle

    I heard recently of a well respected man I knew, that goes on a tithe trip every so often. I had no clue what that meant, but the Deut. 14 verses seem to imply that you take your tithe and use it to support a huge family trip to the place the “Lord will put his name”. If it’s too far, then use your tithe “to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish.” And then rejoice! Sounds like a celebratory trip including all kinds of good food and even wine and fermented drink (beer?). And by the way, don’t forget the Levites at the celebration.

  • Able

    “Tithing emerges in Genesis 14, when Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek. ”

    No it actually emerged when I gave God my first and best harvest in Genesis 4. Then my Brother gave the leftovers, God was kind of annoyed by that, so Cain got mad and killed me. Turned out it was a heart issue- not what was given but the heart behind it! Because I loved God and recognized my blessing I gave back to him first. He deserved the best. Anyway Cain he was a total jerk growing up. I heard after he escaped Nod he changed the spelling of his name to Kane and spent quite of bit time fighting our youngest brother the Undertaker at various wrestling events.

  • Ivey

    Nice post, always an interesting conversation…I would suggest that tithing is not for the NT church at all-that ministers have twisted and/or misunderstood the OT teachings because of ignorance, fear, greed or whatever and that the Church would do well to teach/preach on giving-giving from the heart-whatever the amount…it is much easier for a family to budget a % each payday so, 10% is a nice round number-but you’re not cursed if you contribute less and you aren’t catching the Lord’s attention and His blessings by giving more-it’s Grace, it’s Grace, it’s Grace, stop giving us rules (Galations anyone?) And, yes, help the poor, the elderly, ect-Love God, Love People-it ain’t complicated…At the same time folks here in the US need ministering, need support, need sanctuary (youth groups come to mind) Balance is key in all things but remember, we are at war-this is a battle we wage-let us put on His amour, lock arms and go, letting His spirit guide us in our Journey-including our giving…

  • Glenn

    One thing in regard to Piper’s church: several of the members I’ve met give beyond ten percent to ministries outside of the church. At my local church we are introduced to missionaries on a regular basis. The members are asked to give to these men and women directly. This will never be recorded in our budget but it is significant.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Aside from the smart comment I made before, I do believe that people need to make a judgemnet regarding their methods of giving. Clearly an empty nester at the peak of their executive career should be doing more than a 30 year old with 4 kids. It is individual and the most important part being that it is to be done between the person and God.

  • Robin

    When the issue of tithing, along with additional charitable giving, comes up I always revert back to the widow and her mite. The rich people throwing in their money were probably keeping whatever “standard” was in force for that particular offering, but Jesus pointed out the widow’s donation, because she had to sacrifice to make it.

    I think that if our tithes and donation don’t feel like a sacrifice, we’re probably not doing enough, regardless of whether we have hit 10% or 50%.

    As to Goldingay’s suggestion that there should be one tithe to the church and another for missions and mercy…In the OT all donations went to the “church” who then spent them on the priesthood in some years, and the poor, widow, orphan, etc. in other years.

    If we took Goldingay’s strategy literally, we would be giving the “portion” that belonged to the widows and orphans to them directly, and then the church would spend its entire portion on its own ministers and buildings. There would literally be no money for the church to distribute through things like food pantries, clothing closets, missions etc. We’d be saying, here is some money for preaching, but let’s leave all of the serious ministry work to parachurch or non-church organizations of my person choosing…not to mention the economies of scale that come with pooled congregational giving that would be absent.

  • Rick

    Although I don’t know if I fully agree with Ivey #11 (I am not saying I disagree either), I do think that the lack of NT references in this post does mean we are not adequately addressing the topic.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    Of course, the NT says nothing to us about tithing. Almost every time a collection is taken, it was for the poor, and people gave sacrifically. Then they are reminded to take care of their teachers too. No particulars are ever given as to how much to give; just sacrifically.

  • smcknight

    Rick, the tithe is not taught in the NT but rather assumed as common practice. 2 Cor 8-9 focuses on generosity as an expression of God’s gracious generosity toward us.

  • normbv

    How in the world does one measure giving?
    I know of one whose wife doesn’t work and forsakes a significant salary so that she may use her skills ministering to other women in marriage and relationship crisis. Spending her time in the word of God and continuing her training in counseling at their family expense to continue honing her skills, so that the older woman may properly instruct the younger. If she was employed their material lifestyle would look considerably different possibly doubling their resources. The man ministers to the prisons giving significant amounts of time and visits the sick and the poor while helping teach and shepherd the flock. They still give financially but not as much as they would like monetarily because there is not as much to give monetarily.
    So are they giving 10% of their means according to the letter of the Law, or are they giving as they themselves are prospered? How would the Lord accept their giving?

  • Mark B

    Everyone should serve as a church treasurer or financial secretary at least once to get a strong idea of how churches are financed. That should open eyes to the fact that talking tithe in this culture is counter productive. It supports the 20% who support the church in their righteousness while making the 80% feel real guilty or start talking about waste, abuse and greedy clergy. None of that serves the gospel.

    Most congregations are less than 100 worshipers. In those congregations in the relatively affluent suburbs the 20% is enough to pay a minister and maintain a chapel and some office/teaching space. Because they are rarely able determine the ability of their minsters beforehand, they pay low wages. Because minsters tend to walk away, they are more willing to spend in physical plant. To break out of that – talking a tithe is not the path. Holding up potential ministries and seeing what sticks is more effective. Basically the 20% support the basic infrastructure. You’ve got to reach the 80% with the gospel mission. Providing opportunities for the gospel to be realized in individual lives and for growth to happen. Something like Piper’s numbers are the result of decades of teaching, faith growth and gospel opportunity.

  • Kevin B

    In the midst of this conversation about tithing, let us remind ourselves that the stats seem to indicate that giving is somewhere around 3%. If believers really tithed, then I believe that churches would be flush with cash and there would be plenty for taking care of the poor, the malnourished, the disadvantaged and so forth. The criticisms about buildings and staff would just fall away.

  • http://brandonmilan.wordpress.com brandontmilan

    Like #7 Robin said, the vast majority of churches that I have been in do not have great, expensive buildings. A few of them do.

    A lot of churches don’t pay staff nearly enough in relation to degrees and experience. A few of them pay ridiculous amounts. But most of them don’t.

    For most churches, though, paying staff less than they should, keeping up their buildings to the bare minimum, and paying denominational dues end up being the vast majority of their budget. Then they hopefully use the left over 20% to pay for things like VBS and supporting a few missionaries.

    The churches need staff to teach, preach, and minister, and they need buildings to worship in. Sure, you free that up, you have tons of money to help the poor. But without a minister and a building, that church probably wouldn’t exist. Then there would be no money to give to the poor.

    Its a bit of a catch 22. The solution can’t be cutting back the fat, because in a lot of churches, there is no fat to cut back.

    I think that the solution is that individual Christians need to learn how to be more giving, to needy individuals, to organizations that help the poor, and to their local congregations.

  • Rick

    ChrisB #16 and Scot #17-

    The change in emphasis and tone is my point. Tithing can have a legalistic tone to it, especially if just focusing on the OT descriptions. The NT, as you pointed out, is about generosity and outpouring. If the law is fulfilled in Christ, then how does that impact our giving?

    When we discuss where the money goes, this change (or clarification) in mindset needs to be considered.

  • Gordon

    if Christians actually gave %10 of their income we would be able to do it all. Our church gives about %3 of their income for about a $350,000 budget. About $300,000 takes care of staff, building and in-house ministries, and $50,000 to the poor. if we moved to 6% we would be able to give the other $350,000 to “causes that provide nourishment, education, basic health care, and health education for people in the two-thirds world.” If everyone tithed in just my church you would be looking at somewhere close to $850,000. I am amazed at how little people give, including those that are “leaders” in the church.

  • AHH

    As a few people have alluded already, it is the fixation on a specific number, 10%, that seems problematic and not consistent with the NT pattern that sees Jesus as fulfilling and superseding the old law and that calls us to 100% devotion rather than to a legalistic number.

    Of course this observation does not let us off the hook.
    Our call as Christians is to give generously and sacrificially, and for many of us that will mean more than 10%. But I think we’d be better off if we dropped legalistic talk about the “tithe” and emphasized the call to generosity and sacrifice — only bringing in the historic 10% as a suggested starting point for each person’s consideration of what God is calling them to give in the financial arena.

  • AHH

    I also question the assumption in a few comments that spending funds on staff salaries automatically equates to inward “US” focus at the expense of “THEM” (mission).
    In the church where I am a member, several of the staff positions to a large extent support ministry to “THEM”, to people in the community who are not church members and not financially supporting the church. Much of our youth and college ministry could be characterized that way, and there are other mission-oriented staff duties like the part-time kitchen manager whose duties include supporting ministry that feeds the hungry. I suspect the same is true in many other medium-large churches.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I counted the money each week in my previous church and was amazed at who gives what. A very few support the whole thing, basically.

  • Robin

    AHH,

    I used the “US” and “THEM” language in order to satisfy any skeptics that might think having pastors designated towards youth, college age, or outreach ministries is just another form of “country club” spending. The sort of skeptic who might think that only donations to food pantries and third-world missionaries “counted” as things the church ought to do but is lacking.

    Piper’s church budget is actually also divided by ministry area, so that all of the staff/facility requirements are grouped by ministry area.

    When viewed that way they spend 29.2% on “operations”, 34.1% on “ministry” and 36.7% on “outreach and missions.” It isn’t clear where most of the pastoral salaries fall in there.

  • Anna

    One reason why people do not give to the church as much as they “should” is probably that some churches are not necessarily good stewards, either by wasting money or by storing up money. There are so many great ministries outside the church that needs financial support.

    I know a few friends give more than half of their total givings to their missionary friends and some para-church organization.

  • normbv

    DRT #27

    People have differing gifts. One man is gifted in making money and gives large portions according to his faith. Another is gifted in ministry and gives of his time and energy and gives sacrificially yet it cannot be compared monetarily with the gift of the rich man. The Body is diverse and composed of various gifts and they work together as the Body. 1 Cor 12.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/majlens_art/ gingoro

    I happen to live 3 blocks from a large homeless shelter which is mostly paid for from taxes which in turn comes from the tax payers. Maybe not in the USofA but in other countries lots of social services are now paid by the taxpayer that used to be supported from public charity. How might such be factored into the discussion?
    Dave W

  • Barry

    I wonder… Is there a reason that a majority of the comments assume that the typical structural components of ‘church’ are normal/adequate/preferred? Bigger than the tithe or monies needed to support institutional organizations is the question of whether the church actually needs to be organized that way at all (w/ staff, budgets, facilities, accountants). This strikes me as patterning the church after a business rather than a family (just thinking of the metaphors used for the church in the NT… ‘body’ / ‘family’). In a business model, tithing is necessary as an income source. What if the entire economics of church was turned on its head – e.g. communities devoting all of their resources to caring for one another (family, friends, neighbors and enemies) on a daily basis… family style rather than corporation style. What would a discussion of tithe look like then?

  • Steve Billingsley

    Kevin (#21) and Gordon (#24),

    You hit the nail on the head. If the average household in evangelical households had an income of the poverty line for a family of four ($23,000 last I checked, an arbitrary number to be sure but it makes the point) and tithed off of that, the average church budget would double. In my stint as a pastor these numbers worked out almost exactly. We can nitpick over whether the tithe applies today and what it means but the truth is that the evangelical church in America needs to get its house in order on giving and stewardship (not living within our means and buying in to a consumeristic lifestyle).

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    normbv#30 Amen. Preaching to the choir. I was only supplying data in that.

  • http://faithappeal.blogspot.com/ L.K.

    I recently visited an evangelical Christian church and the sermon for that Sunday was on tithing. I was left feeling a little confused because it wasn’t clear WHERE tithes are supposed to go. The pastor didn’t specifically say that checks need to be written out to the church. But he did point out that, based on his records of checks written out to his church, he figured that people were skimping on their tithes. I wondered why he didn’t address the possibility that the difference between the checks and a full 10% could have gone to charities of choice. (I’m also a little concerned with the definite rule of 10% since it seems to take away the beauty of voluntary giving.) He only used a few verses and none of the above from Deuteronomy about giving to the fatherless and the widow. I found that this cleared things up a bit for me. If we give anywhere that helps God’s people, that can count as a proper tithe. Thanks for the post.

  • Pamela

    In the Anabaptist church my husband grew up in, there were no paid staff members–the church was run by the congregation, including preaching, cleaning and so on. Admittedly, when I go, I don’t think the preaching is often the best or deepest. Youth programs weren’t that strong or active. On the other hand, the average member of this church has Bible knowledge that far out-strips the typical member of most other churches we have attended. I sometimes do wonder if our whole conception of what “church” is might not be quite what God intended.

  • Jeremy

    Maybe Goldingay mentioned this in the book, but I don’t know how you can relate Jubilee to Christian life today without looking at the NT first. Jumping from the OT without looking at the NT just seems unwarranted. Not that I disagree with all of his suggestion(s), but I just don’t understand why you would write a book on OT answers for the Christian life if the NT answers it differently or gives a bigger picture.

    Robin, the whole US vs THEM distinction is silly. Is it pretty amazing how Piper got into this discussion. How is a % of church funds used to preach the gospel considered for US? It’s not and it only is if you have something against Piper.

  • http://www.Tithing101.com Gary Arnold

    NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE pays the Biblical tithe today.

    Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18: The First Tithe – a tenth of crops (a tenth, not the first tenth, and not the best tenth) and every tenth animal (the LAST ONE out of every ten, not the first) whether that animal be good OR BAD (so God didn’t ask for the best) and commanded to take the tithe to the Levites.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-27: The Second Tithe aka The Festival Tithe – a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.

    Deuteronomy 14:28-29: The Third Tithe aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe – a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.

    In all three tithes commanded by God, the tithe was on ASSETS from GOD’S miraculous increase and NEVER on man’s income.

    Now, tell me. Which of the above three tithes commanded by God does anyone follow today?

    The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus didn’t tithe. Paul didn’t tithe. Peter didn’t tithe.

    HOW CAN YOU COMPARE THAT WITH CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE TO PAY THEIR MORTGAGE PAYMENT OR RENT, INCOME TAXES, PROPERTY TAXES, SALES TAXES, ETC?

    There is no way to justify making some “principle” out of the Biblical facts and then apply it to Christians today. It is just flat out wrong and makes no sense at all.

    Church leaders have taken the scriptures and have CHANGED God’s definition of His tithe from His miraculous increase to man’s income. Church leaders have CHANGED God’s command to take His tithe to the Levites FORVER (Numbers 18) to bring the tithe to the church.

    Abram gave a tenth of war spoils that didn’t even belong to him and kept nothing for himself. NOT what any Christian follows today.

    Cain and Abel did NOT tithe. Tithe means a tenth or tenth part. There is nothing in the scriptures to show any tenth being paid or given before Abram.

  • Peter

    When we returned from living as missionaries in SE Asia we tried to continue to support the work there and other m’s that my family and I know who have no savings, emergency fund, retirement, etc. I was bothered by observing the church here cutting giving to m’s but not to home staff when things were tight; by the relatively small (10-15%) am’t given to missions (and very little of that for the poor and hungry); by concerns that the pastor might not be adequately supported financially but no similar sense of responsibility toward m’s our church supported. As my family and I get closer to being debt-free we have started to give to our church, but, although we’re able to give > 10% of our income, less than 10% of our giving currently goes to our church. We will probably give more as we get out of debt, but I expect that the bulk of it will continue to be directly to m’s and ministries to the hungry, etc.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Wow, a triple fake doctorate from a triple fake online school and website makes one an authority on Biblical tithing.

  • Ivey

    Gary #38, nail on the head. Sorry for additional post but, note to ministers: preach and teach giving; give “your sheep” a vision and they will give, I promise you. Ignorance is no excuse and just because something was always done a certain way doesn’t mean it should continue…Fear is not of God-trust Him to provide for the church, the various ministries and you and your family-you might be surprised. Blessings.

  • Susan N.

    Tithing has been a sore subject for my husband. He has been very cynical about it in the past. Last fall, we heard a different take on tithing from our current church’s POV. They had “visuals”, namely a step chart showing the percentage of the congregation giving X amount on a weekly basis. We appreciated this transparency on the part of the church. There was no condemnation for those on the lower giving rungs, but simply an exhortation to pray about whether we could increase our giving just one rung up the ladder. This seemed so much more reasonable than the legalistic 10%, or…God would withdraw His blessing from us…or, be cast into the outer darkness! This approach has helped my husband especially to give cheerfully and feel good about what we are able to do. We both also believe in supporting para-church ministries that minister to the poor, so that has a significant impact on what our budget will allow giving to the church. It also helps to be in a church that’s strongly committed to social justice. We’re confident that our monies are apportioned well.

  • Ken Anwari

    In the area of the world where I live, the prosperity “gospel” Pentecostal preachers are insisting that not paying the tithe cancels out the eternal merits of any good deeds done by these “robbers” of God. BTW: all their churches’ assets are registered in their names!

    It’s such a tragedy that evangelicals generally, Baptists (& Pentecostals!) most specifically, know next to nothing about pre-Reformation Christian history. It’s interesting that there is no documentary evidence that the doctrine of the tithe was either taught or practiced for hundreds of years.

    From Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine, an essay by Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.
    http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/

    “While disagreeing with their own theologians, most church historians write that tithing did not become an accepted doctrine in the church for over 700 years after the cross. According to the very best historians and encyclopedias, it took over 500 years before the local church Council of Macon in France, in the year 585, tried unsuccessfully to enforce tithing on its members. It was not until the year 777 that Charlemagne legally allowed the church to collect tithes.”

  • rahahmim

    1, Christians are not under Law. 2 titheing was from agricultural produce in eretz Israel.

  • Deron

    interesting that in Eph 4:28, Paul implies that one of the main purposes of work is to have ‘something to share with those in need.’

  • Ron C

    Let’s say that every Sunday a congregation preached that in order to be in the will of God you must do one or more of the following: be circumcised, keep the festivals, sacrifice animals, adhere to strict dietary laws, etc. Would you attend that group? In my opinion, tithing belongs in this list.

    Several years ago I was trying to understand the subject of giving and realized that tithing is hardly mentioned in the NT. It’s only occurs 8 times and five of those can be thrown out because they are in the book of Hebrews which mentions the tithe from a historical perspective and not a command position.

    While I was struggling with this, a pastor who strictly believed in tithing, convinced me that it was purely an OT concept. He indicated that the reason for the scarcity of the subject of tithing in the NT was because they new it so well. I decided to “chew” on this for awhile because it was somewhat of a reasonable explanation.

    Months latter I had one of my few “light bulb” moments. Paul preached to the gentiles!!! They knew nothing of Jewish tradition and he commanded no one to tithe! But the NT speaks extensively on sacrificial giving from the heart, on caring for those in need and on loving others more than yourself.

    To make matters worse, the funds that are taken in are most often spent on buildings, programs and salaries. Caring for the needs of the impoverished among us is frequently a secondary issue. This seems contrary to the NT ideal.

    I believe it was Shane Claiborne who said “That if a group of people got together and formed an organization that was diametrically opposed to the teaching and life of Christ, it would look similar to what we have today.” Giving should be of the heart and not of the law.

  • Jean D.

    Scott (#18): If the Corinthian Church was primarily of pagan origin, and if we assume that philanthropic care for the poor was not the norm in Greco Roman culture, then I would challenge your statement that tithing was assumed by Paul as a common practice. My understanding is that the Christian notion of alms and Paul’s collection for the saints in Jerusalem (as an example of charitable giving) was a unique aspect of Christianity for pagan converts in the Greco Roman world.


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