A CLOSER LOOK AT TITHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
The Prayer of a Pharisee
We will now inspect another scriptural reference which the modern church exerts for the purpose of validating monetary tithing.
"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men --- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'" (Luke 18:11-12)
Many pastors tend to strongly underscore the latter portion of verse 12 to confirm that money was a tithable commodity. Again, what we have here is another case in point where teachers of tithing selectively "cherry pick" parts of scripture that fit their preconceived notions or agenda.
As mentioned earlier, at this period of time the old covenant Mosaic Law was still in force. Therefore, the Pharisee was required to tithe. This particular Pharisee, however, was a prideful and self-righteous person who gloated about his works. While the Mosaic Law stipulated fasting only for the Day of Atonement (aka the day of fasting [Jer. 36.6]), this man surpassed what the law required by fasting twice a week. Similarly, the Law of Moses entailed tithing on produce, herd, and flock; and again, the Pharisee exceeded the law by tithing on all his possessions.
Now if tithing is valid today, do church leaders also teach their congregations to fast twice a week? Are Christians required to calculate everything they possess and give a tithe from it to the church? Are we required to tithe the interest on savings accounts, mutual funds, etc.? If a person sells his home, does he tithe on its increase in value? Are believers obligated to tithe from gifts received? In addition to the evidence previously brought forth, these questions should raise further concern about the application of monetary tithing in today's church.
While there are numerous Christians who sincerely believe in tithing and wish to please God, there are also many people who are afflicted with the Pharisaical Pride Syndrome (PPS). These tithe payers par excellence blatantly display their arrogance by using tithing as a litmus test to impress others of their deep devotion to God and their local church. "It is Showtime" at the church as these self-adulators make an ostentatious exhibition of their generosity. They announce, "I go to church every Sunday, sometimes twice a week; and I pay my tithes" they say with a zealous temperament. Rather than maintaining a humble attitude and giving anonymously, others boast about the ability to far exceed the tithe by sacrificially donating their entire paychecks to the church. These Christians believe they are highly favored, preeminent, "super saint" worshipers who are spiritually superior to non-tithers.
One element that provokes such self-righteous absorption is the pastor who teaches that tithing is emphatically a core tenant of faith. He praises tithers and unashamedly condemns those who do not tithe … leaving some Christians feeling guilty or fearful of a curse. In addition, some pastors encourage tithers not to form personal relationships with those who do not tithe.
This spiritual exhibitionism and ungodly chastisement is repulsive to Christ as well as to some our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Those who engage in this form of self-glorification bring to memory a poem I read recently. Ruth Harms Calkin speaks on this issue through her work entitled, "I Wonder". She writes:
You know, Lord, how I serve You
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women's club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder
If You pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman
Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew.
I wonder too how faithful we would be if we had to practice unselfish and anonymous works. Would we stop giving of ourselves?
The Righteousness of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law
In order to protect their tithing doctrine, some false church leaders use the passage below to combine the gospel of grace with the observance of the Mosaic Law.
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-20)
In context, Christ is indicating that he did not come to destroy the law or the Prophets, but He came to complete (satisfy) the old covenant law and prophecies by bringing them to their designed eschatological conclusion.
Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (Luke 24:44)
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Rom. 10:4)
For Jewish and Gentile Christians (The Church of Christ) who live under the new covenant, there are no obligations to live in accordance to the laws of the Mosaic covenant.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Rom. 6:14)
"Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another ... to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:4,6)
"But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (Gal. 3:25)
This does not mean, however, that all laws are abolished. The old covenant moral law is still pertinent to the unrighteous.
"knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,"
(1 Tim. 1:9-10)
Believers who live in today’s age of grace are under a new law --- the law of love, aka the law of Christ.
"So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27)
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
Also, see Galatians 5:13-14 and 6:2.
Now based on Matthew 5:20, how many times have you been informed that you will go to Hell for not giving at least ten percent of your income to the church? Leaders in the church assert that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law paid tithes; thus, unless we exceed their standards of giving, heaven is not attainable. Such a threat, whether subtle or overt, is just another intimidation tactic many professing pastors use in their extortion scheme.
Generally, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were very zealous and meticulous observers of the Mosaic Law as they interpreted it. In effect, many of their renditions of the law permutated into man-made traditions (Mark 7:7-13). Rather than having the right motives, their actions were simply "showcase religion" appended with stringent traditions that were designed to conceal their malicious aspirations while concurrently attracting the praise of men (Matt.6:1-2; 23:5-7, 23-28). In addition, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law trusted in themselves, believing they could gain righteousness by following the law of Moses (Luke 18:9). The old covenant law, however, could not impart righteousness (Rom. 3:20, Gal. 2:16; 3:21).
The righteousness Christ is calling attention to is that which comes from a pure and changed heart based on faith --- something that was usually absent among the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Faith of the heart surpasses the rules and regulations of the letter of the law. Thus, Christians gain righteousness by their faith in Jesus Christ, which is superior to the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
Now...someone may ask, "If the Pharisees and teachers of the law paid tithes under the old covenant law, shouldn't we as Christians who are under a new and better covenant give more?" If we carefully take into account what we have learned thus far, it should be evident that this question actually has no relevance to financing a church facility.