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 Word-Faith Prosperity Message and Tithing
Money is one test of spiritual leadership. There are some church leaders who are genuine, loving, and use monetary donations for honorable purposes. Unfortunately, we have many self-appointed ministers and false teachers who are teaching tithing for financial gain. Many of these individuals are simply greedy businessmen and motivational speakers, who with smooth talk sound very spiritual, sincere, and caring. Even Judas Iscariot, who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, pretended to care for the poor while he was stealing money from Christ. Judas’ regard for the needy was nothing more than pretense that was exhibited to cloak his love for money.
"Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. (John 12:4-6)
Some superciliously refer to themselves as “The Lord's Anointed”. These clever, smooth talking individuals promote a seemingly godly and scripturally superior impression to their supporters as they contentedly and confidently grab their (supporters) compliant minds and route them in a self-seeking, pre-planned direction. Those who resist their established schemes and counter their false doctrines are often tagged as “rebellious” and “wicked”; alleging that some people are attempting to forfeit their lawful right to be paid monetary tithes for teaching the gospel.
Although we can charge false teachers for the existence of abusive and erroneous doctrines within the church, we must also attribute some blame to the people who attend and finance their false ministries. Consequently false churches are often permitted to persevere; as Paul foretold:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
Many professing Christians will even persecute true ministers for alerting them that tithing is a fictitious doctrine or that their “man of God” is a false teacher. Such a response, however, depicts their malice and contempt for the truth of God’s Word. True Christians would never exalt man above the authority of Scripture.
It is unfortunate that many of these spiritual impostors have been using tithing to successfully and savagely attack and rape many well-meaning believers out of their hard earned money. They do not watch over our souls, but rather they watch over our resources.
Similarly, in today’s church age, the Word -Faith camp under a veil of pretense is employing double-dealing tactics (Psalm 12: 2-4) that involves theft by deception. These false church leaders are some of the most charismatic and eloquent orators, yet the most notorious offenders of tithing. Their point of view is that faith promotes tithing; and tithing creates prosperity ranging from restored health to 100 fold returns on the money that believers give to their "ministries". It is supposedly the "first spiritual law of prosperity".
In their ambitious efforts to prove and promote their gospel of wealth, many Word -Faith teachers often announce with trumpets how God has prospered them with financial and material riches. "We are King's Kids!", they boast. It is claimed that they are prosperous on account that they pay their tithes and give much to the ministry in addition to those in need. And like the Pharisees, they exhibit their works to make themselves appear sacrificial and spiritual (Luke 16:14-15).
Their prosperity, however, does not come via God’s blessings, but by the satanic strategy of fleecing the flock (James 5:1-6, 2 Peter 2:1-3). They donate a portion of money and resources to the poor while grasping an unwarranted amount for themselves in order to build their own kingdoms and maintain a life of luxury.
In addition to the many scriptures we examined earlier in our study, Word-Faith preachers make use of a number of other passages to further their tithing-prosperity message. Two examples are:
1. "Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Phil. 4:18-20)
According to Word-Faith advocates, those who pay tithes and give sacrificial offerings to their ministries are guaranteed that God will meet all their needs "according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" ... which typically is a suggestion of divine health and wealth. As Fred Price puts it,
"Tithing is God's primary way of materially and financially blessing His people." (Fred Price, High Finance: God’s Financial Plan, p. 69)
In addition to paying tithes, Word-Faith teachers advocate general offerings ... which they maintain is over and beyond a tithe. Spotlighting these forms of giving they manipulate their congregants to give large sums of money to their “ministries”. And to justify their extravagant lifestyles, they focus on Paul's statement, "Indeed I have all and abound. I am full."
This verse, however, is not a guarantee that ministers should have an abundance of material possessions ... including money. To add balance to God’s Word, consider Paul’s statement in Phil. 4:11-12, where he says,
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4:11-12)
Here, Paul tells us that there were occasions where he had plenty, and occasions where he was in need. Furthermore, Paul states that whatever condition he finds himself, he has learned to be content. This refutes the notion that Christian ministers are promised great quantities of wealth as marketed by Word-Faith teachers. These individuals are not content with basic living needs. They believe they are entitled to million dollar homes, aircraft, expensive automobiles ... and the list goes on.
It is also wrong to accept the concept that God promises all believers much wealth if they pay tithes and offerings. God said that he will bless us according to our need, not our greed. This means that the Lord will meet our basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and other essential needs of life.
2. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)
This passage says that if we seek God first, then He will take care of our central needs. However, false teachers within the Word-Faith camp attempt to use this passage to champion their prosperity gospel. They focus solely on the last. The scheme is to equate giving tithes, offerings, and sacrificial offerings to their ministries as “seeking his kingdom first” with the promise that God will give us the desires of our hearts.
Such an interpretation expresses poor hermeneutics; which is a common practice for Word-Faith proponents and other false teachers. If we read the prior verses, it is easy to see that the context is basic living essentials rather than a promise of great wealth.
These two examples are just a diminutive sample of aberrant doctrines which are taught within the Word-Faith camp.