REFUTING CREFLO DOLLAR'S SERMON

 

"Being Free to Tithe"

By: Victor T. Stephens

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Was Tithing Commanded Prior to the Mosaic Law?

Referring to Genesis 14:18-20, Creflo Dollar says, "Abraham tithed before there was a law." His reasoning is that since Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, then tithing is still binding today. Such an assumption is plainly false.

Firstly, God's covenant with Abram was completely unrelated to tithing. Secondly, an investigation into the historical background of tithing will show that the giving of tithes was not an unspoken sacred principle that was enacted by God prior to the Mosaic Law. Rather, tithing began as a man-made tradition that was practiced by many ancient nations throughout the Middle East.

During biblical times, the vast majority of people counted in tens; and thus, tithes were given voluntarily and was customarily connected with a sacrificial system to pay tribute to pagan deities and to those of higher authorities such as kings (1 Sam. 8:15 -17).

"He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants." (1 Sam. 8:15-17)

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Douglas, Hillyer, Bruce [editors]) states:

"The custom of tithing did not originate with the Mosaic Law, nor was it peculiar to the Hebrews. It was practiced among other ancient peoples." (Tithes, p.1572)

The Baker Theological Dictionary of The Bible (Walter A. Elwell [editor]) states:

"Giving a portion of one's profits or the spoils of war was known in the ancient world from Greece to China. Gifts were made as religious offerings, or given to a political authority as tribute or tax. Donation of a tenth portion, or tithe, was common apparently because most people counted in tens, based on ten fingers." (Tithe, Tithing, p.779)

The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Vol. 4 E points out a number of accounts of pagan tithing:

"... (the sun-god) Shamash demands the tithe..."

"... why do you not pay the tithe to the Lady-of-Uruk?"

"four minas of silver, the tithe of [the gods] Bel, Nabu, and Nergal..."

"... the tithe of the chief accountant, he has delivered it to [the sun-god] Shamash."

"... he has paid, in addition to the tithe for Ninurta, the tax of the gardiner."

As history has shown, many people who tithed believed in pagan gods. This was their custom during that time period. Since Melchizedek was a King-Priest, Abram … responding to ancient custom, gave a gratuity (freewill gift) of thanksgiving to show appreciation to the one true God for leading him to a miraculous victory over his enemies; and thus, rescuing his nephew Lot. In addition, Abram was acknowledging the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood on account tithes were given to greater authorities. For further proof that Abram was not following an eternal law, let's take a look at Numbers 31:25-31.

Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Count up the plunder that was taken --- of man and beast --- you and Eleazar the priest and the chief fathers of the congregation; and divide the plunder into two parts, between those who took part in the war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. And levy a tribute for the LORD on the men of war who went out to battle: one of every five hundred of the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep; take it from their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest as a heave offering to the LORD. And from the children of Israel’s half you shall take one of every fifty, drawn from the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep, from all the livestock, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of the LORD." So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.

(Num. 31:25-31)

Here we have another account where spoils were given to a priest. A close examination will show a key distinction between Abram's tithe to Melchizedek in comparison to the quantity of spoils that God has commanded in this passage.

Following the Israelites victory over the Midianites, God arranges the precise distribution of spoilage. If we do the mathematical calculations, we will learn that God required the soldiers to give point two percent (.2%) of the spoils to Eleazar the priest. The Israelites who did not participate in battle were required to give two percent (2%) to the Levites.

If Abram was following a universal law when he gave a tithe of spoils to Melchizedek, then God would have commanded a tithe in this account. The computational dissimilarities between Abram's tithe to Melchizedek and the account here in Numbers 31:25-31 not only confirms that tithing is not a universal law, but it also demonstrates that tithing was by no means a minimum or blanket standard of giving. Moreover, this further confirms that Abram was following ancient custom when he gave a tithe to Melchizedek.

I find it fascinating that Creflo Dollar and other tithing proponents will continually refer to Abram's tithe to Melchizedek, but will conveniently evade Numbers 31:25-31. If the calculations resulted in ten percent rather than point two percent, we can rest assured that Mr. Dollar would reference this account on a persistent basis.

Let's look at one more account which further proves that tithing is not an eternal law.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

(Genesis 28:20-22)

Although Creflo Dollar did not cite Genesis 28:20-22 in his sermon, "Being Free to Tithe", he has done so during past teachings on tithing. While Mr. Dollar and other tithing advocates frequently allude to this passage to promote tithing, it actually establishes additional overwhelming support that tithing was not commanded by God prior to the Mosaic Law. How so?, you might ask? In order to address this question, let’s first establish the definition of the word "vow" used in verse twenty.

"A solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specific act or to behave in a certain manner. All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of His favor or in thanksgiving for His blessings. Vowing was voluntary. But after a vow was made, it had to be performed (Deut. 23:21-23; Eccl. 5:4-6)." 

{Illustrated Dictionary of The Bible, [Herbert Lockyer, Sr. [Editor], p.1088}

Let's also note some key supporting biblical text:

"If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." (Num. 30:2)

"When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you." (Deut. 23:21-22)

"When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed --- better not to vow than to vow and not pay." (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

As we can see from the above definition and verses, a vow is not a reaction to a command, but a voluntary promise of one's free will. In the same manner as Abram, the tithe that Jacob vowed to give was a voluntary gratuity based in accordance with the customs during that time period. If tithing was commanded prior to the Mosaic Law, then it would seem unreasonable for Jacob to make a vow if the tithe already belonged to God. He would have been duty-bound to pay a tithe to God without any choice in the matter.

Let's look at this further: Sin is explained in God’s Word as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Now, according to Deuteronomy 23:22, if Jacob chose to refrain from making a vow to give God a tenth, he would have not been guilty of sin. Therefore, tithing was not commanded by God prior to the Mosaic Law since sin constitutes breaking God’s law. This fact provides blistering evidence against pre-law tithing advocates.

With these key points in mind, let's now observe another detail regarding Abram.

In part two of "Being Free to Tithe", Creflo Dollar says:

"Abraham trusted God. He proved his trust through what he gave. And in Genesis 15:1, after he proved his trust, after he gave because he was thankful, after he declared that God is my source … look what He says in verse one, the very next chapter, ‘after these things the Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision saying fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ And if you read the rest of it, God gave Abram what money couldn’t buy … a son."

Employing the same brand of manipulation that he utilized in Jesus' parable of the dishonest manager, Creflo Dollar attempts to persuade us that Abram paid a tithe to Melchizedek to prove his trust in God. Thus, likened to Abram, believers in Christ should pay tithes to prove their trust and gratitude towards God.

It is indeed a fact that Abram trusted and appreciated God. However, as we recently learned, the reason that Abram gave God a tithe was on account that tithing was a cultural practice during ancient biblical times. Tithing was never an unwritten law prior to the Mosaic Law.

In any event, according to Creflo Dollar, if you trust God; if you are thankful to God; and if you believe that God is your source, then like Abram, you will give God a tithe. When we take into consideration the facts previously disclosed regarding Abram's tithe to Melchizedek, Dollar's argument for pre-law tithing effortlessly collapses. Thus, further refutation on this specific point should be unnecessary.

The next error that Creflo Dollar commits here is his out of context usage of the phrase "After these things." At this junction, Mr. Dollar is attempting to deceive his congregants into believing that tithing … which is their acknowledgement of trust, gratitude, and recognition of God as their source of all things, will lead to glorious blessings. In Abram's case, he received a son.

Let's now explicate this in appropriate context. The expression, "After these things", is alluding to Abrams's clash with the enemy kings; the detention of Lot; the rescue of Lot and his possessions as well as those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Although Abram was triumphant over the enemy kings, he feared as well as reflected on the possibility that the kings might take vengeance by recruiting their forces and move against him with greater strength. Thus, in Genesis 15:1, God comforts and encourages Abram to dissolve his fears to which he was experiencing. God told Abram that He would protect him against his enemies in spite of their strength in numbers.

 

The Baker Commentary on The Bible says:

God's covenant with Abram (15:1-21). "After this" (v. 1) must refer to the harrowing experiences Abram encountered in chapter 14. He has reason to be afraid of the possible repercussions of his rescue mission. God’s word to him, then, is most appropriate (15:1-6): 'Do not be afraid, Abram.' God is Abram’s shield, not his 318 servants. And God himself is Abram’s reward. (Baker Commentary on The Bible, Walter A. Elwell, Editor; page 21)

Maintaining his psychological gymnastics, Creflo Dollar states:

"It seemed like money purchased that. But remember that Jesus said money is the least. He says now that if you prove to yourself that you trust Me by giving money, and your trust will cause what I have already done to come on your life. So it is not an issue of money; it is not an issue of tithe; it is an issue of trust. And when you trust your money more than you trust God, you ain’t going to give it because that’s your resource; and now you’ve taken your resource and made it your source. And God wants to be the source of everything in your life. But you have taken money and tried to use it to replace God as the source in your life. And how perverted is that? You are now making the resource the source."

Actually, it does not seem "like money purchased that". When God blessed Abram with a son, He was simply reaffirming what He promised to Abram before he gave a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 12:1-7; 13:14-17). Thus, Abram's tithe to Melchizedek is completely unrelated to God's promises. Furthermore, although Abram trusted God, his tithe to Melchizedek is not indicative of his trust; but rather it was a symbol of his appreciation based on customary practices during early biblical times. Believers today are not required to comply with ancient customs. Instead, we are free to give any amount.

Mr. Dollar alleges that trusting Jesus with our money (which is at least ten percent) "will cause what I(Jesus) has already done to come on your life." In other words, we will be blessed with divine health, wealth, etc. In his article, "Do Versus Done!", Dollar states:

"But under grace, it’s always about what Jesus has done. It's so important for us to change the tense. So whether it’s your healing, your deliverance, or your prosperity, it’s going to be about what Jesus has done under this covenant of grace versus what you can do."

These statements by Dollar has no biblical basis. His tithing doctrine is false doctrine; his health theology is false doctrine; his wealth theology is false doctrine; and his atonement theology is false doctrine. Excluding our current topic, refuting these erroneous doctrines are outside the scope of this article.

 

At any rate, in keeping with Dollar's agenda driven view of tithing, not tithing equates to trusting your money more than trusting God. Rather than God being your source, a failure to tithe makes money your source. And allegedly, you have now fashioned a "perverted" state of affairs.

Mr. Dollar claims this is not an issue about money, but rather trust. No, this is about money. And what is perverted is Mr. Dollar's unhealthy interest in money and his concurrent prejudicial view of the believer's freedom to give any amount. He outrageously and despicably butchers the scriptures in his attempts to deceptively suppress one's free choice to give less than ten percent. It is for this reason that Dollar and other tithing advocates expediently close their eyes to Numbers 31:25-31 where God clearly commanded a distribution of point two percent (.2%) of the spoils to Eleazar the priest.

Is Tithing in Our Best Interest?

Creflo Dollar claims:

"Tithing is still in our best interest. See I don’t need the punishment to motivate me to tithe. What Jesus did for me is all the motivation I need."

I'm certain many people have heard this manipulative language used by other so called "pastors". Is tithing in fact for your best interest or the pastor's? This type of pseudo-psychological rhetoric is cunningly calculated to hijack one's finances in the name of the "Lord’s tithe". Crafty fleecers of the flock such as Creflo Dollar bank on his followers' ignorance of the Word of God.

Factually, as aforementioned, Jesus does not want a mere tithe of our money as confirmation of our gratitude towards Him. What He does want is one-hundred percent of us (Romans 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 8:5). Creflo Dollar covertly wants your money. God openly wants you!

Mr. Dollar has taken the Word of God and foolishly altered it into something to rationalize his personal ideology. He  speaks much about wealth; but he is exegetically bankrupt. His indirect threats to those who do not give a minimum of ten percent unveils his foul ignorance and butchering of Scripture. If we follow the money, we will discern that monetary and material greed are the chief driving influences behind the unrepentant bogus teachings of Mr. Dollar. Unfortunately, there is a marketplace for false teachers; and Dollar works it to his carnal advantage … at least for now.  (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 2:3).

If you are a supporter of Creflo Dollar, then please beware! I pray that the Lord will lead you to His Truth. Remember; the Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) And so should you.

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* I am currently writing a book addressing the issue of church tithing. God willing, I anticipate it will be completed and published later this year (2019). If you enjoyed reading this article and wish to gain additional insights to the issue of tithing, then please feel free to enter your email address in the form below. Upon completion of the book, I will contact you with info on how to purchase.

Truth & Discernment Ministry