Tithing is one of the hardest sells of the church today. On the surface, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for believers to give God a ten percent cut of their income. The average American spends a significant portion of their money frivolously anyway. Ten percent is not a real sacrifice. Then why is it so hard to get people to come up off their cash?
The reason tithing is so hard to sell is because it is not necessary. The law required eleven of the twelve Israelite tribes to give a tenth of their material benefits to support the Levites, the tribe responsible for the priestly and ritualistic duties of the cult. Jesus’ finished work on the cross satisfied the ritualistic requirements of the law permanently. Consequently, all believers gained direct access to God and the priests lost their jobs.
The New Testament doesn’t speak much of tithing. Jesus labeled it one of the lesser parts of the law. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former (Matthew 23:23). To hear the church tell it today, if you ain’t tithing, you ain’t doing nothing.
The law is not a compelling argument juxtaposed with the grace of the gospel. The most often quoted verse before the collection is Malachi 3:8-10 (in The King’s Version as God spoke it).
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
In all my 42 years, I ain’t never heard this text preached right. Go back and read it yourself in context. First of all, God directed this rebuke at the priests who were withholding proper sacrifices from God. The people were giving right. The priests were the ones stealing by not using the gifts for their intended purpose. People today watch passively knowing their money is not making it to the Kingdom, yet continue to invest in unfruitful ministries. The most hardened pimps blush as they watch some preachers coerce parishioners to hand over money to which they have no right or meaningful purpose.
The two main guidelines for giving in the New Testament fly in the face of tithing. On the right is II Corinthians 9:7: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. God doesn’t need your money to accomplish redemption’s plan. The show will go on with or without your contributions.
Before you get too happy, perfection of faith demands that you abandon your right to yourself, including your possessions. Jesus said “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The first generation church shared all their possessions in common. Today’s “Evan-publicans” would have no part of that.
Churches would be empty if such became the standard. That’s why pastors don’t preach it. Rather, we collude to accept a compromised standard for giving. Give the church a cut and you can do whatever the hell you want. This is no different from the Roman Catholic Church selling indulgences centuries ago. Today’s methods are just not as blatant. In exchange, we don’t ensure that the treasury is going toward real kingdom building. That too would require too much of us.
I Peter 2:9 declares that all believers are priests. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. If this is true, should we all get a cut of the collection plate as a member of the new Levitical tribe? Go to your pastor and demand your share of the take. Let me know how that turns out.
The Catholic and most Protestant churches dispute the equal access of all believers to God in the face of overwhelming scriptural evidence to the contrary. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently (Hebrews 7:23-24). The institutional church wants you to believe that you still need a priestly system as an intermediary and demand a fee from you to intercede on your behalf. Go ahead and throw the whole book of Hebrews out the window.
The strange part is that all the answers are within the grasp of anyone willing to read and open their heart to where God is leading. If preachers would concern themselves with ministering to the soul before dipping in congregants’ pockets, they would never want for anything. We have been offered something better by way of the new covenant. Rather, we prefer to forsake our spiritual birthright by reverting to the old. Like any runaway will tell you, there is always a pimp waiting to pick you up. Don’t make their work too easy.