Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Is Tithing For Today?

Dear Friends,

After preaching a sermon entitled, TITHING IS NOT FOR TODAY, I was happy to see that the Sunday offerings had noticeably declined. One church council member was very upset with me, "How dare you tell the church they don't have to tithe!" When I told a pastor friend about my sermon, he laughed at me and said that I was an idiot. I told him that while many would rightfully 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 this unbiblical 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! But ignoring New Testament scriptures and resurrecting the Jewish law of tithing still wasn’t bringing in enough church income and in the 1950's the “Word of Faith Movement” a.k.a. the “Prosperity Gospel” was created and continues to be preached in many Black churches and megachurches today.

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 guarantee that there will be a reward of health and prosperity? See if you can believe this...

Brain Tamaki is the pastor of New Zealand’s largest, multi-campus megachurch. At the start of the coronavirus, he told his churches in a sermon that: For Bible-believing, born again Christians, God assures that you will be protected from the coronavirus, as long as you pay your tithes. Prosperity preacher Kenneth Copeland told viewers they will be healed from the coronavirus by laying their hands on the television screen as he prayed and said that you must tithe to his ministry even if you have lost your job.

Both pastors claim that their tithing promises and threats are Biblical, but no scholar or historian can argue with a straight face that tithing was taught in the New Testament church. Paul did show us a four-fold Christian standard of faithful giving that we may 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 not out of obligation but 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. 

Most churches have not had “in-house” services since March and even “virtual” services are struggling as church-goers have discovered all the other churches they can now visit online. Denominations are expecting many of their members will have broken their Sunday church habit, found other things to do on Sundays during these prolonged closures, and not return once the churches are reopened. For some people, as commitments to their church fade, and as personal income is cut to the minimum through job loss, they are no longer able to, or willing to, support their church. Many churches that could barely pay the utility bills and the pastor's salary, have had a reported 50% - 70% decrease in weekly offerings over the past four months. 

Large churches have laid off pastoral and other staff and some pastors have been advised by denominational leaders that they must become bi-vocational in order for their church to survive. Especially suffering are the mainline churches who have already lost tens of thousands of members over the years. Catholic dioceses are considering bankruptcy and Lutheran Bishops are expecting many of their churches to permanently close. Even megachurches are struggling because megachurches have mega-budgets and huge mortgages or leases. Like any other business, a church must have income in order to survive. The future is grim for some churches and they need our prayers. To be blunt and direct about it, they also need our financial support as well. Consider blessing your church by giving generously and cheerfully during these tough times. Amen?

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