Assigning new meanings or double meanings to common words, and then charging these buzz words and phrases with emotion, was a common propaganda technique used by communists and Nazis to manipulate people’s thinking. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, said “If you tell a lie big enough and continue to repeat it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
A more recent example of this propaganda technique is cloaking abortion in nice but deceptive words like “woman’s rights” and “healthcare.” Then they make out people who oppose abortion to be anti-woman’s rights and anti-healthcare! On the other hand, they would never use a term like “killing a baby.” Something like “terminating the fetus” sounds so much better!
Similarly, several buzz words and phrases have developed around tithing. I doubt that people planned this intentionally; nevertheless, Christians often put very little thought into how they use these phrases or words. These buzz words and phrases have often been used to demonize anybody who questions the tithe doctrine, accusing them of being “against giving,” “a traitor to God’s kingdom,” a “God robber,” or something similar, rather than honestly examining the facts. On the other hand, language is used to cloak the fact that demanding a tithe is using compulsion to get people to give, charging a “kingdom of heaven tax,” and putting a price tag on God’s blessings.
One example is applying the word “obedience” to the tithe. The word is so widely accepted in spite of the fact that God never commanded tithing as practiced today, not even to those under the old covenant! God did not command Abraham to do it and the tithing statutes of the Old Covenant differed vastly from the modern tithe tradition. The church has also charged many of its tithe “buzz words” with emotion, as in calling non-tithers “God-robbers” or “crooks.”
Some people’s entire argument for tithing seems to revolve around the word “honor.” Yet, as we have seen, the modern tithe tradition dishonors the poor in the body of Christ by demanding a tithe from those who would not have brought the Jewish tithe, or even would have received part of it. By extension, it dishonors Christ himself, for he said “Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers, you do for me.” It dishonors Jesus’s sacrifice and the price he paid for us when it teaches that the blessing or curse hinges on tithes and that tithing can open the heavens or deliver us from the curse of Adam’s sin. Teaching tithing as a command for us today dishonors the Spirit of Truth because it is based on one falsehood after another.
Yes, tithing was a way of showing honor in the ancient cultures, just as sacrificing animals was a way of honoring God. Yet tithing is no more a way of honoring God today than animal sacrifices are! Most of Malachi chapter 1 is a rebuke for not honoring God with their animal sacrifices, yet we don’t try to argue for sacrificing animals now, saying it is “honor.” To sacrifice an animal today is to dishonor Christ! God revealed that it was never sacrifices and offerings that he desired, and he had no pleasure in them. Similarly, what God wants from us is not a percentage but is our hearts! Free-will giving that is an outflow of God’s love from our hearts honors him. As soon as it’s about a magic percentage, we’ve missed it.
Another error is equating tithing with giving. I remember talking to a pastor and trying to explain that rejecting the tithe teaching does not equate to rejecting giving. He told me most emphatically “tithing is giving!” I was dumbfounded in that I didn’t seem to be able to get him to understand that a person could give without tithing, and even give generously without tithing.
Spirit-led giving is neither motivated by fear of a curse nor by desire for selfish gain, and it cannot be defined by a percentage. Spirit-led giving is motivated and defined by love. Nobody calls paying taxes “giving,” and nobody calls a farmer sowing his field to reap a harvest “giving.” Giving money to a powerful person to get them to use their power on your behalf is usually called bribery or buttering them up! Anything not given as an expression of love with the benefit of the receiver being the greatest reward is not Spirit-led giving.
Equating tithing with giving is especially ironic when we consider the oft-repeated teaching that “Giving only starts after you pay your tithe.” Most of us in Charismatic circles have heard it taught that your “offerings” are only what you give over and above the tithe, because the tithe isn’t really giving but obedience, paying God his due. I just heard a sermon saying your giving is worth nothing if you don’t pay a tithe first. Yet then if anybody questions tithing, they are accused of being against giving. The definitions suddenly change.
I know some people who are giving far more than most tithers do, yet do not believe in tithes. Dr. Kelly had accusations hurled at him as being stingy for teaching that tithing isn’t biblical, and he responded “I probably give more than most tithers. I’m just honest enough not to call it a tithe.”
Let’s get our definitions straight. If you owe or are obligated to pay something, it is paying, not giving. If tithing is obligatory and defined by a percentage, it is a tax. Giving is only truly giving when it is free-will. Consider C.H. Spurgeon’s thoughts on the matter:
”It is also noteworthy that, with regard to Christian liberality, there are no rules laid down in the Word of God. I remember hearing somebody say, ‘I should like to know exactly what I ought to give.’ Yes, dear Friend, no doubt you would; but you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving, and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality”.
“The idea of our being priests, or Levites, in order to get compulsory tithes, would be too abhorrent to be entertained for a moment.”
We have already made the case that the tithe is law. Yet scripture speaks of giving as grace. Could it be that the law of tithing distances people from walking in the grace of giving? I believe so! I believe that, as Spurgeon said, tithing has destroyed the beauty of spontaneous giving.
Bertie Brits shared that tithing and “give-to-get” teachings destroyed the joy of giving for him. My experience, and that of others, is the same. Yet we have to come out of that place of hurt in order to begin giving freely from a place of fellowship with the Father. I loved the gentle way that Bertie encouraged people to come out of a place where hurt defines them, without laying any obligation or pressure whatsoever on anyone to give.
Matthew 17:24-2 “After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’’’
“Yes, he does,’ he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?’ ‘From others,’ Peter answered.
‘Then the children are exempt,’ Jesus said to him. ‘But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.’”
Jesus made it clear that there is no “kingdom-of-heaven tax.” Today’s tithe often has more to do with the temple tax of Jesus’s day than it does with the Mosaic tithe law, as the Mosaic tithe was always food for people and was never money designated for the construction or maintenance of a building.
In his book, “Jesus Is the Tithe,” Bertie Brits appeals to family logic as a framework for understanding the New Covenant. It is notable that Jesus used family logic in Matthew 17. Children don’t owe a tax to their father! Jesus taught a broad principle: that God is not collecting duty or taxes from his own children!
Slaves owe and subjects owe. Scripture says that those who are under the law are in slavery like Hagar, but God has not given us the spirit of slavery but of sonship which cries “Abba, Father!” Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends.” No matter how much you try to dress a tithe up as grace, it does not reflect the family logic of the New Covenant. It misrepresents how God is relating to us!
One of the preachers I most highly respect, who has been making a tremendous positive impact on Christian churches in the US and around the world, calls the tithe our “rent” for living on God’s land. As much as I appreciate this man, I couldn’t disagree with him more about tithes! Notice how contrary his statement is to the logic Jesus used talking about sons’ relation to the Father in Matthew 17. And can you imagine a wife paying her husband rent?
Family logic doesn’t say “You owe the Father 10%.” Neither does it say “You owe the Father everything.” Rather, the Father in Jesus’s parable said “All that I have is yours.” In the husband and wife relationship, which scripture also uses as representative of Christ and the church, the wife does not owe the husband. The principle is “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.” 
Everything I have belongs to Jesus. Jesus himself said “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” But also, all he has is mine! If the Father did not withhold his only Son, but gave him up for me, he will also with him freely give me all things!
In the story of Ananias and Sapphira, Peter said to Ananias “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” Another version says “You could have used the money as you wished.” Did anybody notice that Peter didn’t say “All but the tithe belonged to you, and you could have used 9/10ths any way you wished after removing the tithe.”
God our Father didn’t give his one and only Son for us because he owed, but because he loved! Likewise, if we are to give from a New Covenant position of having been joined to the Lord in spirit, we must give as God gives, not out of indebtedness but out of love. My debt has been paid! Jesus’s reward for giving his life was the joy set before him, which was our salvation! If we are to give out of communion with the Spirit of Christ, the reward we reap will be the joy of blessing and helping people.
All I have is at my Heavenly Father’s disposal for the sake of his Kingdom, but also all that He has is mine! 100% is holy, not ten percent. Neither does 10% sanctify the rest. We would only need a tithe to sanctify or redeem anything if Jesus’s work wasn’t enough to do so!
John Wesley’s sermon “On the Use of Money,” gives us insight into what it looks like to give all of our money to God:
“Do not stint yourself, like a Jew rather than a Christian, to this or that proportion. Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s, be it more or less.”
Wesley taught that Christians should first use their money to meet their own needs, then the needs of their families, then the needs of the household of faith (poor Christians), and then the needs of the world. Note how his teaching is in line with the Biblical emphasis on caring for your family first, which contradicts the teaching that “your tithe comes first.”
This is what I like about Wesley’s view: he taught that the money you spend on your own needs and your family’s needs is just as holy as the money you spend on the needs of the household of faith or the world. 100% is holy. 100% is God’s.
How did Wesley practice that? He emphasized living frugally so as to be able to give, as well as “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” His words remind me of the scriptural exhortation to work hard with our hands so as to have something to share with those in need.
Wesley’s support has been claimed by both advocates and opponents of tithing. However, his practice shows how his beliefs differed from a tithe standard. As he preached, he lived frugally and cared first for the needs of himself and of his family. He figured that he needed 28 pounds to live on, and gave the rest away, which was two pounds. As his income increased, his giving increased but his standard of living stayed the same, until he was giving away about 98% of his income and living on about 2%.
Note that Wesley began giving at about 7%, less than a tithe, yet according to his own teaching all was holy including the 93% he lived on. Apparently, God blessed him despite his failure to tithe! His income grew rapidly. When he was giving away 98% of his money, the 2% he lived on continued to be as holy as the rest.
Those who only give after first paying for their necessities and their families should never feel guilty as if they aren’t giving enough. The money spent on their own needs is just as holy as the rest. We seek to work hard so as to have something to share with those in need, to use our money wisely, and to advance Christ’s kingdom in every way possible. We know we will all give an account of ourselves to God.
When Wesley said “save all you can,” he wasn’t talking about putting money in a bank but refraining from spending on anything unnecessary. He didn’t seem to have any place in his mindset for saving, investment, or leaving an inheritance. I don’t fully agree with Wesley’s view here, and I imagine that few of you do either. There is a Biblical place for saving, investment, and leaving an inheritance to your children. For example, Proverbs says “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” Joseph saved grain and prepared for a famine because of the wisdom and revelation God gave him. There is even a place for vacations, as Graeme Carlé pointed out in his book that the tithe was similar to a vacation and shows us the importance of rest.
I like Wesley’s emphasis on 100% of our money being holy, including what we spend on our family’s needs being as holy as what we give to others. However, I think we must add to his paradigm a place for saving, investment, and leisure. In all this, the emphasis is on loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, seeking to use our money in the best way possible as we walk in close fellowship with the Lord, our hearts moved by what moves his heart. There is a big an emphasis on caring for the poor as there was in scripture and as Wesley also demonstrated in his giving practices.
This paradigm will not always result in giving as much as a tenth to others, since many Christians in the world today barely have their basic needs met and paying for one’s own basic needs and caring for one’s own family comes before giving to other causes. But living by this paradigm will also lead many people to give away far more than a tithe, some over 90% of their income. It will also usually result in a higher emphasis on giving to the poor and to missions.
One of my Facebook friends, Michael Van Vlymen, wrote a book called Supernatural Provision. Michael has many amazing testimonies of giving bountifully as lead by the Holy Spirit and receiving miracles of supernatural provision, even angels literally putting physical money in his hand and literal multiplication of money. He teaches readers how to ask the Holy Spirit for seed to sow in order to meet needs. I like Michael’s book because it teaches about how to exercise faith in giving and finances without the legalism or ulterior motives.
Michael believes strongly that we are responsible for where we give. He believes many Christians are not walking in abundance because they give not as led by God or scripture, or even an “inner witness” that it’s the right thing to do, but because “this is what I know, and this is the way we have always done it.” He emphasizes hearing God’s voice about where to give rather than following human traditions like tithing or giving in response to pressure. Giving in response to pressure is poor stewardship. He often gives to individuals who have needs as the Lord leads him, such as to a single mother. Calling the tithe a “rule of men,” Michael points out:
“It is hard for people to go against tradition. For most, it would be easier to go against the Word of God.”
As we’ve seen, a study of scripture makes it clear that our modern tithe is based on human tradition and not even on the Mosaic tithe. The Church has broken many of God’s commands for the sake of this tradition. Michael continues:
Is God more impressed if we send that $100.00 to the guy on TV with the nice clothes and big organization than He would be if we gave the money to one of our kids who wants to make sandwiches for homeless people? Would that money given to our kids even count with God?
Michael also believes that we are not under obligation to give 10%, but everything we have belongs to God. He points out that sometimes we miss God’s best purposes for our money by giving just because it was “time to give,” but without hearing the Lord.
One of the main things I gleaned from Michael’s book is that it’s not OK to give without thought of what the Master’s money yields, or shift the responsibility for it onto someone else. That would be like the wicked and lazy servant in Jesus’s parable of the talents.
In contrast to Michael’s teaching on being good stewards and Spirit-led as we give, a proponent of tithing repeats what I have heard so often, writing about his struggle over how a particular pastor was using tithes:
“But as I wrestled with that, God showed me that when I give to the church, I am giving to God. Not to man. So, it doesn’t matter if he is stealing from the Church. It doesn’t matter if he is using the funds wisely. That is between him and God, but my job is to give and give in faith to God.”
The tithe as most Charismatics teach it gives leaders control of what people give to, even though nobody who is teaching tithing today designates the money according to the instructions the Old Testament gave for tithes. We can’t just take one part of scripture, say it applies, but not accept the whole package. If you believe we must tithe according to Malachi, you must follow the biblical instructions for the tithe Malachi refers to. The notion that we are to give to a leader who decides where the money goes instead of giving directly is wholly unscriptural, bad stewardship, and based on erroneous ecclesiology.
God has given individual Christians responsibility for how they use their money to bring a return for his kingdom, and we will individually give account to God for our stewardship. The modern tithe tradition supplants giving as truly led by the Holy Spirit. Instead of giving as their hearts, in communion with the Holy Spirit, move them, many people hand over the tithe and say, “I did my part. I’m not responsible for what happens from here on with the money.”
This is seen in the contrast between current giving trends and the scriptural (and early church) emphasis of where to give. As we have noted before, by far the most emphasis of Biblical texts on giving is helping the poor. The Mosaic tithe also helped the poor. The second area of emphasis in the New Testament is supporting apostolic ministry, or missions which are taking the gospel to the unreached. However, many who teach tithing make it very clear that helping the poor or supporting missions can only come after your tithe.
Although it’s hard to find statistics on how much of church giving goes to help the poor, Empty Tomb Incorporated concluded that 85% goes to internal operations, and 15% goes to outreach. I was unable to find how much of that 15% goes to the poor, but I don’t think it’s very much!
How much goes to missions? In 1920, the percentage of giving to missions from the total offering was 10.09 percent, just over a dime out of every dollar. In 2003, conservative and evangelical denominations gave 2.6 percent (about three cents per dollar), with the liberals giving only 0.9 percent (one cent). The combined average for overseas work is about two pennies per dollar.
Consider the amount of money that goes towards reaching people who have never heard the gospel? According to 2001 statistics from thetravellingteam.org, in 2001 only 1% of giving to “Missions” went to unreached people. One writer concluded, “For every $100,000 that Christians make, they give $1 to the unreached.” (If you’d like to get involved in giving towards reaching people who’ve never heard the gospel, two organizations you might consider are globalfronteirmissions.org and pioneers.org.)
Note that although emphasis on tithing has increased in churches in the decades since 1920, the percentage of church’s giving to missions has drastically decreased. With increased emphasis on tithing, today’s churches are now giving only about a fifth, percentage-wise, of what churches gave to missions in the 1920s! It might even be argued that giving itself has decreased with increased emphasis on the tithe. The average Christian is giving 2.5 percent of his income today. During the Great Depression it was 3.3%. (Which is consistent with the amount that would have gone to the Levites and the poor under Mosaic law according to the single tithe view.)
Increased emphasis on tithing has not made people more generous. The extremely small amount of money churches receive that goes to helping the poor and bringing the gospel to those who’ve never heard it is surely inconsistent with the emphasis of scripture. Scripture’s strongest point of emphasis is giving to the poor, and the second strongest is giving to apostolic missions which bring the gospel to the unreached.
Mike Holmes wrote an article in Relevant Magazine about what would happen if all Christians tithed. He points out that it would make $165 billion available which could be used in the following way:
- $25 billion could relieve global hunger and eliminate deaths from preventable diseases within five years
- $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues—specifically in places where a majority of people live on less than $1 a day
- $12 billion could end illiteracy
- $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work
- $100–$110 billion would be left over for additional ministry expansion
While these figures sound nice, the history of how churches have used tithe money until now casts serious doubts on the notion that the money would ever be used this way if all Christians started tithing. While some who believe in tithing do teach that Christians decide where to give their tithe, many (and it seems most Charismatic churches) teach that the tithe goes to the local church and only after paying the tithe can you give to other causes.
We already reviewed how teaching a tithe breaks the scriptural command that Christians do not give under compulsion. Also, when churches insist on keeping track of tithes and showing favor accordingly, it breaks the command that giving ought not to be done in order to be seen. Neither of these motivations are godly. Giving as motivated by fear of a curse is not a godly motivation either. Some who claim to teach tithing by grace say the curse doesn’t apply but the blessing does, and present tithing as the path to financial increase. “Give to get,” or giving with selfish motives, is also not a healthy motivation. If we are giving with any of these motivations, we are not being led by the Holy Spirit in our giving.
Baptist missionary J. Guy Muse wrote an article sharing many stories of seeing the Lord’s hand in provision and finances. He noted that money which was given out of routine or obligation, such as tithe money, never seemed to stretch any further than it normally would. Yet he has seen Spirit-led giving multiplied again and again, having a huge impact regardless of the amount, such as $200 gifts that accomplished more than $2,000 normally could have, supernatural multiplication of food, small amounts of money somehow covering all a missionary’s needs, and a $1,500 dollar evangelism investment that enabled them to reach 3 million people, at a cost of 1/20th of a cent per evangelistic contact. He says:
“Remodeling and upgrading the church office will probably cost dollar for dollar what it would cost anywhere else in town. But, say I have only $50 for Bibles for new believers when $500 is what is needed in order for there to be one Bible per family. $50 Kingdom Dollars is enough to buy $500 of the needed Bibles. Believe me!”
Some say “We tithe out of a joyful heart, not under compulsion.” Yet they are afraid that giving would drastically drop if they let go of the 10% figure. If giving would drop, it just goes to show the extent that people were already giving out of compulsion instead of from a place of communion with the Holy Spirit. The very admission of this fear shows that the leader already knows the people are giving under compulsion. When we use compulsion to try to get people to give, we rob them of the joy of being led by the Holy Spirit in their giving.
To the extent that people are being compelled to give by what other people think, “give to get,” fear of a curse, or anything but love, they are not being led by the Holy Spirit in their giving. People who are used to responding to pressure often don’t respond when there is no pressure. I’ve seen “giving burnout.”
I spoke at one church that was over four hours away from home and the offering was something like $32.00, not enough for gas money and tolls. I don’t say this begrudgingly at all, not even a hint, as I share Paul’s sentiment “We want not what is yours, but you.” I would have gladly paid my own way and received nothing but the privilege of sharing in the Holy Spirit’s work and seeing him touch people. I treasure the memory of what God did in that congregation. But my impression was that the people were so “burnt out” on high-pressure offerings that they didn’t know how to respond without pressure.
Of course, I’m so thankful when people do give. It helps not only to pay travel expenses but to dedicate more time to edifying the body of Christ. Sometimes financial gifts have really helped me. Whether I receive a large offering or none, I rejoice. I get my thrills from feeling God’s love move through me and seeing how the Holy Spirit touches people. I treasure the memories of what God does in every place!
Of my friends who do not believe a tithe is the standard for Christians, many are the quickest to offer hospitality or help a homeless person or single mother. Some Christians will not even respond to a situation where there’s nothing in it for them. Rejecting tithing as a standard does not amount to being a tightwad. Some people who share my view are giving away up to 90% or more of their incomes. Others, who may not be giving 10% of their income to a church, regularly give much more to help the poor or to missions. If you give even a dollar a month supporting missions among the unreached, you are giving a lot more to that high-priority cause than the average Christian does!
My wife and I turned our wedding into a time to pray for people and minister healing. We extended an open invitation to the wedding; anyone who wanted to come was welcome. There were people lying on the floor, and one guy was baptized in the Holy Spirit. We also asked for prayer as I was about to move as a missionary to Brazil.
At the wedding were several friends who believed tithing was Old-Covenant only, and other friends who believed tithing is for today. Every single wedding gift from someone in the former group was twice the amount of the other gifts! There was only one exception…a friend who believed in tithing and gave a very generous gift, more than anybody else.
Of course, I was happy to have people there who gave no gift. But this experience was a great illustration of how those who question a mandatory tithing paradigm are often more generous in unseen ways, when there’s nothing in it for themselves, and something might not be considered the most “spiritual” thing to give to.
I read a book by Glenn Schwartz called When Charity Destroys Dignity. Glen has extensive experience in foreign missions and made many great points in this excellent book. However, when I got to the part about tithing, I was left scratching my head.
“I quote here from Emmanuel Olidapo who at one time served as International Secretary of Scripture Union. He has this to say about generosity in Africa: ‘It isn’t that African people don’t know how to give. There are hardly more generous people on earth. They give for festivals and many other special occasions. They give to relatives needing education or to unemployed or orphaned people in their community. However, many simply don’t give generously to the church.’”
Contrary to the common assumption that people who don’t practice or believe in tithing are stingy, Schwartz praises the African people’s generosity. He laments that in spite of their rich generosity, it is so hard to get them to tithe. He continues:
“Dr David Barrett is a missiologist and researcher who provides information for the Christian movement. He has made the statement that if Christians in Africa give just 2% of their income they would be able to pay all of their bills. He says that would be able to support their leadership training, pay their pastors, build their own church building, fund their development projects, and buy computers if they want them — all on 2% of the income of Christians in Africa!”
“From time to time I try to check this out. Some time ago I asked a church leader in East Africa whether he agreed with Dr. Barrett’s observation. His response was as follows: ‘It’s interesting that you say that. We recently calculated that if the members of our church gave only one percent of their income we could pay all the bills at our church.’ “
“Imagine what would happen in a church like that if the members gave ten percent! They would have far more than they needed for local ministry. In fact, if they gave that much, they could give to missions and send their own people elsewhere with the Gospel.”
Schwartz continued, saying that if all African Christians tithed, the church would have so much money they wouldn’t know what to do with it all! And I thought, “Why do they need to tithe so their churches have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it all? Why not let them continue to be the ‘most generous people on earth,’ and be led by the Spirit as they continue to help the needy among them?”
I also wonder why Schwartz didn’t consider that in Deuteronomy 14 the people ate their tithe in a festival and gave it directly to the poor on the third year, and the early church spent their collections on love feasts shared with the poor. He just finished talking about how the Africans gave to festivals and gave generously directly to the poor. Considering that the heaviest emphasis in scripture is on giving to the poor, it seems like these Africans were already engaging in Spirit-led giving!
As YWAM church planting coach Brian Hogan taught us, these missionaries were trying to impose the “heavy package” of our way of doing church on the Africans instead of the “light package” of the bare Biblical basics of what church is. That included a high-overhead mode of operation. Even so, 1 or 2 percent of the Africans’ income was enough to pay for everything, even if they retained trained and salaried pastors!
Schwartz’s experience in Africa was a few decades ago. His conclusions on what would happen if the people tithed have been proven wrong, as have been the hypotheses of many others who’ve speculated what we would accomplish if everyone tithed. As we’ve seen, certain churches in Africa put extreme emphasis on mandatory tithing. Rather than great amounts of money going to the poor and to missions, influential pastors have become rich with the tithes.
I suspect this emphasis has done great harm to the willingness to help a brother in need which is built into some of their cultures. We forsake Spirit-led giving to the extent that we embrace compulsion. The mandatory tithing doctrine has hurt Africans’ propensity towards Spirit-led generosity. One African brother commented to me that many do tithe but will do nothing to help someone in need. Another lamented seeing tithers fail to care for aging parents. These descriptions of many tithing African churchgoers contrast with Emmanuel Olidapo’s description of the “most generous people on earth.”
Acts 20:33-35 “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Paul quoted Jesus’s words “It is more blessed to give than to receive” in the context of working hard in ministry at his own expense, and setting an example of thus helping the weak! He was exhorting a group of local church leaders. On the contrary, we most often hear this verse quoted today in the context of the speaker receiving and the ones he is speaking to giving!
I can so relate to the passionate love that Paul had for the churches, expressed in his words “I will most gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” Scripture qualifies money spent and energy expended in ministry as an expression of Jesus’s heart, who became poor so that we might become rich. Are we now willing to give all and become poor so that others might become rich?
2 Corinthians 12:14-15 “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well”.
Earlier, I shared how just when I was going to start tithing again, not because I believed in it as a rule any longer but because I wanted to “do my part,” God confirmed that I was to go to Russia and Ukraine with a love for the people that turned into a current I physically felt flowing through my whole body from head to foot. I went to Russia instead of tithing. It wasn’t easy, but I was spending and being spent in partnership with the Holy Spirit’s work.
Not long after, I had an invitation from Muslims to stay with their family in a Central-Asian nation that is considered “closed,” in which persecution of Christians is common, and in which many people have not heard the gospel. I spoke enough of the language to share the gospel and pray for people. I’d spent countless hours studying Russian because God planted such a love in my heart for people. One of these Muslim friends had been healed in Jesus’s name, and they had asked me questions about the Bible. I was seeing many people healed regularly in my own country, and was confident that I would see unbelievers healed if I went there.
I yearned to go, but I’d spent all I had on Russia and other missions. I would have just needed to find a way to take care of the plane ticket and my house when I was gone. I struggled over if I had just needed to have more faith, and maybe I did, but the fact is that God’s provision often comes to us through people hearing the Holy Spirit and responding in their giving.
Think of that situation in the light of the figures we just mentioned for how much church giving goes to bringing the gospel to the unreached. I was in a position few others were to bring the gospel to those who had never heard it. I wasn’t giving a tithe because I had already spent and expended myself in fellowship with the Holy Spirit’s work. I had already given my life!
It would have been disobedience to have paid a tithe that year rather than go to Russia, when the Holy Spirit made it as clear as possible that I was to go on that trip to Russia. Yet I was regarded as “disobedient” with my finances and could no longer even expect prayer support from my church as I went. Wasn’t there something more important at that moment than the church receiving my tithe? Was it more important that I “support the local church?” than bring the gospel to people who had never heard it in a closed nation?
As I share the perspective of many church planters who are bringing the gospel to the unreached, I can imagine a lot of pastors thinking “You’re saying we need to sell our building and meet in houses!” I’m not necessarily saying that. However, Western Christian culture does not equate to the kingdom of God, and an honest look at the global church may help us to differentiate between the two.
As I shared my story earlier, a church-planting seminar held by Brian Hogan gave me greater boldness to voice my questions about the tithe. Brian’s church-planting team worked with the Holy Spirit to start a rapidly-growing church planting movement in a country that previously had almost no Christians. This movement was reported to be sending more missionaries per believer than any other Christian movement in the world. They had to give generously to do so! As Brian said, they would have given much less if they were taught tithing.
Many others who are on the front lines of the gospel oppose tithing and refuse to teach it. Dr. Victor Choudrie leads a church planting movement that has started tens of thousands of churches in 40 nations, with a million people baptized in a single year. Many of these Christians are poor and face severe persecution. Check out the fourth of his 21 steps on “How to go from a barren church to become a millionaire of souls”:
“4. Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous, financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes. Believe that God is going to work a work among the nations through you which will leave you utterly amazed, and also provide resources for it.” Deut. 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34; Hab. 1:5
Consider the irony of this fact: many Christians believe that the Church would fall apart without teaching tithing. Yet some of the most successful church planters in the world see the tithe tradition as one of the very factors which hinder the church from multiplying, since it supplants Holy Spirit-led giving by bringing in control.
Movements like the one Dr. Choudrie leads put a much more holistic and Biblical emphasis on caring for the poor and apostolic missions, with serving the church and extending hospitality as some of the primary ways of giving. In fact, many of the Christians who are most likely to agree with me about tithing are those involved in, or well versed in, promoting church multiplication movements among the unreached.
So many experienced leaders have come to similar conclusions as Dr. Choudrie has, and much of the literature on church-multiplication movements reflects this. One of my friends, who has for years been involved in promoting church-multiplication movements that target unreached people groups, says that the hindrances to growth are “buildings, bigshots, and budgets!”
Many Christians have imagined that the Church would fall apart without tons of money. The movement Dr. Choudrie leads meets in homes and has no paid pastors. We need to remember that the Kingdom of God consists not in mammon, food, or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. I recently read a Baptist missionary church-planter’s description of a church meeting in Ecuador and the offering which totaled $5! Yet the whole offering went towards the evangelistic blitz they were planning, and many American congregations could hardly equal the evangelistic fervor of this little church!
Of course, most of the rapidly multiplying churches we’ve been speaking of meet in homes and have low overhead. Some people are totally against any church meeting in a big building, and many successful leaders involved in church planting movements consider buildings to be a hindrance to growth.
One of my friends leads a missionary organization and has been involved in promoting church-multiplication movements for decades. He doesn’t seem to see much good in the institutional church. While I respect this friend and agree with him about most issues, I see the Holy Spirit doing much in more traditional churches that meet in buildings.
Scripture doesn’t say you need big facilities, and neither does it prohibit them. Some churches which do have high overheard, big buildings, and lots of infrastructure have made some very positive contributions to Christ’s Body today. There is a particular Charismatic church in Pennsylvania that I’ve frequented many times. It has large facilities which it acquired miraculously after a prophetic word, and their conferences have blessed me.
Many of us like big meetings, conferences, and worship music from churches like Hillsong. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong, but getting a wider perspective of global Christianity reminds us that this high-overhead model is a certain expression of Christianity with certain strengths and weaknesses, rather than being in itself what God’s kingdom looks like. It’s only a certain cultural expression of church that requires high overhead to maintain.
Meeting in other facilities such as a school auditorium has worked well for some congregations. I was teaching a group that met in a school here in Brazil for some time. Graeme Carlé’s congregation met in school facilities which they rented for $1.00 per person. Brian Hogan shared that the churches in Mongolia had a large “celebration” meeting monthly and met the rest of the time in houses. If they had the large meeting more often than once a month, the churches stopped multiplying.
Is it best for you to meet only from house to house, rent facilities when you need them or have your own facilities? I can only say to be led by the Holy Spirit and remember that the purpose of any building must always be to serve people, who are the true temple of God. I don’t believe it would necessarily be healthy to tell every church group that has a building to just sell it and start meeting in houses. Yet there are definitely cases in which people have ended up serving the building, thinking it was God’s temple!
If you do have a certain infrastructure and facilities, and you feel that they are serving people and the Holy Spirit is leading you to continue with them, how will you pay for them without teaching tithing? If we want our own facilities and a salaried pastor, it certainly makes sense that we should do our part to pitch in. Yet as we’ve been pointing out, the teaching that Christians are required by God to give a tenth of their money to the local church is both scripturally and historically indefensible. This modern tithe differs vastly from even the Jewish tithe, and once we have examined the matter, we cannot continue with integrity to teach it as the “kingdom model” for finances.
Time and time again, when we’ve pointed out the many problems with teaching that Christians owe God a tithe, people have nothing left to say except “How will we support the church without it?” Some pastors have even agreed that it is scripturally indefensible, but concluded that it was necessary to raise money and they were afraid that if they stopped teaching it people would stop giving. In other words, the matter boils down not to “What does scripture teach?” but to “How will we raise money?”
Are there also churches that have a big Sunday meeting in their own facility and pay for everything by only free-will giving? Yes! Check out Bertie Brits and Dynamic Love Ministries, for example. You can find them online. Bertie has some of the best messages I have heard on money, coming from a biblical foundation of contentment. He believes neither in tithing nor in the idea that you can sow money by giving to reap a harvest of money. He also has a TV program. It’s funded completely by free-will giving, without even a hint of compulsion. He says it’s a simple as this: “We can have a large facility if you want it. If that’s for you, please pitch in to pay for it. If you don’t like the high overhead, you can also be part of our online church.”
John MacArthur, the notorious anti-Charismatic preacher, is quite an opponent of teaching tithing. As much as I disagree with him about some other matters, I agree on this! He also leads a church, with its own facilities, that does not teach tithing. Andrew Farley of the Church Without Religion, in Lubbock, Texas, is another one, and they also meet in traditional facilities. Recently a friend told me of a large church in Brazil that has experienced explosive growth among young people. They do not teach tithing and take a no-compulsion offering. People run to the front eagerly to contribute!
Several major seminaries also do not teach tithing, and consequently, there are a number of churches related to them which continue to have traditional facilities and do not believe in a tithe model. I already mentioned the Baptist church I attended in Brazil, where I never heard the pastor mention a tithe, and which did more to minister to the poor than many larger churches do.
T.B. Joshua’s church draws more foreign visitors than any other church in Nigeria. They have a powerful healing and deliverance ministry and reach many people through their channel, Emmanuel TV. Although Joshua uses the word “tithe,” what he teaches is much closer to the heart of scriptural giving. He tells people not to give their tithes to his church because they might be tempted to keep the money instead of giving it to the poor. Instead, he encourages Christians to share their tithes directly with the poor. He refunded the tithe a poor man gave to another church and told him to not worry about tithing when in a financially weak situation, but to invest the money to get a business going first. Joshua said “there are many areas you can render your service to ministry, but financially you are not strong.” Thus this large church and its TV station prosper in a country where many churchgoers have a low income, and they teach people to not give the tithe directly to them. They have plenty to help the needy, and refuse to accept tithes from people the church should be helping.
For a time when I moved to Brazil, my wife and I invited her friends to our home for prayer and fellowship and I didn’t regularly attend a traditional church. When I became involved with the group meeting at the school, there was no overhead and I was the preacher for over a year. Then they moved on to meet on someone’s property in a roofed area outside the house on a different day. I was unable to go regularly after that but only visited and spoke once in a while.
For a time, the Baptist church I became involved with in Rio de Janeiro was also meeting in a school, then on top of somebody’s house, and then in a small place of their own. I would have been happy to continue meeting on the housetop, which was concrete with 4-foot-high walls, pillars, and a fiberglass roof above it. Even so, I contributed when they decided to rent a small building.
The pastor emphasized free-will giving motivated by the desire to share God’s blessing, and never mentioned a tithe. I suspect he didn’t believe in it as the church profile “liked” a Facebook status about how much harm tithe doctrines have caused to the body of Christ. Some people in the congregation did mention a tithe once in a while, and his refusal to use such language was conspicuous. I think he just never talked about it and left the matter up to individual people’s convictions. He may have also been following his conviction while avoiding conflict in his denomination.
The pastor set the culture of that church, which reflected God’s glory in a way that reminded me of the Christian camp I attended as a kid. I could feel pure and sincere love with no ulterior motives. It stood out to me at a time when I was reluctant to send people to a church after I saw Jesus heal them and shared the gospel.
In the city where I live now, I’ve become involved in home meetings which have low overhead. I prefer to direct the bulk of my giving to apostolic ministry and helping the weak.
Islam has a mandatory 2.5% tax, much lower than the tithe, and they have large mosques. Interestingly enough, in spite of all the teaching about tithing, this is the same as the average percentage that American Christians currently give. Gyms charge much less than a tithe for a membership fee and they have both facilities and full-time staff. A friend in Finland told me that tithing is virtually unknown where he lives, his Pentecostal church doesn’t push it, and the Lutheran church charges a three percent tax.
I’m not arguing that Christians should give less, except for those who are having trouble meeting their family’s needs and paying what is due even while living frugally. Rather, I’m pointing out that the lower we keep our overhead, the more we can give towards the causes which scripture most emphasizes.
I would rather see churches charge an entrance fee for use of facilities, as a gym does, than teach tithing. Although that wouldn’t be ideal, it would better than compromising our integrity, misusing scripture to charge a “kingdom-of-God tax,” which people pay in order to obtain God’s blessing.
I’ve heard several scenarios of churches that ceased tithe teaching. Some had a dramatic decrease in giving. For others, little changed. Some saw giving increase. Dr. David Croteau, who concludes in his doctoral thesis that the tithe is not for Christians today, gave lectures on the matter in two churches. Both saw giving increase slightly after the lectures. In both cases, the pastors felt their congregation was prepared for it. Dr. Croteau suggests first phasing out references to the tithe, such as removing the word from the offering envelopes, and then teaching New Testament giving principles as a lead-up to discussing tithing.
In 2017, I spoke at a church in Maryland. The pastor at that time taught tithing, although the couple that invited me were in agreement with my position. Since then, they have become the new pastors of the church and gone from teaching tithing to teaching generous free-will giving as worship. People continue to give, and some have increased giving.
A pastor in modern-day Macedonia began to pray about what to teach the people because he realized that the tithe is not part of the New Covenant. He started with the principle of being generous, and within a year the offerings of the church increased substantially.
On the other hand, I heard the story of one pastor who tended to heavily emphasize tithing and use a lot of pressure in taking the offering. Some people in his congregation were troubled by this and were praying about it. One day, the pastor suddenly said “God has been dealing with me about teaching tithing and using guilt and pressure to get people to give. From now on, we don’t want to make people give out of obligation. God loves a cheerful giver.”
Giving plummeted. Within a few weeks, the pastor was back to teaching tithing. He put the pressure on more than ever, threatening people with a curse if they didn’t tithe and enticing them with material blessings if they did.
It may be very difficult for some congregations that have a high-overhead expression of church and have relied on tithe teaching and similar doctrines to bring in money, to suddenly change their position. But this story illustrates a few things:
First, the fact that giving plummeted when the pastor stopped putting on the pressure shows definitively that the people were already giving out of compulsion. It’s very funny when pastors say “Give as you decide in your heart, but it has to be at least 10%,” then add “You’ll miss out on God’s blessing if you don’t” and call that free-will giving that’s not of compulsion or necessity! The people in the congregation, for the most part, didn’t know how to be led by the Holy Spirit in their giving because they had been trained to respond to pressure.
If they had already been giving as led by the Holy Spirit, as they had decided in their hearts, and not of compulsion, dropping tithing would have made no difference in the giving. How much giving dropped only showed the extent of the problem and revealed that people were burnt out with the pressure and didn’t know how to respond without it. If the house is crumbling, maybe it wasn’t built on a solid foundation!
Next, we cannot construct a doctrine because it is convenient. This story shows that the heart of the matter wasn’t truth, but was “How are we going to pay the bills?” This has been confirmed by so many when engaging in discussion over the matter, even with pastors who admit that they agree yet they are afraid to stop teaching tithing because the money might stop coming in.
When people ask “What would happen to the church if we didn’t teach tithing?” they often don’t consider that it’s not the ecclesia or the kingdom of God that would be threatened if giving would drop. It would only be their particular cultural expression of church that would be unsustainable. Even so, I ask “What good is it to have churches if we don’t have the gospel?”
In earlier chapters, we’ve examined how much tithe teachings have hurt the church’s witness, misrepresented how God relates to us, and perverted the way that Christians attempt to approach the Father. The purity of the gospel message we preach must be high priority, as we see in the book of Galatians! It breaks my heart to talk to aging Christians who have been in church for decades and realize they still think like pagans; they see God as far and unknowable, are afraid of death, have no assurance of forgiveness, and are hoping to “be good enough” to someday possibly receive a blessing from God.
Dan Mohler is a pastor who was local to my area in Pennsylvania. He led Todd White to Christ and also impacted my life when I met him around 2006. People have asked him about tithing several times, and of course it’s a really loaded question for a guest speaker! Dan shares his conviction that the tithe is Old Covenant, and in the New Covenant we give not because we owe any percentage but because we are participating in God’s love. On one occasion, he said, “Pastors, there’s no reason to be threatened by this, because if you understand what I’m saying you’ll be such a giver that the tithe will be irrelevant. I’m a giver. A tithe doesn’t even come to my mind. But listen, I’m not saying this to condemn anyone. You start where faith is.”
Although removing tithing from the equation has caused contributions to drop in some congregations, it has caused them to increase in others. I’ve heard some individuals testify that they have been giving more since they dropped the tithe paradigm. It only makes sense that, since giving is a manifestation of God’s grace and tithing is of the law and therefore is not of grace, letting go of a tithe could lead to an increase in giving. Yet it is only one step towards being led by the Spirit in giving. Those who let go of tithing often need to come out of a place of hurt in order to be able to experience the joy of giving and walking in the Spirit with their finances. Those who do will often end up going far beyond the tithe.
We mentioned Brian Hogan, the YWAM church planting coach who told us that the Mongolian people would have given far less if they had taught them tithing. Brian shares that he asked the Lord what was stopping some churches from multiplying, and the Lord showed him two primary hindrances. The first was that that they needed to lighten the load by presenting the basics of biblical church without the cultural add-ons. The second was that they were trying to fulfill the role of the Holy Spirit instead of trusting him to do his job! He encourages church-planters to go through scripture and study what the Holy Spirit does, and then leave these things up to him!
Motivating Christians to give, as well as guiding them where and how to give, is unquestionably the role of the Holy Spirit! We all want Christians to give. Our role is to teach them to walk in communion with and be led by the Holy Spirit, giving all their lives and not just their money for the cause of Christ!
 Matthew 25:40
 Psalm 51:16, Hebrews 10:8
 Spurgeon, Charles H. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications. Volume 47 Page 97
 Spurgeon, Charles H. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1977. Volume 28 Pg. 694
 2 Corinthians 8:7
 Galatians 4:21-31
 Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:15
 John 15:15
 Luke 15:31
 John 17:10, Romans 8:32
 Luke 14:33
 Romans 8:32
 Acts 5:4 (NIRV)
 1 Corinthians 6:17
 Hebrews 12:2
 Wesley, John. Sermons on Several Occasions: in Two Volumes. London: Published and sold by J. Kershaw, 14, City-Road, and 66, Paternoster-Row, 1825. Volume 1. Sermon The Use Of Money. Pg. 634
 Wesley, John. Sermons on Several Occasions: in Two Volumes. London: Published and sold by J. Kershaw, 14, City-Road, and 66, Paternoster-Row, 1825. Volume 1. Sermon The Use Of Money. Pg. 633
 Wesley, John. Sermons on Several Occasions: in Two Volumes. London: Published and sold by J. Kershaw, 14, City-Road, and 66, Paternoster-Row, 1825. Volume 1. Sermon The Use Of Money. Pg. 633
 Wesley, John. Sermons on Several Occasions: in Two Volumes. London: Published and sold by J. Kershaw, 14, City-Road, and 66, Paternoster-Row, 1825. Volume 1. Sermon The Use Of Money. Pg. 626-633
 Ephesians 4:28
 Harshman, Charles W. Christian Giving. New York: Eaton and Mains, 1905. Pg. 79
 Romans 14:12
 Proverbs 13:22 (NKJV)
 Matthew 22:37
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 121
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 200
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 372
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 358
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 472
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 520
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 760
 Vlymen, Michael Van. Supernatural Provision Book One. Michael Van Vlymen, 2017. Position 833
 Matthew 25:14-29
Tithing In The New Testament Online: https://seedtime.com/tithing-in-the-new-testament/?fbclid=IwAR3ocPTlZ1tgD0ssh_-0GSLEfwyECopRveE0H0YC8N14PRRyNTxzNfXkv-w Accessed November 23rd, 2019
 The State of Church Giving through 2016: What Do Denominational Leaders Want to Do with $368 Billion More a Year? 28th edition. Empty Tomb Publications. 2018. Order online: http://www.emptytomb.org/pubs.html Accessed November 23rd, 2019
 The Ultimate Source Of Charitable Giving Statistics For 2018. Online: https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/ Accessed November 23rd, 2019
 What Would Happen If The Church Tithed? Online: https://relevantmagazine.com/love-and-money/what-would-happen-if-church-tithed Accessed November 23rd, 2019
 Kingdom Finances. Online: http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2010/02/kingdom-finances.html Accessed November 23rd, 2019
 Schwartz, Glenn. When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement: a Compendium. Lancaster, PA: World Mission Associates, 2007. Pg. 153
 Schwartz, Glenn. When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement: a Compendium. Lancaster, PA: World Mission Associates, 2007. Pg. 161
 2 Corinthians 8:9
 Choudrie, Victor. How To Go From A Barren Church To A Millionaire Of Souls. Online: http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2010/11/victor-choudhries-21-steps-to-transit.html Accessed December 12th.
 Romans 14:17
 Muse, J. Guy Those Questionable Churches Being Planted Overseas. Online: http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2006/03/those-questionable-churches-being.html Accessed December 26, 2019.
 TB Joshua Replies Daddy Freeze On Tithe Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_QgnZ-zHXw&t=580s Accessed January 7th, 2020