The research I have done on tithing has been the most painstaking I have ever done. The reason is that so many that may read this blog are associated with churches that fervently teach the tithe. Because of this I believe I will receive a reaction similar to someone who has been poked in the eye. Regardless of people’s reaction, the truth must go forward. So why tackle the topic of tithing? Because it is the duty of an apologist to not only defend the church from outside attack, but to occasionally get dirty and scrape off some of the barnacles that have adhered themselves to the ship. Let me explain, the church is like a ship traveling the ocean. The ocean is the world of ideas. These ideas sometimes attach themselves to the ship, like barnacles. These barnacles, if they accumulate in too great a number, can actually sink the ship. Therefore, it is necessary for the ship to go into dry dock, and some poor soul is given the horrid job of scraping the barnacles off the hull of the ship. The barnacles live in sea water, and once they are removed from the water they begin to die. This makes their removal easier, but it is a smelly and bloody job. It is also a thankless job. The person, who does the job, does so not do it for vain glory, but with the knowledge that the ship is safe from doom.
The reason that the apologist must tackle controversial issues is because too many pastors, in the ambition of a $1,000,000 budget and a 1,000 member church won’t touch these controversial subjects. Even worse, in order to get a $1,000,000 budget, pastors have concocted the idea of enforced giving through tithing. Therefore it is necessary to ask the question whether tithing is for Christians.
We will be looking first at the idea of monetary prosperity, and whether or not this idea is taught in the Bible. The reason why I start there is because this is where so many pastors who teaching tithing begin. Why do they start there? Because tithing has been linked to the prosperity gospel, in that, tithing is the main avenue for God to bless your financial life. Therefore we will be taking an in depth look at 3rd John verse 2.
Then we will be looking at the incidents of tithing in the Old Testament starting with Abraham’s tithe to Melchizidek, Jacob’s tithe to God, the tithes, yes plural, described in the Mosiac Law and the purposes for the tithe, the condemnation of tithing in Amos, the robbing of God and the curse found in Malachi, and who was robbing from God in Nehemiah.
We will learn about the punishing tithe found in 1st Samuel.
We will also look at the nine instances in which tithing is mentioned in the New Testament, and whether or not the paying of tithes is made obligatory to followers of Christ.
We will learn what constitutes Christian giving and to whom monetary gifts should be given.
Lastly, we will look at some arguments on behalf of tithing.
That is the skeleton that we will attempt to flesh out for you in this series. It is my hope that you will read this series with an open mind, and allow your beliefs to be changed by sound Scriptural teaching.
I pray that as your idea of Christian giving as embodied by tithing is challenged, that you will not resort to the tactics of a former pastor of mine. Many years ago this former pastor brought many of key leaders to hear Jim Bakker, the failed televangelist of the 1980s, preach at this non-denominational denomination’s “mother church” soon after Mr. Bakker was released from prison. Mr. Bakker delivered a scathing, but biblical indictment of the prosperity gospel (which tithing is married to), and pretty much shot down everything my former pastor taught about prosperity. Sadly, my former pastor attacked Mr. Bakker rather than deal with the arguments that Mr. Bakker presented. If you wish to attack me as a person, I will tell you that I am a failed man. I ask, however, that if you see something wrong with my exegesis then by all means go after it, and I will gladly listen to your views.
Prosperity and Third John Verse Two
John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV). Nearly every sermon I have heard on tithing or finances began with this verse. The reason is the church I belonged to for a number of years had Word-Faith tendencies. This is a key verse in the Word-Faith movement that is used to show that God wants his followers wealthy and healthy. However, is this meaning what the author intended his audience to understand? Secondly, how would the author’s audience understood this greeting?
The Greek word translated “prosper” in English is a word that is found four times in the New Testament, twice, here in 3rd John, once in Romans, and once in 1st Corinthians. In Romans 1:10, Paul uses the word in reference to being able to successfully visit the church in Rome. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul is speaking of the proportion in which the Corinthian Christians should give to the relief fund that Paul was collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. Here in 3rd John, the author is using an idiomatic expression of the time to express his best wishes to his readers.
Where the mental gymnastics come in is when the pastor begins to move from health and wealth to tithing. Tithing is the key to prosperity, and that comes from Malachi chapter three. That discussion, however, is for a later post. What most pastors do in attempting to construct the hoops they will be taking their congregation through is relate the prosperity in 3 John with the curse in Malachi.
There are many more instances of mental gymnastics that tithing adherents perform to justify the tithe. What most pastors demonstrate, however, is their adherence to human tradition, at best, or utter ignorance of the topic altogether, at worst. We will demonstrate this in future posts.
Next time on the Jude3blog we will be looking at the tithe of Abraham and Jacob.