What on earth is an ehtit?

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Giving to the local church is biblical and important, but tithing is a self-serving remnant from a long distant age.

On numerous occasions, I have sat through Sunday services where there have been two sermons; one on tithing and the other on whatever topic the preacher had on his heart. I am not being facetious or sarcastic here, but some churches preach on tithing every Sunday. The exhortations I have heard on this subject usually take one of two forms:

  1. There is the appeal to God’s Law, routinely built around, what I call ‘Malachi’s mallet’; “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me” (Malachi 3:8-10). Then there is the…
  2. …‘let’s do a good deal with God’ approach, and here the continuation of the Malachi passage works well; “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Mal 3:10-11). So, great, let’s give 10 and He will give us 100… a good deal indeed!

Does the Bible insist that disciples of the Lord Jesus give a tenth of whatever they earn? Are pastors righteous when they insist that their members tithe to their local church? Should we be financially funding our local church? My answers are No… No… and Yes!

Tithing, which is a word describing a tenth of something, has its origin in the life of Old Testament Israel and was what we today would understand as Income Tax. The tithe paid for Israel’s system of government before the advent of kings and kingdoms. The priests administered religious ritual and the judges administered justice and provided national leadership. All adult citizens paid the tithe to fund the religious and judicial systems (Leviticus 27:30, Numbers 18:26).

EhtitDo we find the concept of tithing in the New Testament? No, we do not, but we do find a few references to it. Its first New Testament appearance is when Jesus was declaring dire woes on the Pharisees; “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11:42 and also in Matthew 23:23). Advocates of tithing often link this to what Jesus said concerning the Law; “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Here, Jesus is not only said to be endorsing the tithe, but also claiming that non-tithers will not go to Heaven! But is this honestly what these texts mean? I don’t think they do; in fact I think that this understanding is as back-to-front as ‘ehtit’! The address to the Pharisees consisted of woes, not affirmation. The Matthew 23 passage starts with Jesus telling His followers that they were to obey the Pharisees, despite their hypocrisy, because they were the custodians of the Law of Moses. Before Jesus died to settle the demands of the Law, the Jews were still under the Law and could only be deemed righteous before God if they obeyed all of its requirements. His statement recorded in Matthew 5:20 simply reinforces this truth. However, Jesus put to death the demands of the Law when He died on the cross of Calvary. Paul wrote of how Jesus abolished ‘in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations’ (Ephesians 2:15). He also wrote, in Romans 3:21-22 that ‘now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’. Jesus was not endorsing the law of tithing for His followers, He was simply pointing out that outside of salvation in Him there was no righteousness for the Jews apart from scrupulous obedience to all of the dictates of the Law of Moses.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul spelled out the gospel-oriented understanding of financial giving (2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9). Giving, and especially giving to the local church, which is the extended family of God, is a privilege and a joy. It pleases God and it makes us happy. It also provides the financial means for the local church to function, serve, teach, care, and reach out into its environment with the Gospel.

Some pastors preach tithing and even demand the tithe because they sincerely believe that it is biblical, but I believe that they are sincerely wrong.

Perhaps others think that they will be financially insecure if they do not constantly exhort their people to tithe. But insecurity comes from not trusting God rather than from concern over people’s adherence to a redundant Old Testament law. I left a very well paid executive job in the banking industry to pastor a tiny church of 17 or so people. I continued to lead that church as it grew and thrived over three decades, and never in all that time did I preach tithing, and never did my family not have the essentials of life. God provided for us adequately and faithfully through the local church. God does that you know!

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One Response

  1. Sibu

    Greetings Dr Peppler
    I was quite intrigue when I saw your posting in my inbox on “Tithing”. I would venture to ask as well, “what would happen if Pastors didnt preach about tithing and maybe taught about “Giving?” I believe it will have a positive spiritual influence on the Church and its service of ‘giving to the poor and spreading the gospel’ as people, will now give out of love and understanding that ‘he became poor that we may be rich'(2Cor.8:9), and that we give joyfully out of what has been entrusted to us by the Master, and abundantly as He has prospered us. We are caretakers of His money, and He is the owner and rightful user of our finances. If the Church belongs to Christ and we are led by His Spirit, we will not be satisified with just giving 10% but it will be as He has led us or put in our hearts to give. Jesus said’ “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matth.6:21) and that sums up the state of the Christian church. I overheard a conversation of some christians talking about how behind they are with their tithes and the Pastor was keeping a journal of who was up-to-date with their tithes and those behind.
    Giving is preached more by Christ and the Apostle Paul (Matt.19:29-30, Luke 21:4, 1Tim.5:17-18,Gal.2:10) in the NT than OT. I have also not seen anywhere in Paul’s epistles to the various churches, teachings, instructions and exhortations on tithing. We are also not under the law, else “Christ died for nothing”(Gal 2:21), our giving must be more out of Love for God by His grace, and out of our “nothing-ness” that He may be the sole supplier of our needs. All must give willingly out of their hearts and need, not under compulsion or threats of condemnation(2Cor 9:7). The legalist approach to tithing creates self-justifiers and pharisees who give out of their abundance “I only need to pay ten percent and Im square with God for that month”, and they will be shocked to know that 100% belongs to God. Tithing causes divisions in the church amongst the haves and have nots, it causes self-condemnation “I dont tithe so God will not open the windows of heaven and pour out His blessing to me, I will be forever poor”, and it seems as if God blesses the “Tithers” as that is only what is preached every Sunday before “Offering” is accepted and the offered prayer of thanks by the Pastor as he blesses the offering “God bless the hand that gives, and open the windows of heaven …and prosper them”. No wonder the church of Christ is worldly and prosperity preaching continues to succeed in filliing up the pockets of the ministers.

    BTW: I have never tithed in any of the churches I have belonged to, I freely give to any church and various charities every month,or as inspired by the Lord and the amount I give is in the region of 20-30%. Even if I decide not to give for that month, the Lord comes and one way or the other uses His money,and money is given away to meet an urgent need of someone. My prayer, always” Bless the hand that gives Lord, so that it may even give more, and to more needy people for your glory Lord”.

    Thank You for a thought provoking post. Let Preachers preach and Teachers teach about Giving and not Titihing!

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