Many of us have heard testimony after testimony of people who started tithing and their financial situations turned around. For example, I talked to a friend who agreed with my perspective about tithing. My friend’s spouse had become disillusioned with Christianity and wasn’t in agreement with tithing, but the church confronted them about it. This friend said “I agree with you. But why does it seem like it works for so many people?”
In fact, some people revert to the argument “It just works and I believe in it” when the insufficiency of the biblical foundation for tithing is exposed. I’d like to bring those testimonies into perspective—a perspective that will seriously challenge anybody who says “I believe in tithing because it works.” I’m no skeptic when it comes to miracles or supernatural provision. Yet I certainly question the idea that tithing is the key to experiencing God’s provision.
One thing that we need to consider is confirmation bias. In a culture that promotes tithing, people are encouraged to tell their positive stories related to tithing, but not negative stories such as being evicted for not paying rent after they “tested God” with their tithe. In fact, many people risk being ostracized if they share their negative stories. Sadly, many have the blame turned back on them. If tithing didn’t work it must be that they weren’t doing it with faith or with a cheerful heart.
Another thing not everyone considers is that many Christians who believe tithing is totally irrelevant have similar testimonies of God’s miraculous provision. Michael Van Vlymen does not follow traditional tithe teachings because he believes just handing over your money and letting someone else distribute it is poor stewardship. He has experienced many financial miracles, even to the point of cold hard cash just appearing! Another friend who believes the tithe has no relevance for today regularly believes the Lord for large sums of money and does not ask people for funds. Bertie Brits, who not only rejects tithing but also rejects common “sowing and reaping” teachings, has some remarkable testimonies of financial provision. Somebody even came to him and said “I want to buy you a house!”
As I already shared about my personal experience, I felt like there were holes in my pockets when I was tithing, but finally the “windows of heaven” opened when I stopped! Yes, some tithers have testimonies of provision. However, for every prosperity story there are also stories of people going broke and not paying bills or not eating so they can tithe. Others have lost their apartments or had their utilities shut off yet they were tithing. There are stories of people getting so sick of everything and frustrated that they want nothing to do with God.
People usually only share those stories if they feel it’s safe, or if they already have rejected the faith and aren’t looking for acceptance from religious people. I heard very few such stories until I myself started sharing that I questioned if tithing was God’s standard for Christians. When I shared my story, other people began to share their stories with me.
2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.”
I’m not about to doubt incredible stories of miraculous provision just because they are so supernatural or wild. I’m thinking of three people right now who have literally had angels bring them cash, and I have no doubt as to the veracity of their stories. But when somebody is using a story in order to collect money manipulatively, I often wonder if the story is made up. We shouldn’t discount this possibility, since scripture tells us that some people will make up stories to exploit people.
These peoples’ teachings are bringing the way of truth into disrepute. They introduced them “secretly,” which means the teachings sounded good and the error came in a subtle way. Consider this for yourself: what might the “destructive heresies” be of these greedy teachers that Peter referred to?
A quick Google search on giving statistics gave me multiple results that said the same thing. The lower a person’s income is, the more likely they are to give more than 10% of their income. It’s easy to cherry-pick a few stories, but tithing does not make people rich.
“The 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey shows that households with incomes below $20,000 gave 4.6% to charity, higher than any other income group.”
Many rich people are actually tightwads, which is why scripture encourages them to also be rich in good deeds. Of course, there are also some rich people who are extremely generous and give away large portions of their incomes.
Poorer people, in general, give a larger portion of their incomes than many richer people do, and are more likely to be tithers. This fact throws a big wrench in the “gain is godliness” mentality that poor people must be poor because they fail to give generously.
You may have heard statistics such as the one saying that tithers are much less likely to be overdue on credit card payments. However, correlation does not equal cause. I think it’s more likely that people who are overdue on credit card payments are less likely to keep tithing, rather than tithing being the reason they are less likely to be overdue on credit card payments! That’s just common sense.
I was recently listening to a famous “grace preacher” who still teaches tithing, relying heavily on stories of rich people who tithed to make the case that tithing is still for today. He says it’s “not the law” but that it’s a “principle” and a secret to wealth. He mentioned figures like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison who tithed and became extremely rich.
I thought it strange that he would use people like Ford and Edison as role models, as if the end goal of our faith was becoming rich. Ford promoted anti-Semitism, having an influence on the development of Nazism. He wrote a four-volume work entitled “The International Jew, the World’s Foremost Problem,” which Hitler read and which converted the leader of the Hitler Youth to anti-Semitism. Heinrich Himmler called Ford “one of our most valuable, important, and witty fighters,” and he was the only American mentioned favorably in Mein Kampf. Hitler said he regarded Ford as “my inspiration.”
Edison was a deist who thought it doubtful that the soul lived on after death. He reportedly backed out of paying Tesla $50,000. The people this preacher held up as examples of “rich tithers” were not the best role models. We need to be very careful to not get caught up in the mentality that “gain is godliness.”
1 Timothy 6:3-11, 17-19 “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness…
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
If Edison, Ford, or any of the other “rich tithers” this preacher referred to never ended up taking hold of the life that is truly life, what’s the point of saying “they tithed and became rich?” This is just an example of a serious problem with the tithe theology of many preachers who claim to tithing by grace. When you listen to their teaching, the mindset that “gain is godliness” insidiously creeps in. Because this mindset slips in subtly, many Christians who would say “Oh no, I don’t believe that gain is godliness” are actually manifesting that very belief in many of their words and actions. This is especially attached to the teaching that faithful tithing brings prosperity.
I have no problem with Christians becoming rich. I’m in favor of it, especially as God gives us seed to sow in order to bring about a harvest of righteousness. Bertie Brits points out that where it says “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” the word “gain” is the same as is often used of financial gain. I’m all for Christians prospering out of a place of contentment and seeking first God’s kingdom. However, becoming financially wealthy is not the end goal of our faith and neither is it the measuring stick for our faith! Our goal is love that springs from a pure conscience and sincere faith. Scripture is clear that there are poor who are rich in faith, and there are rich people who are spiritually impoverished.
James 2:1-9 “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
Revelation 3:17 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
James’s writings, as well as some of Jesus’s parables, flew in the face of the Jewish mentality that “gain is godliness.” Many of the Jews of that day thought as if the poor were cursed by God, but riches showed God’s blessing. This mindset has crept in to the tithe teaching of even grace preachers. What does it matter if spiritually impoverished people like Henry Ford tithed?
So many unscrupulous people have been honored by the church as if they were role models for having financial success. As I shared, we ourselves were victims of fraud in a business sale by a company whose owner thought her success was due to her tithe, and that we must not be paying a tithe because we were facing financial difficulty. Other cases have come to light of people actually stealing and believing they were blessed by God because of their tithes.
When I found myself in financial difficulty and stopped tithing so I could pay my debts, close friends acted as if I was backsliding. Yet I was seeing people healed and in tears every week as the Holy Spirit touched them. I highly doubt there was another person in my congregation who saw so many people in tears as I did when I prayed and God touched them. Boy could I relate to Paul!
2 Corinthians 6:8, 10 (NRSV) “We are treated … as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
The one who is genuinely rich knows how to rejoice and continually give God’s life to others whether they are abased or abounding at the moment. The apostle Paul was rich, and he knew it. Yet he was often abased.
1 Corinthians 4:11 (NRSV) “To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless.”
2 Corinthians 11:29 (NRSV) “…in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”
I often wonder why some Christians disregard the fact that Paul at times lacked food and clothing. Was it because of his insufficient faith or failure to tithe faithfully? Would you have asked him if he was tithing or sowing enough? All too often, that’s the solution that the church presents to people in need!
A friend who was once a Satanist remarked that when he first read the Jewish law in the Old Testament, he was surprised at how close it seemed to the magic practices he had learned. They even sacrificed animals!
I was talking about Macumba (a Brazilian form of witchcraft) with my wife. She remarked about how closely “Macumbeiros” adhere to the Old Testament in the Bible. Several other forms of witchcraft also use the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is full of wonderful teaching and promises, and it points to Jesus. Yet the Old Covenant and the Jewish law were fulfilled in Christ. Animal sacrifices, the temple, and many other things were shadows of Christ. The book of Hebrews is clear that these were imperfect and could never actually deal with sin. Jesus is the only perfect atonement.
Hebrews 10:1 (NRSV) “Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.”
When we take practices and spiritual principles from the Old Covenant and separate them from the Christ they pointed to, we fall into connecting with ungodly spirits. Can anybody offer an animal sacrifice for sin today as they did in the Old Covenant without being guilty of witchcraft? Any trust we put in that old system is misplaced and obscures our revelation of Jesus, who is the only way of perfect redemption.
In fact, Paul said to the Galatians who were relying on the law “Who has bewitched you?” Now that Jesus has come, those who continue to sacrifice animals are no longer sacrificing them to God, but to demons. Are you still not convinced? Look at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians, related to his debate with the Judaizers. Those who relied on circumcision and the law were “receiving a spirit” that wasn’t from God!
2 Corinthians 11:4 “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
Colossians warns about being taking captive according to the “elemental spirits of the universe” or “basic principles of this world”and not according to Christ. It’s interesting that some Bible scholars interpret this phrase as speaking of the Old Covenant law. Why? Because the Old Covenant law, like various spiritualistic and New-Age practices, operated according to the basic principles of this world. It was far inferior to Christ. When we read the Old Covenant law, we must look at the more perfect realities which it points to, found in Christ.
We’ve already considered how the tithe pointed to Christ. Let’s further consider similarities between witchcraft and how many Christians attempt to relate to God with their tithes.
When a Santeria priest slaughters a chicken and pours its blood on somebody, it’s an affront to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. When Christians try by some other means to attain that which was provided for in Jesus’s sacrifice, they do no better than sacrificing a chicken and pouring out its blood.
Do supernatural things happen by sacrificing chickens? Sometimes. We’ve heard of healings happening by such practices, and I don’t doubt it. Yet these practices eventually lead to greater bondage and bring the practitioner under the influence of a curse. They are anti-Christ in that they obscure the revelation of Christ by causing people to misplace their trust.
In the same way, relying on the works of the law brings a curse. Jesus bought forgiveness, deliverance, supernatural healing, freedom, peace, and wholeness through his blood. He is the only way. When we try to attain these things through other means, we subject ourselves to the curse of the law.
Galatians 3:10 (NRSV) “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.’”
How many times have I heard suggested that people might be able to attain their healing, freedom, salvation of a loved one, or something else by “sowing a seed,” or “tithing?” I often wonder if this is really so much different than giving money to a witch doctor so he can slaughter a chicken and pour its blood over your head.
I recently heard a pastor in Brazil teaching that we must “sacrifice” so that God’s presence comes and fills the temple. (He was referring to the church building.) His teaching isn’t much better than that of the Spiritists, practitioners of Reiki, or shamans. Why? Like all of these, his teaching obscures the truth and thus is in opposition to the gospel. The truth is that our bodies are God’s temple and they can be filled with the presence of God because of the sacrifice of Jesus. God doesn’t live in temples made by human hands, but he lives in us.
Most of us have never sacrificed a chicken. However, many of us have heard subtle suggestions in church that we can relate to God through some way other than Jesus. They come in the form of insinuating we must do something more to continue in our salvation and in God’s blessing than what we did to first receive salvation. If we aren’t approaching God through Jesus but are trying to access him in some other way, is what we’re doing much different than slaughtering a chicken?
After all, people can get results by receiving “another spirit” and operating according to the “basic principles of this world.” I’m no stranger to the supernatural. We’ve heard reports of people levitating, shape-shifting, and performing wild feats through witchcraft. I have no reason to doubt those reports. I’ve seen a spirit manifest as blue and red light in the air as a practitioner summoned it. However, I don’t care if some ritual results in “miracles” or supernatural signs if they are not pointing people to Jesus! I’m totally unimpressed. If it obscures the work and person of Christ, it brings a curse! Lying signs and wonders are those which lead people away from relating to God through Christ.
I live in Brazil, and I have encountered plenty of people who worship idols. I came across a slaughtered chicken as well as various sacrifices to idols on the street corners near our house in Rio. People would offer food, alcohol, cigarettes, perfume, cash, and all kinds of other things to various deities.
Several very wealthy and famous people in Brazil made pacts with these entities, giving them expensive gifts. It would be very easy to point to them and say “It worked!” But I don’t care if it worked if it’s not Jesus! In the end it’s a curse!
Large groups of people dressed in white go to the beach at certain times to send out their offerings to the sea goddess, Iemanjá. They send boats out on the sea with thousands of dollars in perfumes, soaps, money, and other gifts.
The famous Brazilian billionaire, Eike Batista, was once the seventh richest man in the world. Two seers advised him to make peace with the sea goddess and give an offering because he had to return something in thanksgiving for all he had taken from the sea. (Oil) He sent out a boat with an offering of flowers, imported perfumes, expensive champagnes, and 700 gold coins. Each coin was worth about R$1,000, or several hundred dollars. The seer prophesied that he would return to being the richest man in Brazil again in a matter of months.
Eike believed that the “gods” had helped him before in return for his devotion, and he thought his gift to Iemanjá would regain the billions he had lost in the recession. Instead, he soon went to jail on corruption charges.
Spiritism and idolatry are widespread in Brazil. Many evangelical Christians have a background in spiritism and some who attend evangelical churches continue to sacrifice to African entities in secret. Many Catholics also mix their religion with African religions. I’ve prayed for and ministered healing to Catholics, Protestants, Spiritists and “Macumbeiros.” I have often recognized the strongholds in people’s thinking as I’ve talked to them about Christ.
I’ve frequently heard Evangelical Christians respond in the same way that I would expect from a Spiritist or a Macumbeiro. Although they have rejected idolatry, they continue to relate to God as they did to an entity like Iemanjá. In fact, one lady wanted to give me a gift after I ministered healing to her. I felt very uncomfortable and didn’t want to receive it because it felt like she was making a connection between the gift and receiving healing. I told her the story of Namaan’s healing and how Elisha was not supposed to receive a gift from him.
These strongholds in people’s thinking make it difficult for them to rest in the work Jesus has accomplished for our salvation. We mention spiritual gifts or other blessings and people respond with, “I hope that one day I might be good enough to receive that.” Or when Jesus heals someone, they say “They deserved it.”
I visited a hospital in Brazil and people were being healed. It was wonderful. A lady began crying as she saw the miracles, and then evil spirits started to leave a young man who was there. A big guy was watching. He took me aside and talked to me. The guy who was being delivered from evil spirits went to his church, which was in a poor slum called a favela. He said they wanted healing and deliverance in his church, and asked me how much I would charge to come and bring it!
My whole heart yearned to go and share the gospel with these people and watch them be healed one after another. I would have gone at my own expense. It broke my heart to see that these people wanted healing and deliverance, but they were worried whether they could afford it! It’s terrible for any person to be afraid they cannot afford Jesus! I’m happy to receive what people freely give me to preach the gospel. However, how could I ever put a dollar amount on bringing people what Jesus already paid such a high price for them to have?
Consider this: I’m sharing the gospel with someone who worships Iemanjá and just sent a boat of money and perfume to her on the sea in thanksgiving to gain her blessing. Will I now teach this person “Give God a tithe in thanksgiving for what you’ve received, and in return he will bless you?” To do so would be to misrepresent Almighty God’s nature as if he were like their idols. And how do you think I feel about sending a person to a church that teaches that? I am trying to help bring them out of the mindset of idolatry and teach them to relate to God through Jesus, not through their gifts!
Maybe you can understand, in some measure, my struggle over sending people to a church when I shared the gospel with them. I did find a small Baptist church in which the pastor never mentioned a tithe and only asked people to give “as you are able and as you are willing,” which is what 2 Corinthians teaches. Although the congregation had little understanding of things like healing, they were open. They had sincere love for people. The message of how we relate to God stood in great contrast to the mindset of the Macumbeiros.
In summary, the idea that “tithing works” to resolve anybody’s financial troubles is highly questionable. But even if it does work, I don’t care! Witchcraft “works” too, to accomplish certain things, but it brings a curse in the end. I don’t want something that “works” if it is relating to God by any way other than through Christ.
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 121
 Brits, Bertie Healing For The Financially Abused (Tithing Will Kill You) starting 1 hour, 21 minutes, and 56 seconds into the video. Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcyYnrQp7YA&t=4651s
 Online: https://www.financialsamurai.com/the-average-percent-of-income-donated-to-charity/ Accessed November 19th, 2019
 Online https://pushpay.com/blog/church-giving-statistics/ Accessed November 19th, 2019
 Online: https://listverse.com/2012/06/07/10-ways-edison-treated-tesla-like-a-jerk/ Accessed December 2nd, 2019
 Brits, Bertie. Jesus Is the Tithe: the Message of God. South Africa: Bertie Brits, 2019. Kindle Locations 1595-1603
 1 Timothy 1:5
 Philippians 4:12
 Colossians 3:1
 Colossians 2:20