Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tithing Revisited

In January of 2006 I posted on the subject of tithing.

I have received numerous emails and comments that were favorable, and several that were not favorable, but were civil and kind.

I've also received several wild-eyed "You've GOT to be KIDDING!!!, you Anti-Christ Underminer of...of...didn't you ever read Malachi???!!!!" type of responses. I always write back to these folks, offering a kind word, and sometimes offering to calmly and Biblically discuss the matter. They never want to.

The latest, from a man I'll call "Andre" (because that's the name he used in his email with a fake email address) was written in giant, bold-type, accented wild-eyed type font. His accusations were entirely emotional, with accompanying Old Covenant Bible verses (typical). I felt sorry for him in his bondage, and athough my email was rejected because of his fake email address, I replied to him as follows:

Dear Andre,

Thank you for writing.

The verses you quote are all from Scriptures that were from under the Old Covenant. The quotes from the four Gospels were from Jesus who Himself was born under the Law, that is the Mosaic Law or Old Covenant, and lived under the Old Covenant.

He, of course, fully followed and obeyed the Law, which demonstrated that He was the perfect Lamb of God.

The Old Covenant was made obsolete by the New Covenant in the blood of Christ (Hebrews 8).

I dare say you didn't read my writings carefully at all.

1. I never said tithing was evil. If someone wants to give 10% of their income joyfully...great! Nothing wrong with that.

2. I said that *teaching* tithing [as a commandment] is evil, because under the New Covenant, no percentage of income is *ever* mentioned. And even under the Old Covenant, income was never tithed, only produce, and more than once per year, totaling over 20%.

3. If you could show *one* example of tithing commanded under the New Covenant (that is, after the Cross), I would happily teach tithing. But such an example doesn't exist, only the teaching of cheerful giving as determined by the God-guided heart of the individual, as God prospers him.

4. I strongly believe in giving to the Lord's work, but to teach tithing just puts people under the Law, and actually causes them to sin. Rom. 6:14 says that sin shall no longer be master over us because we are not under Law, but under Grace.

5. The grip of Legalism is so strong around your neck, that you can only shout (for that is what your giant bold print is in the online world) at me while you're being strangled.

I *love* the Word of God, but the Old Covenant is obsolete. You may as well shout at me to slay lambs on an altar, and then shout that "It's in the Word of God!!!!" But you would be as wrong in the lamb sacrifices as you are in the command to tithe one's income.


Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.


Steve Sensenig said...


Very well said. I, for one, believe that the current emphasis on tithing is driven by the necessity to have a constant source of funds to support the cost of "doing church". I think this emphasis is very misguided, and this is one of the supports I use for a more "simple church" approach.

How much more beneficial if we were able to give to actual ministry expenses rather than costs of expensive buildings, staff salaries, etc.

Just my opinion, of course :)

steve :)

Terry Rayburn said...


I agree with you. Doing church in simplicity also is conducive to a size small enough to actually have the fellowship and "one anothers" that the church is called to.

Although I'm currently in a larger more conventional church (for reasons I won't bore you with), we have a small home fellowship which we often refer to as our "real" church.

I wrote wistfully on this subject here.

Thanks for your comments.


Donny Prater said...

Finally! Someone else out there gets it! It's not about 10%, that's playing church. It's about the heart and your giving from it. Thank you for stirring the pot!

Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Donny,

Thanks for your comments. I like your blog(s).


Admin said...

Great to see someone spilling the Truth about Tithing

Emanuel Elizondo said...

I liked the post. Thought provoking. I'm a little sorry to hear the kind of responses that you get from a topic like this. Love is taught in both testaments, after all.

Dennis Thurman said...

There certainly is room for disagreement here. So trying not to sound judgmental: I have no problem with people sincerely interpreting the principle of tithing as you do. If it's a biblical conviction, fine. Trouble is most I've talked to in 30 years of pastoral ministry are simply looking for a loophole for stinginess, and are only cheerful in non-giving. I think we need caution, lest we find ourselves practicing ultra-dispensationalism in thinking Christ's teaching on the other side of Calvary doesn't apply. He clearly taught and practiced tithing. So what would Jesus do becomes a moot point unless Paul specifically restated it? Is that the theology presented here? Just wondering. Tithing also was instituted before the law. Abraham practiced it and he is extolled as a model for us in numerous NT texts. Hebrews 7 should be studied in this light and indeed the entire thrust of the epistle. We don't want to go back to legalism. We want to elevate the standard where it requires the grace of giving to enable us to do supernaturally what we could never do ourselves (2 Cor 7-8). Jesus did that with the law. In the Sermon on the Mount, He would say, "You have heard...but I say..." And in every case He raised the bar and got to the inner motivation rather than the legal requirement. Grace isn't freedom to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought. As my mentor, the late Stephen Olford said, "God demands the tithe, but He deserves the offering." 10% is just a starting point. If a believer can't give at that level, then he or she hasn't been a good steward of what they have. For many of us, to give only a tithe is stinginess. So, we may agree to disagree. But my young son who just earned his first income from mowing a lady's yard will tithe tomorrow and be blessed because of it. Just a thought.

Terry Rayburn said...


Thanks for the comments.

1. You wrote, "I think we need caution, lest we find ourselves practicing ultra-dispensationalism in thinking Christ's teaching on the other side of Calvary doesn't apply."

We can be assured that Jesus taught obedience by the Jews to the ENTIRE Old Covenant, including animal sacrifices (which sacrifices I'm sure you would reject).

We must "rightly divide the Word", not through ultra-dispensationalism (I'm not a dispensationalist), but through understanding that the Old Covenant is obsolete, along with the Israelite tithing system.

2. You wrote, "He [Jesus] clearly taught and practiced tithing."

He "clearly taught" tithing for those to whom it applied (those under the Mosaic Covenant who had agricultural "produce" to tithe -- the tithe was never money). But where do you see that He "clearly...PRACTICED" tithing?

He had no "produce" to tithe, though He certainly would have paid the Temple Tax, which was not biblical "tithe".

3. You wrote, "Tithing also was instituted before the law. Abraham practiced it and he is extolled as a model for us in numerous NT texts. Hebrews 7 should be studied in this light...."

Abraham voluntarily gave a tenth of the spoils of a battle to the king of Salem, once!

But this was neither a command of God, nor a norm of any kind, nor a tenth of all of Abrahams produce, nor anything like the kind of club that Pastors routinely club over the heads of their sheep, often under the threatened "curse" of Malachi.

All due respect, Dennis, but this is not evidential exegesis, but weak rationalization.

Hebrews 7 has nothing to do with teaching tithing, it has to do with who gives honor to whom, using Abrahams gift and the Levitical priesthood as examples.

Hebrews 8 then follows, clearly stating that the Old Covenant (the only covenant commanding tithing produce) is obsolete, replaced by the New Covenant.

4. Know this: As soon as you command your sheep to do what the Bible does not command them to do, you put them under condemnation. This puts them under Legalism, and this quenches the Holy Spirit in those weak enough to fall under that Legalism.

A perfect example of, not just "the letter kills", but a poorly exegeted "letter" at that.

Trust God, the Holy Spirit, to work in the sheep "both to will and to do for His good pleasure" in the area of giving, and you will see real giving and real blessing. said...


i love this post and the clarification comment (reply to dennis). i've long believed that tithing is not part of the new covenant but to this day i still deal with residual pain the legalism of tithing has exacted on me (i grew up taught that tithing is a MUST). by God's grace i'm still learning what it is to give cheerfully and abundantly in response to God's blesing and love and not because of any supposed law.

thanks for this post. keep the faith.


Terry Rayburn said...

Thanks a million, Daniel.

Giving from the heart without compulsion is a beautiful thing.

Twisting the Scripture to enable compulsion isn't.