REFUTING CREFLO DOLLAR'S SERMON
"Being Free to Tithe"
By: Victor T. Stephens
Much is mentioned about giving in the Word of God, but it is noteworthy that tithing was never cited in any of Paul's teachings to Gentile churches. In today's age of grace, the only type of giving pertinent to new covenant believers is freewill offerings.
During my years of research and study, I have discovered that there is a segment of those who believe in grace giving; but allege that giving under grace should begin with and/or exceed the tithe of the old covenant. The adopted perspective that giving under grace should begin with a minimum of ten percent is due to either ignorance of Scripture, personal bias, or greed. Many of those who teach tithing under grace use "grace tithing" as a convenient back-door method of collecting tithes apart from the regulations of the Mosaic Law.
The objective of this article is to address, examine, and refute such a case pertaining to a well recognized Word-Faith proponent. At the recommendation of a dear friend, I was encouraged to view a new two-part series on giving entitled "Being Free to Tithe", by Creflo Dollar.
Initially I was informed that Mr. Dollar repented and retracted his position on tithing. I must acknowledge, however, that such news was received with astonishment and skepticism given that Dollar is recognized as the most championed, deep-seated, pro-tithing advocate in modern mainstream churches. Nonetheless, I also acknowledge that people can change.
Being Free to Tithe?
Did Creflo Dollar change his perspective on tithing? After watching the two-part series, "Being Free to Tithe", I must respond affirmatively; but only in a manner that supported my initial skepticism. Mr. Dollar still teaches tithing, but he utilizes a curse-less tactical approach coupled with his usual serpentine psychological maneuvers.
For the record, when Creflo Dollar addresses the topic of giving in this sermon, one can rest assured that this is code for a minimum of ten percent. Case in point: During his sermon, Mr. Dollar states,
"And today I believe you will have freedom to tithe … It's vital that you come to grips with this issue of tithing once and for all. God is not trying to get something from you before He will bless you. Your giving signifies to heaven that you trust God … period."
"We tithe today because we prove to ourselves that we trust God. We tithe today out of appreciation for the finished works of Jesus and all that God has done for us."
When it comes to the topic of giving, why does Dollar focus exclusively on tithing as a minimum amount to give? Under the new covenant, the Lord will honor any amount given from a sincere and cheerful heart. The Word of God says,
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
(2 Cor. 9:7, emphasis mine)
Nowhere does this verse or the surrounding passages suggest or imply that one should initiate their giving with at least ten percent as a mandate, suggestion, or proof of one’s trust in God and appreciation of the finished works of Christ. However, Creflo Dollar and other advocates of tithing will attempt to force tithing into 2 Corinthians 9:7 and other passages of scripture by reading into them what they do not say.
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
Let's now consider another point by examining Luke 16:10:
"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much."
Alluding to this verse, Creflo Dollar makes the following statement:
"Jesus is saying, ‘If you can’t trust me in the area of giving and receiving, then neither can you trust me to heal your body of cancer. If you can’t trust me in the area of giving and receiving, then neither can you trust me to save your children.’ He says you’re deceived in thinking that you can trust God because you say ‘I trust God’ because religion says just say it and it’s so and yet Jesus says this trust must be authenticated. So how is one to authenticate trust? By his action to give away that which tempts him to trust it. And the only thing that Jesus said will tempt you to trust it more than to trust Jesus would be money. And that’s why He said later on you have to choose between God and mammon since you can’t serve both of them."
It is true that God owns everything. It is true that the Lord requires believers to be faithful and responsible stewards of His possessions. It is true that the Lord has an aversion to selfishness and greed. And it is also true that the Lord detests those who would prefer to engage in theft by deception rather than have the integrity and exegetical fortitude to teach His Word in appropriate context.
In proper interpretative context, Luke 16:10 has absolutely no connection with tithing. Creflo Dollar’s notorious tactics of using dissimilar passages of Scripture inappropriately to push tithing is not a novel approach. For example, during past sermons he has referenced Genesis 2:15-17 to propose that the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" was indicative of a tithe. He alluded to Genesis 4:2-5 to suggest that Abel’s offering was a tithe. He linked Proverbs 3:9 with tithing to imply that firstfruits and tithes are identical. He stated that the Temple Tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was a tithe. He attributed Matthew 22:17-21 to tithing, suggesting that the monetary taxes belonged to Caesar while monetary tithes belong to God. And here, Mr. Dollar has incongruously allied Luke 16:10 with tithing.
Dollar's implication is that tithing is a test of our stewardship of God’s property. God has chosen for us to personally return the tithe so that we can demonstrate our stewardship of His possessions. When we pay back God His tithe, we “authenticate” our trust in the Lord. If God detects that we are negligent to pay the small percentage of money that He has entrusted to us, then He recognizes that we can neither be trusted with greater matters. Moreover, if we lack the confidence and trust to give God His tithe, then neither can we trust Him to heal our bodies, save our children, etc.
Creflo Dollar is well-known for his relentless application of Malachi 3:6-11. However, in his sermon, "Being Free to Tithe", he retracted his position that Christians will be cursed for failing to tithe. Rather than citing Malachi, Dollar pivots and associates Jesus' "Parable of the Dishonest Manager" with tithing. Although Dollar is applying a more subtle and delicate tone in his messages, his psychological approach is the same: To motivate guilt and fear among those who fail to tithe and to promise greater blessings among tithers.
For example, referencing the "Parable of the Dishonest Manager", Mr. Dollar takes Luke 16:1 out of context. Rather than exegeting the text based on Jesus’ intended meaning, Dollar interprets it based upon his personal agenda. He says, "Jesus is speaking here about this steward who was stealing his Master’s money …." This statement by Dollar is his equivalent of citing, "Will a man rob God?" (Mal. 3:8). The mind conditioning effect is to dupe his congregants into believing they would be stealing from God if they failed to be responsible givers.
In any event, let's take a look at the text:
"He also said to His disciples: 'There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.'" (Luke 16:1, emphasis mine)
The text says that the steward was "wasting his goods". It does not say the steward was stealing his goods. The Greek word for "wasting" in this verse is "diaskorpizo" which is rendered "to scatter, to squander, to disperse". The word "diaskorpizo" is also used in the preceding parable to express how the Prodigal Son "wasted his possessions with prodigal living." (Luke 15:13). In contrast, the Greek words for "steal" and "rob" are "klepto" and "apostereo" respectively; and do not appear in the text.
If a father entrusts his son with $1000 dollars, he doesn’t accuse him of stealing if his son spends the money injudiciously. Rather, the father charges his son of irresponsibly wasting his money. And that is the context of Jesus’ meaning here. Christ did not say that the steward was stealing money from his Master. Rather, He says that the steward was “wasting” his Master’s goods.
Let's now examine another point. Referring back to Dollar’s initial citation, he says:
"Jesus is saying, 'If you can’t trust me in the area of giving and receiving, then neither can you trust me to heal your body of cancer. If you can’t trust me in the area of giving and receiving, then neither can you trust me to save your children.'"
Before I respond, let’s consider Hebrews 11:6:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)
Although not cited during his sermon, "Being Free to Tithe", Creflo Dollar has alluded to Hebrews 11:6 on numerous occasions during past sermons on the subject of faith. Thus, his congregants are very much aware that God is not pleased by a lack of faith. And that is a biblical fact. However, here is where Mr. Dollar mixes truth with lies: According to Dollar, Jesus is saying if you do not have faith to trust Him with at least ten percent of your money, then neither do you have faith that He will heal your body of cancer or save your children. That is a manipulative lie and an attack upon a person's faith.
Firstly, contrary to Word-Faith theology, assured divine physical healing in today's church age is not supported by Scripture. This does not imply that believers in Christ are without the possibility of receiving physical healing from God. There are instances where God does heal today. Healing is a gift of God that is granted or withdrawn at His judgment. Believers may experience physical healing based on their faith, or obedience, or God's sovereign choice.
Secondly, when someone fails to receive healing, Creflo Dollar finds it advantageous to shift the blame to the believer rather than repent of his flawed teachings. His characteristic excuses usually surrounds the Christian’s alleged lack of faith, some unrepentant sin, or a failure to give properly and adequately. While the Lord does require us to be faithful stewards of our possessions, unlike Creflo Dollar, Jesus never requested or suggested that new covenant believers give at least a minimum of ten percent of money to the Church to prove their faith in Him.
Thirdly, our children will be held accountable for their own salvation apart from their parents' faith and giving practices. Consider the following passage(s):
"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10)
"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)
who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 2:6-10)
As we can see from Scripture, God expects us to take personal responsibility in every area of our lives, including accepting accountability for our salvation. Those who fail to acknowledge the truth of God "are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). However, using his classic manipulative tactics, Creflo Dollar would like us to believe that our giving habits will impinge on the salvation of our children.
The Second Book of Corinthians 9:7
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7)
During his sermon, Creflo Dollar makes the following statement regarding 2 Corinthians 9:7:
"If the reason you pay a tithe is because you don’t want to be under the curse, then you are paying out of necessity. And it isn’t a cheerful giving."
Notice how Dollar incongruously associates tithing with this verse. As aforementioned, tithing was never taught to new covenant believers; not as a law or an eternal principle. Paul was an expert in old covenant law and new covenant grace, but he never gave instructions to the Church to pay monetary tithes.
While Dollar is oddly connecting 2 Corinthian 9:7 with tithing, factually this verse diametrically opposes any proposition that giving under grace should commence with tithing. It indicates that each believer is to decide in their own heart how much to give. God is more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the amount given. God would prefer Christians to be good stewards over their finances; and to give cheerfully and willingly according to their means. Any person who mandates or recommends that one should give a tithe of his income sins by debasing 2 Corinthians 9:7 … stifling one's ability to decide in his own heart how much to give.