When I told people at my church that this Sunday, I was going to preach a message called “Why I Don’t Believe in Tithing” – well, you can imagine! A few people were a bit twitchy about that.
But the long and the short of it is that I don’t believe in tithing. At least not the sort of tithing that much of the church teaches us about. Here’s why:
There are a lot of things I really like about the US of A – but their system of tipping isn’t one of them.
The original idea they tell me, is that tipping was supposed to turn every waiter, doorman and taxi driver into an “entrepreneur”. Great theory. I really like tipping people who go above and beyond.
These days though, unless you tip most of these people, they simply don’t earn a wage. So now, in effect – I’m obliged to tip. I really don’t like that.
In a sense, that’s a bit like the approach that some churches have to tithing.
God’s original intent with giving was that it should be something that comes from our hearts:
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. (Exodus 25:1,2)
But now … now we seem to have turned giving into a rule. Whether we quite put it in these words or not, we’ve come to believe that unless you tithe your income, you’re simply not being a “good Christian”.
Now please understand something. I am not against giving 10% (or a “tithe) of our income to God’s work. I think that’s a great place to start with our giving. What I am against – is this idea that we have to tithe our income to the church.
Why? Because it’s not what the Bible teaches. Here’s the executive summary:
1. We’re Under Grace, Not Under the Law:
After I preached this message, one woman came up to me and said to me – rather angrily - How dare you preach a message like that?! Tithing is in the Bible.
Sure. It is. Absolutely it is!
But so is … selling your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), the death penalty for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2) and for adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and for planting two different crops side by side and sewing two different fabrics together. So is the requirement for men to travel to Jerusalem 3 times a year (Deuteronomy 16:16) … and a whole bunch of other things that we don’t observe today.
And the reason that we don’t observe them as Christians, is because we’re under grace, not under the law (Romans 6:14)
In fact, the moment we start applying “the law” to the grace and the freedom that we now have in Jesus Christ, then we are cursed:
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”(Galatians 3:10)
That’s reason number 1.
2. The Tithe was there to Fund a Celebration:
Reason number 2 is that the original law talks about tithing not as something that is primarily there to support the work of the church (or it’s Old Testament predecessor – the priesthood). The original purpose of the tithe was primarily to throw a whopping great party in the Presence of God.
You can read the whole thing for yourself in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 – but here’s the nub of it:
In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:23)
So, not only are we not required to tithe our income (reason number 1) but the thing that many churches teach us that tithing is primarily for, is not what the Bible teaches that tithing was primarily for.
3. God Wants Our Hearts, Not our Wallets:
And finally, Jesus taught that our hearts are attached to our wallets and wherever our wallets are, there also our hearts will be (my paraphrase of His teaching in Matthew 6:19-24).
The thing is, that God wants us to follow His lead, to decide in our hearts to give to His work and then to give it cheerfully.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
So … what should we do?
I don’t believe for one moment that the Bible teaches us to tip God His 10% under compunction. In fact, that’s the last thing it teaches us to do. So instead, let’s do what the Bible actually does teach us to do.
God calls us to give generously (2 Cor 8:1,2), sacrificially (2 Cor 8:3-6), deliberately (2 Cor 9:6.7) and cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7).
Because when we do – here’s what happens. We end up giving more – much more – than we would have given were we just following a bunch of rules. Because now all of a sudden, it’s coming from our hearts!
Read more from Berni Dymet in his blog A Different Perspective.