Saturday, March 24, 2007

Don't Preach to Me About Tithing!

I can't sit through another sermon about tithing.

Don't get me wrong, I believe very strongly in giving. In fact, I believe that we should learn to give at least 10% of what we have, not as a law, but as an expression that we will not consume everything we are given on ourselves.

Tithing is usually taught in a way that saddles an Old Testament law onto the church in order to provide funding for the organizations we have established. Usually this is done under the guise of the local church being declared the storehouse, which means that in order to be a legitimate tithe, your 10% must go to the storehouse. Then if you would like to give more, for example to missions or the poor, that would be considered an offering.

Tithing is a hollow act that replaces spirit-led giving and generosity. When we simply write the check, like paying our taxes or membership dues, we don't have to open our eyes to the need in the world around us. We assume we've done our financial duty, and the church or the government will take care of the needs of the world.

The problem though is that most of what is given to churches is also consumed by the churches in providing the weekly congregational meeting. What kind of giving is it that benefits oneself? And what kind of storehouse is it that distributes very little?

Less than 2 cents of every dollar given to American churches goes to international missions. The billions given to churches and spent by them, in comparison to what actually ends up in the hands of the poor demonstrates that we have not loved the poor.

In an era of growing American affluence, church leaders had an opportunity to lead members in expanding their global concern and giving. Instead we've raised the level of performance production and comfort in our attractional services. Giving solely for the purpose of institutional maintenance and programs promotes accumulation and personal comfort.

Don't even get me started on the prosperity preachers, their gospel of affluence, and their extravagant lifestyles. Even the world can see this is ridiculous! Yet when they are called to account, they dare to claim they are being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel?

Has the church been a trustworthy steward of our giving and resources?

On a related note...

Darryl Dash has a couple of incredible posts about Ron Sider and Shane Claiborne from the Evolving Church Conference that will challenge and inspire you concerning generosity, giving, and our responsibility to the poor. They are worth taking the time to read.


David Cho said...

Now some churches pride themselves in setting aside 10% of their income to outside organizations.

Saw my old church's website which lists the organizations that they send their money to. Most of them are "pro-family" political organizations.

russkellyphd said...

You are on the right track. God's grace is sufficient to grow his church with grace principles of giving. There are tens of thousands who agree with us. I did my PHD on the subject and have already had over 15,000 copies of my free book downloaded on the subject. See May God bless you for speaking out is my prayer. Russell Earl Kelly

sonja said...

I find it somewhat interesting that most of the rest of the "law" is considered to be completed in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross ... but that one is still pulled out and dangled in front of us regularly.

Giving, sacrificially and in a manner which is lead by the Spirit, is the mark of a maturing walk with Jesus ... but I'm not certain that keeping buildings and programs afloat are the purpose that God has in mind for it.

Bill Kinnon said...

Might I just say - GREAT POST!

I was about to recommend you check out the Signposts blog in Australia and their good posts on Russell Kelly - and then noticed he'd already commented on your blog.

Bob said...

So you say tithing is an element of the OT law. Ok. But what does the NT say?
The disciples held all in common. They would regularly sell their belongings and place them at the apostles' feet who gave them to all as they had need.

So should the church teach this instead?

Chris & Suzanne said...

Bob - when we (my wife and I) lived in England, 5 couples in our church did just that - they pooled thier monthly incomes and divided the sum equitably (certain percentages for adults and for children), and then lived off their family's particular share.

Some had more than usual. Others had less. It was an extreme learning experience, and one that I know they did do a second time.

It definitely got them thinking about how they could best help other people, and that lifestyle was a choice we made, not something we are stuck with.

Am I saying we should teach this in our churches? I don't think it would hurt.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

What do most emerging churches and home churches do with tithes/offerings etc?
Mathematically, 10 families giving 10% should be able to sponsor a full time paid missionary for example.

Robbymac said...

Great post, Grace.

Like you, we give 10% mostly as a spiritual discipline of regular giving, although WHERE we give may not be consistently the same.

It's hard to imagine how applying "law" could result in "cheerful givers". "Duty" rarely inspires compassion, listening for His Voice, or generosity.

And, ultimately, it's all about learning to be generous, and to hear His leading in all things, including how we use our finances and possessions.

KSG said...

A few thoughts... (oh no, here he goes! she thinks.)

Tithing pre-dates the OT law (ex. Abel & Cain, Abraham), so even though the law commands it and Jesus fulfilled the law this doesn't mean that tithing should be abolished. I know that you did not suggest this but others posting here seem to be implying it.

As I spiritual discipline I think it should be willingly practised by all christ followers and especially by ones who think of themselves as missional. I'll also be ever so daring and say that the tithe should be invested in the Church (storehouse) and that almost always it will mean the body of Christ locally since we can live only in one place at a time. I say the Church, meaning the kingdom of God, and not church, meaning a building, like we've known it to be. But I am very willing for the storehouse to be active in visible support of local projects including providing assistance to people in need and in supporting relational forms of outreach. I admit to gravely disliking the idea that the tithe getting consumed upon mortgages or rent, or light bills and lawyers fees, and especially not Cadillacs or chandeliers or even cappacino bars in the foyer (okay I can probably justify that last one).

I'm also inclined to think that we need to learn to allow God access to all of our possessions and tithing constitutes a method of learning to do this.

My one big caveat to all this is that tithing cannot be demanded or enforced, it must be done willingly and willfully by a believer as a response to God.

grace said...

That's true, and as you pointed out, often that giving doesn't reflect a heart for the poor.

Dr. Kelly,
Thank you so much for your comment and link. I appreciated what I read of your book and will be saving the link as a resource for the future. It was an amazingly comprehensive study on this topic which I would highly recommend to anyone with questions about tithing.

Should the Church Teach Tithing

Those were the thoughts I had also, especially since my earlier post about walking with the Spirit. The idea of tithing seems to remove that aspect of our giving.

Yesterday in church, the pastor was describing how he has his tithe on automatic withdrawal from the bank. (Yes, I did sit through another sermon on tithing.)

Thanks Bill! I had not heard of Dr. Kelly, but I was pleased to discover his book. Also for some reason I didn't have signposts in my blogreader. They had a great post yesterday from Michael Frost.

I'm not sure. That would be a stretch for me, especially with the apostles I have known.

Chris provides an interesting real-life example.

Thanks for sharing this example. I am pretty conflicted about the idea, although interested in studying it more.

I would assume that emerging churches would first take care of the organizational needs with their offering. However, do to the different mindset, I would again assume that they are more outward focused and intentional in their giving and service to the community needs.

I have heard of house churches who combine their giving. That "pot" is then used to meet individual needs within the group or in their immediate community.

I believe there are also house churches where the individuals are simply left to their own choices regarding giving.

I'm sure there is a lot of variety in both of these areas.

Exactly! I wish I had said it so well. :)

Regarding tithing predating the law, I would point you to Chapter 2 of Dr. Kelly's book.

I agree with you completely that giving should be a spiritual discipline of missional Christians. However, I would also suggest that it should be more than just a discipline. It should be our heart, nature, and identity. It should be an attitude that is reflected not only in our finances and possessions, but certainly including them.

I also agree with you about giving into kingdom work that is happening locally. However, I think that it is important to look at whether the resources that are given are used up in supporting the ministry or whether they actually end up in the hands of those in need.

Maybe it is only in America, but churches haven't been accountable for how they have stewarded the resources entrusted to them.

A church should be setting the example of using our resources to meet the needs of others. If they attempted to run the organization at the minimum needed, they would be able to actually use the excess for ministering to the needs of others.

They should be an example of not consuming everything. Instead, we have ministries asking individuals to give sacrificially, then consuming those sacrificial gifts with extravagant spending.

Anyway, how dare anyone ask in the name of God for people's money and then not be faithful to Him in stewarding it.

The saddest thing is that there isn't any conviction about the billions that are spent on our organizations because we have somehow accepted the distorted idea that giving to the institution is the same as giving to God.

Well, that's enough ranting for Monday morning! Thanks for your comments.

russkellyphd said...

When we say that tithing predates the law, exactly what do we mean? Do we meant that mreely because it predates the law, then it must be an eternal moral principle? I seriously doubt it. Idolatry, child sacrifice, temple prostitution and witchcraft also predated the law. What does that prove? Nothing at all. What parts of Abraham's example are Christians to follow? Should we tithe spoils of war and not our own property? Shall we give the other 90% to the equivalent of the king of Sodom? Shoudl we not tithe of our own personal property?

tithe said...

I like that comment where you said that Tithing is a hollow act that replaces spirit-led giving. Many people think were trying to replace the tithe with freewill giving, but in actuality the tithe replaced Spirit-led giving without any authorization to do so.

kingdomageministry said...

The tithing ordinance was for Israel only and given by Moses from Mount Sinai (Leviticus 27:30-34). Tithes were taken only from the LAND (verse 30-32). Today, preachers have taken the tithing burden off the Land and put it on God’s people. We are not under the Mosaic Covenant of Law, but under Grace (Rom.6:14; Gal.5:18). Going back under Mosaic Law brings a curse (Gal.3:10). If you pick one Mosaic Law to be under, you must keep them ALL, including circumcision, not eating ham, ceasing work on Saturday, etc.
Only Israelite farmers had to bring in tithes. Tithes were food for the poor (Deut.14:28-29). Not one scripture supports taking tithes on money or using tithes to construct church buildings.
Every seventh year no crops would be gathered (Lev.25:1-7). Since tithes could not be collected off a non-existent harvest, people were given a year off from tithing every seventh year. The Israelites didn’t even have to tithe at all in the wilderness. How many preachers give their congregation a whole year off from tithing?
The tithe of Abraham is often cited to justify pre-Law tithing. But Abraham also practiced circumcision, animal sacrifice and polygamy before the Law. Does that mean we must do the same today?