Grilling A Sacred Cow: The Tithe and Tithing – Part 1

Ahhhhh, the tithe… this brings me back.

Let us start with a little story. 

When I started to question things, one “big” doctrine that stuck out was the doctrine taught about tithing.  This was the first sacred cow that I decided to throw on the grill over in Facebook land before I eventually came to WordPress.  I decided upon this topic because, well, it was taught every Sunday at the churches that I have called home.

Every.

Single.

Sunday.

Without fail.

Truth be told, it is taught practically every time the church doors were open, no matter the day!

Truth be told, you can’t escape DayStar TV or TBN or local christian radio without seeing nor hearing some pastor or evangelist preaching on it, or worse, using the same principles and scriptures during their beg-a-thons.

For the sake of “intellectual honesty”, I think it is very important for you to know that as long as I have had a church “home” I have been what is known as a “faithful tither”.  Every single paycheck that I have received, I have given 10% or more (which then, is technically not a tithe, since tithing is 10%..but still) of my gross income without blinking an eye – it never was hard to start, i just did it.  I believed in tithing.  I even took up offerings and taught about it during the “offering time” on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evening church, even when I was having questions about it.  I faithfully gave my tithe, for ten years, every paycheck until November 2011.  I was even one of those ‘crazies’ who would tithe off of their federal and state tax returns and even challenge the congregants to do the same!  If one paid attention closely in the last six months of me taking up the tithes and offerings, they would have noticed that my approach changed from staying in line with the Law and teaching/preaching tithing to just thanking people for wanting to give. 

So, hopefully that settles any questions of whether or not I’m just finger-pointing.

I’m not here to argue or attack anyone.  What this is, simply, is me telling you what I’ve learned and why I no longer believe in it, do with it what you will.

I would also like you to know that as I dug into this doctrine and began to come to conclusions contrary to what my pastors, leaders and favorite ministers taught; I struggled and felt ungrateful, very ungrateful for everything that my local church body has done for me and my family. 

Why would I feel this way, well, lets face it: tithing is more than likely the largest stream of income for any church

Unfortunately, the church (read: most institutional churches) depends on the faithful tithing and giving of its congregants in order to operate the way they do – like it or not, this dependency is a problem.  Some I’m sure will think I am trying to attack and take away the paychecks of the good people who operate the local churches.  If you believe that, well, that is on you, not me.  Maybe you should consider why exactly you are reacting the way you are?

As time went on, I read some impressive pieces regarding the subject of tithing, sometimes articles would even articulate almost perfectly what I was wondering.  I asked a handful of people their thoughts and opinion on the matter.  I’ve spoken to some different ministers about the subject to get their perspective but I have purposefully not asked those dependent on the system of tithing.  Hopefully, you can understand why.

Truth be told, as I started to uncover and deconstruct a lot of what I believe true about this topic, on top of feeling ungrateful, I was also afraid of being labeled a doubter or divisive or having “a spirit of division” if I raised a question or spoke up.  Getting into verbal matches with people is not my first option and being “pushed to the side”, silenced or disregarded didn’t sound very nice either.  I was also afraid of my viewpoint rendering me ‘incapable’ of service in the local church body.  I wanted to help people and at the time I thought the only “holy” way to do that was inside the church walls, under some sort of “covering” or “approval” of the leaders and pastors.  Well, all that fear has come and gone; the price has been paid and I do not look back wishing I could change it.  Thankfully I didn’t get burned at the stake, but taking these positions and asking questions has come at a cost to both my wife and I.   I no longer serve in the local church we called home, the choice was mine and I made it.  We rarely see anyone from our old church now.  People we thought were close friends, or even close as family.  All gone.  If we run into them, it is awkward and I get an empty “we miss you” from them.  I say thank you, but never return the false sentiment.

By taking this position, I have deliberately placed myself in a rough spot with those in the institution known as ‘the church’.  I’m not encouraging less giving, I am encouraging not being bound to the Law which actually frees Christians to give more!  The problem with this viewpoint (I guess it’s a problem if you are dependent on the tithe as your income) is that it frees Christians to give wherever the Spirit of God leads them and more than likely, it might not be to a church building! (GASP!)  If you want to give to an institution, that’s fine by me!  Give generously, just don’t give because you think that you’ll be cursed if you don’t or because you need to meet a requirement or expectation of an already fulfilled law.  More on that later.

By the time I published that note over in FB-land, I had been chewing on this subject, taking notes, reading articles, looking at scripture and occasionally asking people for their input for a good amount of time, I’d say close to 11 months.  I had stopped tithing altogether in November 2011 as a little “test” of what I will share below.  I published the note on a Saturday, 09/22/2012 to be exact and it was the product of writing, re-writing, chewing on it, pondering, questioning and even just letting it sit and simmer a bit since that last November when I stopped tithing altogether.  It was a mixed bag of reactions, however I was greatly and gratefully surprised by the outpouring of support, love and encouragement from other believers for taking this stand and putting my thoughts out there.  If you are reading this, I am still grateful to each and every one of you!

One reaction was very telling, straight “from the top” in the leadership chain.  If you have a smart phone this might not apply, but us-folk who have more ‘humble’ mobile devices get multiple text messages if a text is usually over a certain number of characters.  It was the morning after, Sunday morning, and I woke up bleary-eyed to the sound of my phone receiving a text message.  Before I could open my eyes, the text message ring went again…and then four more times.  It was six continuous texts from the pastor’s wife of the church we used to go to.  She was upset to say the least, at my humble version of a 99 Thesis regarding tithing.  She ran the gauntlet, saying everything from how I was very gifted and smart to then coupling that “compliment” with how the devil wants to use my brains and gifts for his purposes; to then accusing me of trying to destroy everything I once loved with ministry and also going so far as telling me that I had unresolved issues with leadership and that she would like to have a meeting with me.  Which meant her and her husband (the head pastor).

Like Han Solo says in Star Wars:  “Must’ve hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?”

Believe it or not, I took the “high road” and messaged her back, assuring her that I wasn’t trying to destroy anything and that I wouldn’t mind meeting with them.  I explained that at the time (which is true) I was preparing for something important at work, which was taking much of my free time (it was) and that I should be available after the middle of October, closer to the end of the month.  We didn’t go to church that morning but decided to hang back.  We came off and on over the next few weeks, we did have an infant son to deal with anyhow.  The “appointed time” came where I was available.  It was a Sunday morning at church and she approached us to see “how we were doing” and then asked if we were still available.  I told her that my wife and I were available and we agreed that they would get in contact with us for a meeting.

The next time I would hear from either of them was in February when the Pastor called to “catch up” with me and see “where we had been”.

Crazy times…

Well, that is the back story. 

The following is my revision of the original article.  So, I hope you find this helpful and freeing.  Is it ironic that I hope it is helpful and freeing yet, this is a really, really long post about what I have learned/observed? 

Well if you read it all: thank you. 

I no longer believe in Tithing.

Yeah, I said it. 

It’s true:  I do not believe in the doctrine of tithing as it is currently being taught in churches the world over.

This is what I am currently seeing and understanding Scripture to really say.  Maybe you’ve been having questions about practices or theological stances at your church.  Maybe a constant question you have is:

Is what I am seeing taught/preached/and even practiced by myself lining up with what I am understanding, seeing and learning in Scripture?

Maybe this issue is the exact one you are struggling with.  Hopefully, this will help you.

Remember, questions are good.

From what I understand, the only way for a believer to ‘rightly divide the word’ is by The Word, Jesus Christ; by dividing what is Old Covenant vs what is New Covenant, by understand that yes, ‘all scripture’ is given to us but no, not all scripture is for us to obey.  If the scripture doesn’t point to Jesus, then it’s either being interpreted incorrectly, or it’s not for me to pay attention to.  Don’t take my word on that, Jesus said that to the Pharisees about the Scriptures job is to point to Him (you can find that in the Gospel According to John).

Anywho, back to the subject at hand. 

Tithing is clearly an old covenant requirement. 

Remember, I used to teach it and preach it and faithfully practiced what I preached and from my current understanding of Scripture, I admit that I was wrong in teaching it and believing in it

Now, it is very important, very important that you understand I am not attacking people or a particular person.  Most people who believe in this are very sincere, very good people.  They are practicing this out of a genuine sincerity to want to please God and “do good” by Him.  It’s not the people I am “going after”, I am deconstructing the teaching.  Which will, I hope, help these sincere believers to be more of a blessing to the world and their local communities than they currently might be.  Anywho…

I cannot see how tithing is actually “Biblical” for Christians in light of the New Covenant made by Jesus Christ – its Biblical for Jews under the Law, but not for me – I have always and will always remain a Gentile – the Law was never meant for me.  It’s only purpose for me would be to show me up and reveal my need for a Savior (look to how high Jesus returned the bar of the Law), encourage and entice sin to blossom in my life (look to Paul’s writings) and then point me to the Savior (again look to Jesus’s words on this one too). 

I personally think the great majority of these genuine and sincere believers are misled regarding tithing, not out of their own doing, but out of traditional teachings that have been passed on from one believer to the next, from one pastor/preacher/teacher/evangelist to the next from one Christianity 101 Membership class to the next.  For some reason or another, the connections aren’t made and they just assume that these teachings must be correct without really questioning it themselves.  I did the same thing.  Its hard questioning the understanding of those you love and respect.  So, again, I’m not trying to vilify any person who currently preaches or teaches the tithe (teaches it while knowing the things I share might be a whole other ball o’ wax…) or even practices it.  Just because someone has an incorrect mindset or mentality, doesn’t necessarily make them the enemy.  Remember, we are called to renew our minds.  Which means changing the ways we think, our old mindsets and mentalities, changing or renouncing our old traditions that render the words of Scripture useless. 

So, let’s cut some steaks off this cow and get to grilling!

Tithing as it is taught today – The Malachi Model:

When tithing is taught in the church today (remember the back story I shared earlier) it is usually taught that we should give 10% to God and then live off of the 90%.  Many times, it is taught that it should be 10% of our gross income, not net.  That is what I’ve always done, and even taught.  This 10% is your tithe, tithe literally means “tenth” and anything over and above it is considered an offering.  We are taught that we should give both of these cheerfully, happily, looking at them as a form of worship.  It is also taught that tithing enables God to bless us and to remove curses that are on our lives and pour out blessings that we don’t have room enough to receive.  This is usually backed up by the famous scripture in Malachi 3, it is also backed up by testimony after testimony of how one person wasn’t tithing and then they did tithe and then God blessed them.

I have a really, really hard time with this method of teaching and ‘proving’ that tithing is what we ‘should’ do and that its required.  I suspect that one of the reasons we don’t see free-flowing, community changing, overly abundant giving like in the book of Acts and in the epistles is because the law of tithing is being held over our heads and being taught as obligatory.  So we give 10%, doing our duty and then we rarely, if ever, give to anything else unless it’s through the channels of our local church.

What I have learned:

From my reading of Scripture, Malachi 3 and following the tithe according to the Law does not apply to us as believers IN Christ. 

  • Malachi 3 was written to the nation of Israel and more specifically to its priesthood who were not tithing according to the Law’s requirement; 
  • God did away with the Law through Jesus.  Remember Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Law but to FULFILL it.  Once it was fulfilled, it was done away with and the New Covenant was laid down.  This is covered in fairly good detail in Scripture.  Jesus said it best:  It is Finished!
  • Galatians 3 clearly shows us how Malachi 3 doesn’t apply to us because Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.  If we are redeemed from the Curse of the Law – how can Malachi 3’s curse STILL apply to us?
  • Trying to fulfill any portion of the Law when Jesus has already done so is the only definition of “falling from Grace” per the Apostle Paul.  You don’t fall from Grace by sinning, you fall from grace by trying to go back to the Law.  See the example of the “foolish” Galatians.

I find it really hard to believe that Jesus came, fulfilled the Law, nullified its hold on us, removed us from its curse but then left tithing in there and its penalty to curse us if we don’t tithe.  That sounds more like the “unfinished work” of the cross, compared to the “finished work”.

I will say that in this world, probably more in “westernized culture” we do have self-imposed curses of financial ignorance:  lack of understanding how to use money, spending above our means, large mortgages, large credit card debts, lack of self-control in our purchases, not knowing how to properly balance a checkbook and avoid overdrafting your account…get the picture there?  We still have poverty – which can be a curse in and of itself – but it’s not something that you have to stay in and it’s not something that God has sent as punishment for not tithing!

Well at almost 3000 words, I’ll stop here for Part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll discuss the Abraham Example and a few other things.  Stay tuned, that will be published in a few days!

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5 thoughts on “Grilling A Sacred Cow: The Tithe and Tithing – Part 1

  1. Great read Tom, I like my sacred cow slow smoked, medium rare, and with a nice cold beer. There’s nothing better then seeing traditions of men go up in smoke.

    There’s a freedom in Christ that is not rewarded cuz our perfomance, but recieved cuz of His grace.

    There is a love we can experience that is not based on our performance, but is only available cuz He has adopted us into His family.

    There is an acceptence

    1. Monte! Thank you for reading, man! You are going to like the second part, but it’s probably nothing “new”. Hopefully, you enjoy the steaks I’m cooking up for you. Cold beer? Yes, please!

  2. Good stuff Tom, I like to call it sacred cow tipping but grilling actually puts the cow down for good so I like that even bettter. So much needs to be said on this topic. I too lived the tithe myth for so many years and after just a few studies in the Bible and reading a couple books, BOOM I saw the light. Just because someone with a title in front of their name, stand behind a pulpit and talk from the Bible doesn’t mean they are right. This assumption is so easy to make. Who would question those in charge? I wouldnt for fear of losing a blessing, losing status, losing face(respect) in the larger community,. And the sad thing about it is that it is just one of the worms in the proverbial can. GENEROSITY from the HEART! Buddha will bless you if you put some fruit on his lap,

    1. Hey there Alan! Good to hear from you and thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked the grilling ‘touch’ I put on there. I intended on doing a two-parter as this is basically a revision from a prior writing, however, after editing and adding a few ‘newer’ tid-bits, it turned into three, so I hope you enjoy the rest of the barbeque!

I would love to hear from you. Let's have a good conversation but not go thermo-nuclear, mmmkay?

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