Refusing To Tithe Won’t Help
There are several reasons people suggest tithing is outdated but the arguments are often more emotive than scholastic. Very diatribe-ish. As a tither I feel a bit bruised and lacerated – sometimes guilty – after reading some of the rants. If you’ve read the write-ups you know what I mean.
But, before you buy into “New Age” ideas about tithing you should consider one question: does the Bible endorse this type of giving? That is essentially the bottom line and there is a lot of Bible material to work through. The history of tithing goes all the way back to Abraham, “The Father of Faith.”
Although anti-tithers make a lot of noise about this issue the arguments don’t vary that much from one to another and those who make the arguments don’t dialogue very well either. Their propositions are barbed with nasty names and accusations for anyone who disagrees. I usually answer their suggestions not for the sake of dialogue but to provide information for those that are sincerely seeking a way to include God in their finances.
Some of the arguments raised are:
- Jesus didn’t teach tithing. Answered here.
- Tithing is an Old Testament Law not intended for the New Testament. Answered here.
- Some are too poor to tithe. Answered here.
- Tithing was nothing more than taxation. Answered here.
Another complaint repeatedly raised that I have not directly addressed has to do with so called corruption. The claim is made that churches and church leaders – those that teach tithing – are fleecing the flock, the leaders being referred to as liars or false prophets and the churches equated to big business.
I say “so called” because other than a sensational video here or there no real evidence of corruption is presented and unlike Bible days there are laws in place to prevent this type of thing from happening. Churches are exempt from paying taxes but they still must file returns and most submit to public audits. If funds are miss-allocated the authorities will find them out. In fact, ex-church leaders are in jail as I write for their grafting ways.
Mostly the complaints express bad attitudes or bad personal experiences and the faults are over stated – sometimes fabricated – to give emotional sway to the arguments. The real issues are:
- Some people oppose tithing because they are stingy and need to find a smoke screen to cover their selfish attitude. Stingy people will not easily agree to give anything consistently, much less tithe. If rational arguments and peer pressure force them to give, it is just a matter of time before they find some fault to excuse themselves out of giving, unless God changes their heart.
- Some people are afraid of the public outcry. Money is a very personal issue and people don’t take kindly to being told what to do with it. The easy way out is to generalize the topic till it has no definition at all. And interestingly enough, I have yet to receive one clear response from a non-tither to questions like: “how much do you give?” or “do you give a consistent amount regularly?” or “how, other than ‘God leads me,’ do you determine when to give and how much to give?” or “is there a rule I can follow?” These are fair questions. We are talking about God and the ministries that serve His cause. There should be cerebral responses.
- Some disagree with how a church manages the money and use that as an excuse not to give. Sounds vaguely reasonable but, according to Jesus, does not justify withholding your tithe.
Just for the record, I agree that churches don’t always show good manners or sense in the way they teach tithing and sometimes they spend money on ministries that don’t pan out but these things happen. This might be reason to question their wisdom but it does nothing to cast doubt on tithing. It’s also no reason to assume corruption. We don’t discredit a product because the salesman is pushy or has bad manners and the day we stop making investments because we loose occasionally is the day Jesus will say to us what He said to the unprofitable servant…
. . . You ought to have (at the least) invested MY MONEY with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was MY OWN with interest. (Parable of the Talents, Matt. 25:27)
By the way, the other two servants in the parable realized a profit and probably experienced losses along the way.
We are talking about God’s money but it isn’t unreasonable to think we will loose some in an effort to make a difference. That is the nature of “investments.” Some work and some don’t. And, yes, in their zeal to emphasize giving, churchmen will occasionally be a bit pushy or sensational. We don’t always get it right. Stupid maybe, but that has no criminal implications.
But here is the kicker. Even if the integrity of your church can be genuinely faulted you still have no excuse not to tithe and Jesus is the One who made this point.
Offerings in Jesus’ day were taken publicly. The collection box sat in one visible accessible location at the Temple and at the appointed time people walked by throwing in their money. The wealthy threw in large amounts – good for the image – the poor cast in their little and everyone could see what each gave. They didn’t use checks and they had no envelopes.
This, by the way, is a huge argument against those who suggest the Israelites tithed only agricultural products. These treasuries were not designed to receive bushels of wheat or lambs. This was a “cash only” offering.
On one occasion (Mark 12:41-44) a very poor widow threw in what Jesus referred to as “all her living,” two small coins. In those days people were paid daily so this constituted a full days wage and if she worked 6 days a week – likely – it was 16% of her income. There was no way she could give just 10% – one coin was only 8% – so she opted for the next highest amount.
Instead of reprimanding the Temple leaders for accepting her offering Jesus focused on her. And instead of tsk-tsking His indignation at so poor a soul giving an offering He commended her audibly, recognizing the amount given as proportionally greater than the amounts offered by the wealthy. He was so impressed, her testimony was recorded for posterity.
Anti-tithers beware! Not only did He not malign the religious leaders He also said nothing to cheat her out of the privilege of giving. If there was ever a time to complain about tithing this was it. She was desperately poor and the Temple to which she gave could be faulted in many ways. He said nothing.
In fact, several times Jesus had condemned the motives and actions of the religious leaders relative to money:
- He cleansed the Temple twice accusing the leaders of turning God’s house into a business. (John 2 and Matthew 21)
- He accused the leaders of fleecing the more wealthy widows. (Luke 20:47)
- He condemned religious teachers for suggesting that children were not responsible to care for elderly parents. (Matthew 15:4-6)
It was to this kind of institution that this poor widow gave but not once did Jesus suggest these evils were good reason to withhold tithes!
You have fewer excuses today than that poor widow. If you don’t like the church you go to there are plenty more to choose from. If one spends money in a way you don’t like, your bound to find one that is more agreeable to your views.
Unfortunately, perceived corruption is not an excuse to withhold your tithe.
In Tithing, Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. It isn’t the same old arguments presented the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he is “no theologian or exegetical writer,” Douglas has found an intriguing way to cut to the real heart of the issue. He shares the experiences of eleven different couples and one lone Monsignor, all of whom endorse tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.