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July 15, 2016
The Tithing Switcheroos Pastors Like to Play
By Anthony Wade
Biblically debunking two of the more recently popular tithing con game arguments...
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was the priest of the God Most High.) and he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. -- Genesis 14: 18-20 (ESV)
Anytime I write about tithing I need to preface it by stating that I am not against giving to a local church that is truly preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ. Forget how big they are, how popular they are, or how convenient they are. Forget their annual "missions" trip to build a playground in a South American orphanage. Forget their Facebook pictures of all the great outreaches they do. Without preaching the uncompromised Gospel it is all meaningless. But if they are, there is no better investment for Christians to make. This is not about being cheap. This is not about hoarding money. In fact it is about being responsible with our money. I have heard far too many Christian believe that once they give their "tithes" it is not on them what the leadership does with it. That is absolute nonsense. If you know you are in a church that is not preaching the uncompromised Gospel you ought to leave first of all but secondly you have a Christian obligation to not give them any money to further the work against Christ. Remember, there are only two options:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. -- Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)
We are either actively gathering people to Christ or scattering them away. There is no third option beloved. Supporting false ministries with our money is furthering their work. With this out of the way, let us take another look at some of the theological switcheroos pastors seem to be playing today regarding tithing. The very first thing we must understand is there is a vast difference between a tithe and tithing.
Tithing -- a practice of giving 10% of one's increase to the church
Tithe -- an English word, translating "tenth" from Hebrew and Greek
I do not want us to miss this because it is at the heart of nearly every tithing switcheroo played by pastors today. The word tithe simply means a tenth. If I gave you one of my ten jelly beans I gave you a tithe of them. Tithing as a practice originated in the Hebrew Law. The way God had set up the theocracy of Israel, the Levites were to keep the temple and handle the spiritual needs of the community as a whole and as such, God did not want them to have to plow fields or raise livestock. So all of the other tribes were required to provide a tenth of their agricultural increase to the Levite Tribe so they had food to eat. Now one can see the correlation between that system and the church system. I get that. The church now takes care of the spiritual needs of the Christian community so giving to them for the work of the Kingdom makes sense. But it is not a "tithe" because tithing was part of the law, the very same law that was nailed to the cross by Jesus Christ:
Look; I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no use to you. I testify again to every man that accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. -- Galatians 5: 2-4 (ESV)
Everywhere you see the word circumcision, just insert tithing. Paul used circumcision because the Judaizers were infiltrating the early church at Galatia claiming circumcision was needed along with faith in Jesus. Just like today greedy pastors who have little faith in the Holy Spirit have infiltrated the church and tried to mix tithing as a compulsory Christian requirement. Yet what is the New Testament instruction on giving?
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2Corinthians 9: 7 (ESV)
Claiming Christians must tithe violates this verse -- plain and simple. Tithing was part of the law and the law was nailed to the cross. The problem is that a lot of young gun pastors realized this. They realized that the big lies about who the Prophet Malachi was actually speaking to, the leaders, were not working like they used to. They knew they need to try and expand the tithing argument beyond Malachi and the Law. Enter our key verses and the switcheroo that Abram "tithed." Abram did not "tithe" as if it were a practice; remember our definitions above. That's the switch. The pastors who abuse these verses are trying to convince you that you need to practice tithing regularly based upon the fact that one time in the 175 years that Abram/Abraham was alive he gave a tenth of the spoils of war to a local king. I recently heard one pastor claim the "Law of First Mention" requires us to accept that because this was the first mention of tithing it is an established pattern from God. How absolutely absurd and theologically vacuous. This is a definition of the Law of First Mention:
"According to the Biblical Research Studies Group, the Law of First Mention is the "principle that requires one to go to that portion of the Scriptures where a doctrine is mentioned for the first time and to study the first occurrence of the same order to get the fundamental inherent meaning of that doctrine."
This is how something intended for good can go so wrong. When we see that God changed Abram's name to Abraham, it was followed by a great honor; namely being declared that he would be the father of many nations. This establishes a pattern that we can trace that God will always follow a name change with a great honor. We see this millennia later when Simon is changed to Peter for example. To read the key verses and claim this established an unchangeable pattern is ridiculous. If you take the Law of First Mention seriously here this is the pattern based upon this story:
1) Tithing must never be from our personal wealth because Abram gave nothing from his own riches.
2) Tithing must always follow a great victory in war, when we have plundered our enemy and taken his riches because that was what Abram actually gave a tithe of.
3) Tithing must only be one time in our life.
4) Tithing must actually be 100%, since later on we see that Abram gave all of the spoils of war because he did not want God to lose the glory for the victory.
Remember, at the heart of this is a fast one. It is a con game. A blatant switcheroo if we start to look closer at it. Abram did not engage in tithing. He gave a tenth of the spoils of war. Because the key verses are in the ESV, the word "tenth" is used instead of "tithe." It makes things a lot clearer for us. I heard a pastor recently claim that this pattern must have been divinely given to Abram directly from God. That God himself must have whispered it in his ear to give this tenth because it is now a pattern. Why else would Abram give a tenth? I don't know, maybe because it was customary at that time? The truth is we do not know why because the Bible does not specify why. So to pretend we know why and add it to Scripture to create doctrine is a giant theological mistake. That is how heresies are born. "Tithing" is a compulsory system of fleecing ten percent from a church congregation. On the other hand, the word "tithe" is an English translation of the Hebrew and Greek words for "tenth." Abram did not establish a pattern of tithing. He did not regularly tithe. He did not engage in tithing. One time, in 175 years, he gave a local king ten percent of his spoils of war and actually ended up giving it all. To pretend otherwise is to engage in willful deception. The second switcheroo we would like to look at today is the notion that Jesus endorsed tithing:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of law; justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. -- Matthew 23: 23 (ESV)
See! Jesus said you ought to have tithed! He endorsed it! Not so fast there. First of all, what is Jesus speaking to them about? The law. So as a matter of the law, Jesus did endorse tithing as a practice. But who is He speaking to? Jewish people who are under the law! Of course they ought to have tithed! It was part of their law! The final consideration on this point is simple. What has not happened yet? The cross. Jesus has not gone to the cross yet, where He will nail the law, including tithing, to it. Consider those Galatians verses for a minute. Every man that accepts tithing is obligated to keep the entire law. Christ will be of no use to him and he is severed from Christ. Sound extreme? I am sure we know plenty of diehard tithers who miss the weightier matters of the Gospel like the Pharisees missed those matters of the law. That is the problem with a compulsory system. It generates a sense of entitlement and helps people ignore some of the more personal areas of obedience.
These are just two examples of the Bible twisting many pastors engage in to enforce tithing. The reality is that they simply do not have faith in the Holy Spirit. If we followed the verse from Second Corinthians, we would allow people to decide what they ought to give based on prayer and the indwelt Holy Spirit. I would wager that most people who are truly saved will give more than 10% if they prayed about it. Especially if they are in a good church. Quite frankly, enforcing tithing lets them off the hook too easily. But therein lies the hidden problem. The truth is that when you look at the current purpose driven church landscape, you start to understand why pastors rely upon tithing so much. The purpose driven model is good at "churching" people but not at getting them saved. Without salvation there is no Holy Spirit and the things of God, such as giving, are foolishness to them. If you tell a saved individual to pray about giving, they understand what it means and thus you will probably get more than 10%. If you ask someone who is unsaved, they will not understand. They will give what they want because they are giving from a point of personal consideration where a believer gives out of eternal consideration. I know it is the topic no one wants to discuss but the microwaved sinner's prayer does not save anyone. Not without the Gospel:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1: 16 (ESV)
This may come as a shock but the vast majority of what people hear on Sundays in churches is no longer the Gospel. Preaching self-help and motivational messages saves no one. Preaching messages about improving your marriage or becoming more significant will not save anyone. A summer series exegeting the hottest movies will not save anyone. Sprinkling in a few Bible verses will not help either. When Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian elders he tells them he is free of their blood. Why was he free of it? Because he was a great speaker who always entertained them? Because he always tried to be relevant and understanding of where they were coming from? No. Because he did not hesitate to proclaim the entire counsel of God. Who do we think we are fooling? If the Gospel is the only thing that has the power to save man and we refuse to give it to them; why would we consider anyone saved?
That is why you have to enforce tithing. Because when you have reduced church down to a business transaction, tithing becomes simply the cost of doing business. That is something the unsaved can understand and believe in. The more they are entertained, the more they might give. But explaining to them the universal law of sowing and reaping? That will not work on an unregenerate heart. It cannot work because the Bible tells us so. At that point the faux-pastor needs to find ways to increase giving so he scours the Bible to proof text his pre-determined point that we ought to tithe. In some translations he finds the key verse says Abram tithed and voila! He can claim "tithing" started before the law, which it most certainly did not. It is the ole switcheroo at work. He sees that Jesus told the Pharisees they ought to tithe and without regard for context or any sense of sound hermeneutics he declares that Jesus affirms tithing. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Besides being theologically wrong, tithing is often then abused beyond a mere faux obedience issue. Robert Morris and Ronnie Floyd for example preach that if you do not give them the first ten percent of your money that God will curse all of your money. This is a horrible mangling of the Prophet Malachi, who was speaking to the leaders and not the people. They were robbing God. Even if it somehow was to the people the law gets nailed to the cross. A fact that every one of the tithing teachers will affirm; except they still teach tithing. I have seen local pastors strip people of their church memberships if they did not like their tithing records. People who have been loyal and faithful for decades. People in the hospital at the time. No regard. Just beat the sheep, beat the sheep, beat the sheep. As if the church belongs to the servant shepherd instead of the sheep as a whole. It is a disgusting con game they play. Butchering Scriptures to increase their profit margins. Pummeling sheep into submission or blessed subtraction. Creflo Dollar once famously preached that he wished he could pass out machine guns to the tithers so they could kill all the non-tithers in his congregation. This is the man currently worth 27 million dollars.
Beloved, there is no greater source for our money than a church that correctly preaches the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is the only divine power unto the salvation of man. If you are blessed enough to find yourself in one, you should give all you can because there is no greater investment. If your church however is in the purpose driven game then they are likely creating an army of goats who are told they are sheep. They will stand before Jesus one day and He will say He never knew them. If this is the case you should not give one dime to the work of Satan. Not one dime.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- July 15, 2016