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Monday, May 19, 2008

A Generous Hypocrisy II

In her previous post, my sister points out that a generous government policy of giving can be quite hypocritical, not to mention, ineffective at times. But none can argue that there are genuine and great needs in our world, and conversation on the best way to meet them is at least honorable.

So I thought I would follow up Kacey's post with what we consider one of the best ways to meet those needs... TITHING.

This post is specifically for all my Christian brothers and sisters. But if God is not really your thing, you might still be interested in hearing of His financial plan for the earth.

Let's define tithing:

The tithe literally means "a tenth." In the Christian faith, a tithe is a tenth of one's increase given to the house of God, the church. I believe the tithe is a biblical mandate, ordained by God from the beginning (it first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14). Tithing is not just Old Testament law. It is precedent before the law was given, and Jesus himself speaks of it in the New Testament (Matthew 23, Luke 11).

The tithe belongs to the Lord. In a biblical worldview, all things belong to God and originate in Him, but the tithe is specifically referred to as belonging to God. It's His off the top. It's His before the bills. It's His before our needs. It's His before our Starbucks. When you tithe, you are not being generous, you are simply being obedient.

It is also important to note that the tithe is not based on one's perceived ability to afford it. It is an act of faith, honor and worship to God no matter your level of income. I was fortunate to have a family who believed in and practiced tithing, and it has, therefore, become a way of life for me. I have tithed in times of great blessing and tithed in times of great need. Learning to live on 90% of your income is possible (and not an option for believers.)

The Bible actually refers to withholding the tithe as robbing God. Malachi 3:8-12 says, "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

So back to meeting needs.

Statistics show that less than 2% of Americans tithe today. The Barna Group found "that tithing among all born again adults has stayed within a range of 6% to 14% throughout the past decade." C'mon people!

John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, a husband and wife team of researchers have consistently tracked American expenditures as well as global need for many years. They have estimated that $70-$80 billion a year could meet the most essential human needs around the world, including "projects for clean water and sanitation, prenatal and infant/maternal care, basic education, immunizations, and long-term development efforts." The Ronsvalles go on to write, "Consider this: If church members in the United States would increase their giving to 10 percent of their income, there could be an additional $86 billion (over and above their estimated $70-$80 billion) available for overseas missions." Tithing Christians Would Meet Global Need.

So before we call for the government to do more, let us examine our own hearts. Let us not be participants in this generous hypocrisy. Let us not be the ones calling for increased civil spending if we ourselves are not fulfilling our Christian duty. Caesar will for sure get what is Caesar's. Will God get what is His? (Matthew 22:21).

15 comments:

Clarence Tittle said...

Thank you for this entry. AWESOME!!!

portorikan said...

Amen.

That was excellent.

russkellyphd said...

The tithe literally means "a tenth." In the Christian faith, a tithe is a tenth of one's increase given to the house of God, the church.
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Comment: The word “tithe” in God’s Word never stands alone. It is always the tithe of food from inside Israel. Although money was essential for worship it was never included in the description of tithes in the Bible.
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I believe the tithe is a biblical mandate, ordained by God from the beginning
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Comment: It was only a mandate for farmers and herdsmen who lived inside Israel. It never applied to other trades such as carpenters, fishermen or tentmakers.
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(it first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14).
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Comment: Abraham is not a example for Christians to give. (1) He tithed in obedience to well-known pagan tradition concerning spoils of war. (2) He only did it once, (3) never gave of his own property, (4) kept nothing for himself and (5) gave the 90% to the King of Sodom.
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Jesus himself speaks of it in the New Testament (Matthew 23, Luke 11).
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Comment: Jesus endorsed it while the Law was still in full effect before the New Covenant began. He was speaking of matters of the law. He could not have told his Gentile disciples to tithe.
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The tithe belongs to the Lord. In a biblical worldview, all things belong to God and originate in Him, but the tithe is specifically referred to as belonging to God.
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Comment: In its historical context it was only holy if it came from inside national Israel since pagan dust defiled. Almost everything else in Leviticus which is called holy or most holy has been abandoned by the church.
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It's His off the top. It's His before the bills. It's His before our needs.
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Comment: Not true. Read Numbers 18; Deut 26:1-10 and Neh 10:35-37. Firstfruits were very small token offerings taken to the Temple. Tithes were the tenth (not the first) and were first taken to the Levitical cities (Neh 10:37).
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When you tithe, you are not being generous, you are simply being obedient.
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Comment: The Church is never told to tithe. NT giving is freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful and not of compulsion. It is motivated by love, not law.
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It is also important to note that the tithe is not based on one's perceived ability to afford it. It is an act of faith, honor and worship to God no matter your level of income.
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Comment: Sounds good but it is not biblical. The tithe was not an act of faith; it was a demand of law!!! And the poor were not required to tithe. Read 1st Timothy 5:8 for the NT application of paying essential bills first.
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Testimony:
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Comment: All the good testimony in the world does not make the doctrine correct. There are thousands who have the opposite testimony and they are never allowed to speak it in church.
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Malachi 3:8-12
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Malachi 3:10 Has Been Misinterpreted

The “whole” tithe never was supposed to go to the Temple! According to Dr. Russell Earl Kelly in his book, Should the Church Teach Tithing?, the usual interpretation of Malachi 3:10’s “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” is wrong for four reasons.

First, the Levitical cities must be included. God never told ordinary Israelites to bring the whole tithe to the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Nehemiah 10:38, that duty belonged to the Levites and priests. The Levites lived on borrowed land surrounding 48 cities. After the exile they lived in the 13 priestly cities in Judah such as Jericho and Hebron. Nehemiah 10:37b makes it clear that the people were to bring the tithes to those cities. Numb 18:21-24; 35 all; Josh 20, 21; 1st Chron 6:48-80; 2nd Chron 11:13, 14; 31:15-19; Neh 12:27-29; 13:10 and Mal 1:14.

Second, the correct interpretation of Malachi 3:10 must include the 24 courses of the Levites and priests. Only the older males ate tithes at the Temple and then normally only one week out of 24 weeks! Do the math! That is only 4% of the total work force! And with the wives and younger children staying at home it is only 2% of the total work force who needed to eat tithes in the Temple! 1 Chronicles, chapters 23-26; 28:13, 21; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:8; 31:2, 15-19; 35:4, 5, 10; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 11:19, 30; 12:24; 13:9, 10; Luke 1:5.

Third, the word “you” of Malachi is referring to the dishonest priests and not the people: “Even this whole nation of you --priests.” In Nehemiah 13:5-10 the priests had clearly stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe. Also, in Malachi 1:14 the priests had stolen that portion of the tithed animals which they had vowed to God from their herds. Read all of Malachi. God’s anger towards the priests and His curses on them are ignored by most interpreters (1:14; 2:2 and 3:2-4).
Fourth, the blessings and curses of tithing are identical to those of the entire Mosaic Law and cannot legitimately be separated from them. Read all of Deuteronomy 27 and 28, especially 28:12 “The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of your hand” and 28:23-24 “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” Compare this with Galatians 3:10 quoting 28:26 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Trying to earn God’s blessings through tithing only brings curses for failure to keep all of the law. These were agreed to by Malachi’s audience in Nehemiah 10:29.
When the Levitical cities, the 24 courses, the nature of the blessings and curses and God’s anger towards the priests for stealing are considered, then Malachi 3:10 only makes sense when it only refers to priests who had stolen from God.

It makes no sense to tell the people to bring 100% of the tithe to the Temple when 98% of those who needed it for food were still in the Levitical cities.

It is strange that the 3:10 of Malachi is so important It is while the 3:10 of Galatians and 2nd Corinthians are ignored. Perhaps those wanting to enforce the 3:10 of Malachi should also enforce the 3:10 of Numbers. Wow! Now that would lose members.

2 Cor 3:10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. NASU [Old vs. New Covenant glory]

Since every believer is a NT priest and since the NT Temple is the body of every believer, the purpose of OT tithing has disappeared. The Christian is never told to tithe. Many should give more than 10% but many of the poor cannot and God still accepts their freewill gift from the heart.
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Statistics show that less than 2% of Americans tithe today.
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Comment: Has it ever been much higher. Before 1870 no non-state church taught tithing in the USA. The greatest evangelism and church grown occurred when nobody taught tithing.
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global need
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Comment: Evangelism and sound preaching about souls going to hell without Jesus has been lost and that it is the secret to success – not tithing. The OT tithe was NEVER used for evangelism and cannot be an example. The church needs to get back to what made it grow so fast in the beginning.

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com

Clayton Bell said...

You know, you just haven't made it in the blogging world until someone comes along and deconstructs one of your posts with their marginalized views of how things MUST BE.

Congratulations! You're all growed up!

Clayton Bell said...

OK, and it's pretty nerdy to quote YOURSELF in your own blog comment. Don't we need 2-3 witnesses to confirm?

Or has that been misinterpreted as well? ;-)

JTapp said...

If sound Biblical exegesis is a "marginalized view" then may we all be marginalized.

Clayton Bell said...

Then to the margin with you all!

Deacon & Usher said...

Read Deaconandusher.wordpress.com
for our view on tithing - decide for yourself

Repunzel said...

Dude. He didn't just quote himself. He talked about himself in third person...which I personally find very charming and creepy at the same time.

As for his doctrine, we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it. Rather, has anyone the gumption and skills (and time) to do a line by line deconstruction of HIS comment?

(I'm looking at Mr. Bell and perhaps Mr. Mabry if they're reading...anyone?)

MLM said...

This anti-tithe teaching (that it's an outdated OT law not meant for the NT Church) is nothing new. In fact, it's quite popular in this postmodern society, where people really don't like for anyone to tell them what to do (especially when it comes to money).

But we should be able to address critics with respect and equally educated defenses. Dr. Kelly has done quite a bit of work and we ought to be prepared to do the same. Ordinarily, I'd probably be game enough to take a stab at a line-by-line deconstruction of his comment. But I just don't have the time. I hope someone else on here does.

That said, several of Dr. Kelly's points fall flat:

1. Just because money is never mentioned doesn't mean that money isn't applicable. After all, an agricultural society would tithe according to THEIR increase. But I, for one, don't get paid in eggs or wheat or animals. My boss gives me dollars (and not enough!!). Ha-ha.

2. Dr. Kelly said, "Sounds good but it is not biblical. The tithe was not an act of faith; it was a demand of law!!!"

Even demands of the law require faith if we're being obedient and not subservient. Tithing and every other act of obedience certainly does require FAITH. Faith is simply "what we believe" and we're to live by our beliefs and not by what our senses or circumstances tell us. I couldn't obey any of what God demands if I didn't have faith (in Him, in His Word, etc.)

3. Just because Jesus wouldn't tell a Gentile to tithe doesn't mean much. Jesus wouldn't (and didn't) tell the Gentiles a lot of things. Jesus made it quite clear that He was sent to the house of Israel...just ask the woman with the demon-possessed child. Does that mean that healing is not for the New Testament Church? (Um, no.)

4. There were a lot of things that Jesus said and did with an understood premise based on who he was talking to...which would be the Jews. So when Jesus talks to the Pharisees (not farmers and herdsmen), he does so knowing that everyone in the conversation had a firm grasp on the purpose and obligations of tithing. Jesus said they did good to tithe, and that they were so religious about giving their tenth on everything that they were even tithing on their herbs. But they had forgotten LOVE and the duty to honor one's parents (they were using the tithe as an excuse to not meet their parents' needs).

Anyhoo, it would seem that Jesus didn't correct the Pharisees for tithing. He just reminded them of what else He expected of them. And so I agree with Dr. Kelly on the point that we mustn't think all our woes are erased if we tithe, and think we can ignore everything else God expects.

It's a lifestyle that God wants, and yes that goes way beyond the offering plate at church.

But just because Paul doesn't mention tithing doesn't mean it doesn't apply to the NT church. He neglects to mention a lot of things that his audience already knew and understood or could learn elsewhere by searching the Law and the Prophets. And just because Jesus primarily spoke before the NT church officially began doesn't mean the things he said and did don't apply to us.

There's more to say, but I've got to run. Thanks for the post!

Kelley said...

When I have some more time, I will respond to some of the comments on here... Until then, keep up the debate!

Amy Middleton said...

wow, i love it! Great post Kelley! I think you bring the truth and conviction of the Holy Spirit is stirring. :)

Jaz said...

great posts, folks. definitely a long and arduous rebuttal from the resident dr. and others.

loved what clayton and 'mlm' said as well.

i'll venture this. to agree with the post-modern bent from another angle i'm always surprised at a 'new' thought that supposedly is so sound and revolutionary. it's always fascinating to hear people who have a thread that people have gotten wrong for 2000 years and beyond. yes, that is sarcasm, but i likewise appreciate a well thought out rebuttal.

here's what i will say since i work with churches all day long and people who don't tithe:

1.) regardless of what you think there is no doubt that there is a blessing on putting that tenth into the felt-bottomed brass saucer every week. it does not mean your life will be perfect and w/o calamity, but i can tell you without a doubt that people who consistently don't tithe (the full 10%) tend to have more issues financially and life-wise. that's not always true and i haven't seen it all in 27 years, but i've been in every aspect of church life and it's easy to see the difference in people from this one thing.

2.) it may be an added bonus or a random side-effect, but tithing helps you steward the rest of your money very very very well. THAT we all know is godly and if you have a rebuttal read the entire book of proverbs and then try to pen something in return.

3.) just do it. we (christians) have to be about our father's business and more often than not it takes money and it's time to stop leaving it up to everyone else.

rossmiddleton said...

Goodness, somehow my reader didn't work right, I love controversial stuff. Well, I didn't read all the comments on here, but most of them. I agree Kelley, the tithe is biblical and I still haven't heard a good argument saying its not.

I would like to recommend a book to anyone who is interested. It is called Wealth, Riches & Money by Craig Hill and Earl Pitts. I reviewed it on my blog if you want more info but it is hands down, unequivocally, the best, most thorough, enter your adjective of choice, teaching on finances I have ever read. They break down the tithe really well and I think no matter where you are in your relationship with God you will learn something from this book.

Chris Q said...

Bravo ladies! Right on.