Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine
An Essay by Russell Earl Kelly, PH. D., July 5, 2006
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PLEASE NOTE: RUSSELL FREQUENTLY UPDATES THIS ARTICLE.
CHECK HIS WEBSITE FOR MOST CURRENT EDITION. Introduction:
The following essay is a summary of my book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. The book itself is a greatly expanded version of my PH. D. thesis. I challenge Bible educators to be bold, to open up their seminary level research and to promote studies on this subject in the Masters, Doctorate and PH. D. levels. This doctrine is simply too important to ignore.
In many churches today the doctrine of tithing has reached the level of a modern scandal. While on the one hand, most seminary-level textbooks on systematic theology and hermeneutics by highly educated theologians omit tithing, on the other hand, the practice is quickly becoming a requirement for church membership in the very denominations which insist on solid Bible-based doctrines. There is also increasing evidence that lay persons who question the legitimacy of New Covenant tithing are usually criticized and ignored as being troublemakers or weak Christians.
Modern Tithing is Based on Many False AssumptionsOne denomination’s statement on stewardship is typical of what many others teach about tithing. It says that “tithing is the minimum biblical standard and the beginning point which God has established that must not be replaced or compromised by any other standard.” It adds that the tithe is from gross income which is due to the church before taxes.
The following points of this essay contrast the false teachings used to support tithing with what God’s Word actually says.
Point #1 N. T. Giving Principles in Second Corinthians 8 and 9 are Superior to Tithing.
The false teaching is that tithing is a divine mandatory expectation which always must precede free-will giving.
Free-will giving existed before tithing. The following New Covenant free-will principles are found in Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9: (1) Giving is a “grace.” These chapters use the word, “grace,” eight times in reference to helping poor saints. (2) Give yourself to God first (8:5). (3) Give yourself to knowing God’s will (8:5). (4) Give in response to Christ’s gift (8:9; 9:15). (5) Give out of a sincere desire (8:8, 10, 12; 9:7). (6) Do not give because of any commandment (8:8, 10; 9:7). (7) Give beyond your ability (8:3, 11, 12). (8) Give to produce equality. This means that those who have more should give more in order to make up for the inability of those who cannot afford to give as much (8:12-14). (9) Give joyfully (8:2). (10) Give because you are growing spiritually (8:3, 4, 7). (11) Give because you want to continue growing spiritually (9:8, 10, 11). (12) Give because you are hearing the gospel preached (9:13).
Point #2 In God’s Word, the Tithe is Always Only Food!
The false teaching is that biblical tithes include ALL sources of income.
Use God’s Word to define “tithe.” Do not use a secular dictionary! Open a complete Bible concordance and you will discover that the definition used by tithe-advocates is wrong. In God’s Word “tithe” does not stand alone. Although money existed, the original source of God’s “tithe” was never money. It was the “tithe of food.” This is very important. **True biblical tithes were always only food from the farms and herds of only Israelites who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel.** The increase was gathered from what God produced and not man’s craft or ability.
There are 15 verses from 11 chapters and 8 books from Leviticus 27 to Luke 11 which describe the contents of the tithe. And the contents never (again), never included money, silver, gold or anything other than food from inside Israel! Yet the incorrect definition of “tithe” is the greatest lie being preached about tithing today! (See Lev. 27:30, 32; Numb. 18:27, 28; Deut. 12:17; 14:22, 23; 26 12; 2 Chron. 31:5, 6; Neh. 10:37; 13:5; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 23:23; Luke 11: 42).
Point #3 Abraham’s Tithe to Melchizedek Reflected Pagan Tradition.