Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bound and Tithed

Dear Friends,

After preaching a sermon entitled, TITHING IS NOT FOR TODAY, I was happy to see that the Sunday offerings had noticeably declined. When I told a pastor friend, he laughed at me and said that I was an idiot. I told him that while many might agree with him, I needed to elevate the Word of God above unbiblical church traditions.

Jesus admonished the Pharisees and told them to continue to tithe because they were under the Jewish Law that required tithing. But nowhere in Acts or in any of the letters to the New Testament churches is tithing mentioned much less required. The Apostles did not teach tithing nor did the early church fathers who followed them. They instead taught that we are no longer bound to the law. 

It was not until 585 AD that the church, focused on accruing great wealth, reinstated the tithe to make it church law and then in 1545 AD the Roman Church added excommunication for anyone who refused to tithe. But the Reformation did away with the tithe and much later on when Christianity came to America, giving was still voluntary and  based on the teachings of the Apostle Paul. 

Then in the late 1800's the American Protestant church looked at the wealthy Catholic church and had an idea. From that point on, the American church taught  that tithing was mandatory for the church again! Tithing was now based on gross income, men gave a greater percentage than women and you didn’t have to tithe if you were under the age of 18 or over the age of 65! And so in an interesting twist of church doctrine, the American Protestant Church eagerly adopted the Catholic Church tradition of tithing that Martin Luther and the other reformers had rejected as unbiblical and heretical!

But ignoring New Testament scriptures and resurrecting the Catholic tradition of tithing still wasn’t bringing in enough church income and so in the 1950's the Word of Faith Movement a.k.a. the “Prosperity Gospel” was created and continues to be preached to this day.

The Prosperity Gospel teaches that: The tithe guarantees financial favor. The tithe guarantees your covenant partnership with God. The tithe is proof of your holiness and your obedience. The tithe silences the Enemy in your life. The tithe guarantees a consistent harvest on your seed money. 

Does tithing to a ministry guarantee that there will be a reward of wealth and prosperity? Well it certainly does if you’re the prosperity preacher! And, many televangelists and megachurch pastors have the huge bank accounts to prove it. And some preachers even use out-of-context scripture as a weapon to threaten the non-tithers. I remember cringing when I heard a senior pastor screaming at his congregation, “You are robbing God unless you tithe to this church!” (proof-texting Malachi 3:8)

No scholar or historian can argue with a straight face that tithing was taught in the New Testament church, but Paul did show us a four-fold Christian standard of faithful giving that we might want to consider as we evaluate our own Sunday offering. 

1. Give at Church on Sunday ~ Paul says that we should save up, earmark and put aside money for our offering at church on Sunday. (1 Cor 16:2) 

2. Give Voluntarily ~ Paul praises the church for giving not only what they could afford, but far more. And doing it of their own free will. (2 Cor 8:3 NLT)

3. Give Generously ~ Paul encourages the church to give generously. (2 Cor 9:5) Note that no percentage is given and Paul says that we should give according to our prosperity. (1 Cor 16:2)

4. Give Cheerfully ~ We are not to give grudgingly or give under any pressure from anyone to do so. God loves it when we cheerfully give freely of ourselves and our financial resources to help others. (2 Cor 9:7-8)

We give to meet the needs of others in the church (1 John 3:17) and we give to meet the needs of the poor. (Prov 19:17 ESV) We also give to support those in Christian ministry. (1 Tim 5:17-18)

My incongruous delight in watching the Sunday offering decline was because I knew people were being set free from previous teachings that had hammered them with an unbiblical obligation to tithe. Without a doubt the New Covenant extols the virtue of generous giving, and it’s only when we are truly free from legalistic tithing that we are able to respond to God’s grace and give to His church voluntarily, generously and cheerfully. Amen?

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Because tithing is the key to the pastor's financial support and wealth, this is a passionate topic in our churches today! Word of Faith and Prosperity Gospel preacher Tom Brown of Word of Life Church in El Paso, Tx recently wrote an article: "Is Tithing New Testament?" The two classic arguments for tithing take the rebuke of the Pharisees out of context and "Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and so should you." Brown's article is a good presentation of the prosperity preacher's perspective. Read it here and then decide...  

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