The Tithing Conspiracy

tithingThe authors of this website (from which I’ve culled the picture below), “are convinced that many Christians suffer materially, physically and spiritually because they have been misappropriating that which belongs to God.” By “misappropriating that which belongs to God,” they mean, of course, not tithing. The quote evinces several pagan status quo Christian beliefs that suck the life blood out of the cross. I’ve dealt elsewhere with the question of whether one’s material or physical sufferings can be attributed to divine punishment for sin. But for not tithing!?—that adds a new twist!

I’ve sat through a decent number sermons on tithing, which usually stress the Christian’s obligation to tithe. Some churches are notorious for their unhealthy fixation on tithing. I’ve heard of churches that pass the offering plate around multiple times in one service whilst relentlessly pushing their twisted guilt and fear tactics based on passages like Mal 3:8-10 and the very last clause of 2 Cor 2:7 (blissfully ignoring, of course, 1 Cor 2:17). I’ve even heard of Christians abandoning the faith on account of their profoundly negative experience with the church and tithing. There is the opposite extreme of those Christians who treat tithing as a kind of failsafe investment deal (if I give God n, God will return n+), or worse, as propitiatory; which deserves a place of (dis)honor among the vilest of pagan beliefs and practices.

Thankfully, I was never part of a church where I encountered these extremes. In most churches I have attended, the passing of the offering is done discretely (say, at the beginning of a worship song), and non-Christians or visitors are encouraged to let it pass by them. The subject of tithing itself is rarely mentioned but for an annual sermon on the subject. Over all, I never had a particularly negative experience with tithing.

There were, however, misconceptions encouraged. Like I said, most evangelical churches encourage the belief that Christians have an obligation to tithe, which of course is rubbish. Tithing was Old Covenantal practice instituted by God modeled specifically for Israel. Israel was a theocracy, and tithing was their government tax. News flash: Israel is no longer a theocracy, and we are no longer bound in obligation to the letter of Old Covenant law. And at least partly for that reason tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament, even when Paul had the perfect opportunity to in his discussion of giving at Corinth (2 Cor 8). In short: the New Testament Christians didn’t tithe for the same reason they didn’t make sacrifice for their sins.

Some people think that the practice of tithing has been replaced by the practice of taking up offering, and that while we might not be obligated to tithe, we are obligated to contribute to the offering. This, too, is false. The practice of offering is first mentioned in 2 Cor 8, the purpose for which was to collect money for those in “extreme poverty” (2 Cor 8:2) (which reflects the purpose for which tithing was instituted in Israel. See Deut 14:22-29). Furthermore, it was something Paul recommended, not commanded (2 Cor 2:8).

tithing2What’s especially funny is that although the word “tithe” means “a tenth,” God commanded different tithes for different things, each of which was a percentage of one’s assets over different periods of time. In other words, tithing was not just monetary, and was not just annual. The “10% of annual income …pssst, before taxes” propounded by many churches instantiates the oxymoronic property of being completely arbitrary and legalistic at the same time.

The New Testament precedent for giving is very rich and nuanced, but marked chiefly by wisdom and liberty of conscience before God. Highly recommended reading: Dean and Laura VanDruff’s “The Tithe Conspiracy and Exegesis.”

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3 thoughts on “The Tithing Conspiracy

  1. Hello there,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on tithing. I’ve been surfing the web just to read different perspectives on this topic. I’ve been tithing since I was a young girl and decided to write a book about the blessings I believe I have received as a result of consistently tithing and giving when the Lord prompts. I have found that God is faithful to His word. Have you had any good experiences that resulted from tithing or giving? If so, would you mind sharing one or two with me? Also, to be clear, is your main qualm the fact that churches message tithing as an obligation?

    Jubilee

    I’ve posted a question on my own blog “Tithing…Church Scam or Godly Plan. Please stop by to share your views.” http://believerswithbenefits.blogspot.com/
    New Book Coming Soon…Stay Tuned for Official Release date and Book Signing

    • Jubilee,

      Your comment about giving “when the Lord prompts” reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite books of late, Good News for Anxious Christians. I highly recommend the book, but here is the passage:

      And in the more consumerist side of American evangelicalism, there are all sorts of voices that also aim to manipulate you and tell you what God is saying in your heart. … You may have heard more than one fundraising speech or stewardship sermon in which the speaker says something like this: “Just close your eyes and hear what God is saying in your heart, and listen to what he’s telling you to give. Maybe it’s a little. But maybe it’s a lot more than you thought. I’m not telling you how much to give. I’m just saying, listen to what God tells you. What is his Spirit saying to your heart today? What does he want you to give?
      I’ll be saying a lot more about biblical stewardship in chapters 3 and 4, but let me say here that I’m convinced what being a good steward means when you’re stuck in a situation like this is to open your eyes, look at your wallet or your checkbook, think about your budget, maybe take out pen and do a little arithmetic. And then do some critical thinking: do you really want to give so much to a ministry that tries to manipulate people like this? A good steward is wise in the use of money and is not so easy to manipulate. (Phillip Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians, p. 9).

  2. Thans for the comment, Jubilee. You must be doing some pretty thorough research if it brought you to this little corner of the web!

    My main qualm with tithing is this: for having nothing in the NT to recommend it, it encourages too many inevitable misunderstandings and abuses. Whether a Christian understands it as obligatory, a failsafe investment deal, propitiatory, church revenue, minister’s income, or whatever, the “10% of annual income” rule that has come to define tithing is simply an absurd way of thinking about the norm for charitable giving.

    I cannot say that I can identify anything good that I have experienced as being the direct result of tithing or giving. God blesses us in many, many ways; perhaps for being obedient or Christlike; or perhaps not because of anything we have done, but because God is abundantly generous. What’s important is that we continue to trust God amidst good and bad experiences. I therefore think it’s probably best to refrain from interpreting this or that blessing as being correlated with this or that thing I did, tithing or other.

    Best wishes on your forthcoming book!

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