It was several years ago, when I was probably 18, that I sat and listened to a pastor talk about tithing as referenced in Malachi. I have no idea why, but the wheels in my head started turning, and I began to start wondering about the word "tithe", what it meant literally (by definition), what it meant in the days the scripture was written, and what it meant to us as Christians today. Thus a several-year search began on my part to understand it better.
And my conclusion? I do not believe that tithing, in the way it is taught in most churches, is even close to being biblical. None of the "tithing" that occurs now has any connection to the definition of tithing contained in the Bible.
I have sat in small group discussions and kept my mouth shut on this issue. I have listened to countless other sermons on the topic. I have heard notable speakers and authors use Old Testament law to try and convince those who listen that that's what God wants from us. And after searching on my own and doing my best to understand what those scriptures really mean, it actually bothers me when I hear the word tithe.
First, God did not require anyone to give money. It was always edible products, not money. Some say that's because "they didn't have money" back then, but this is not true. Money is first mentioned in Genesis, and Malachi (the book that is most often referenced for tithing) was written hundreds of years later. And for example, Deut 14:22&23 says, "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and 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."
I also do not believe we are under the Old Testament law, and all the scriptures used to defend the idea of tithing are often cited from the Old Testament. There is one passage in Matthew 23:23 where Jesus talks to the Pharisees. But the Pharisees were under the law, and we are not. And actually, I believe the point of that scripture was to show them that they were more concerned with keeping the law than helping people.
Let me also say that it has always bothered me when I read or am taught that I must give 10% to a local church, and if I have nothing left to give, that's too bad. If there is a hurting family who just lost their home in a fire...or if the local food pantry is empty...or [you fill in the blanks] I can't give the way God leads me?
Some people write a "tithe" check like it's just another bill.
Mortgage - check.
Utilities - check.
Insurance - check.
Church tithe - check.
How is God honored in that? How do we turn our backs on "the least of these" as Jesus talks about in Matthew 25:45, but make sure and write our checks - sometimes all we have to give - to pay the utility bill of a church building?
Yes, I realize that some churches support outreach ministries like the Caring Center (in my current town). It is not that I'm saying we should not support a local church at all. I think we've just been given the idea that we HAVE TO give X amount or we are not being faithful in giving. And that's just not correct.
But don't get me wrong. Some people may feel led to give "10%" of their income to whatever God puts on their hearts. I believe God may be telling others to give 20%...30%...it's all His anyway. Teaching that we are commanded to give a set amount, however, is not a biblical truth.
So in conclusion:
The tithe was not about money; the tithe was an Old Testament law, which is no longer binding. When it was binding, the tithe was used to take care of people, not buildings. We are under a new covenant now. Paul instructs the Corinthian believers how they are to give. He says in II Corinthians 9:7 "Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." So each believer is supposed to give as he or she has determined in his or her heart. Someone can not give cheerfully if they are being forced to give. If a church can not survive on freewill offerings, maybe God is not part of that church at all.
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