Teaching Tithing, Corrupted Wisdom, Jesus’s Temptation

How Absurd Arguments For Tithing Come Out Of The Deception That “The End Justifies The Means.”

Click here to return to the menu or download the pdf of the whole book.

Click here for the next chapter

We’ve already examined multiple arguments in favor of tithing and seen how they use absurd logic that we would never apply consistently to anything else. Yet suddenly this logic seems reasonable when we apply it to tithing. We will examine a few other arguments in favor of tithing in this chapter and examine how they were invented simply by reading the Bible with an agenda and looking for something that isn’t there. But first, let’s talk about the heart issue behind this “corrupted wisdom.”

When I heard Bertie Brits talk about this,[1] I thought “Man! He hit the nail on the head!” He started with 1 Timothy 6:


1 Timothy 6:3-10  “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.”


The passage literally says, not that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, but that it is a root of all the evils:


1 Timothy 6:10a (YLT) “for a root of all the evils is the love of money…”


Bertie believes that the “love of money” is about so much more than just dollars or euros. It is a mentality that always needs more, the opposite of the attitude of contentment that Paul encourages Timothy to foster.

At this point I can hear a lot of leaders saying, “Hey, I’m not in this for myself! I just want to reach the world for Christ.” I get it. I’ve come across hurting people who seem to think that all ministers are in it for the money, and it saddens me. Most ministers aren’t getting rich off the ministry, and I know plenty of pastors who deeply care for the people they minister to.

But sometimes the constant desire for more can disguise itself in good intentions, and we don’t even recognize it. You may have little desire to amass and spend great quantities of money. But are you content with where you are now? Are you happy? Are you happy with where your ministry is? Do you “need” it to grow?

Bertie is really clear about the fact that he isn’t against “big.” You can have a big church, be on TV, and reach lots of people. (He’s on TV.) But it must be built from a foundation of contentment. If it isn’t, the constant drive for “more” will corrupt our wisdom. We’ll read things in scripture and somehow see something that just isn’t in the passage! To explain the connection between this desire for “more” and corrupted wisdom, Bertie takes us to Ezekiel 28, which speaks of the King of Tyre as a figure of Satan:


Ezekiel 28:2-5, 14-17  “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you? By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud…

You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings”.


Pride and the “love of money” were at the root of Satan corrupting his wisdom and thus being thrown to earth. His heart grew proud because of his wealth, and he wanted more!

Bertie points out the first part of the word translated “love of money” comes from the Greek “phileo.” This is the word for the friend of the bridegroom who “seals the deal” on arranging a marriage. Notice how wealth “sealed the deal” for the King of Tyre/Satan in Ezekiel 28 and led to the pride that caused his downfall.

As we’ve seen, common teachings about tithing have taught that money “seals the deal” on our redemption from the curse and even on our entrance into heaven! Even most who would say they teach tithing by “grace” still teach that it seals the deal on your blessing, which according to the full gospel position is part and parcel of salvation!

As we’ve already seen, the high-overhead model of church many of us have been used to is far from being an essential of the Kingdom of God. In fact, many of the most successful church-planters in the world, planting thousands of churches among people who had previously never heard the gospel, consider tithes, buildings, and salaried pastors to be major hindrances to church multiplication!

The Holy Spirit is working mightily in all kinds of churches, and the fact that something is a particular cultural expression of the church does not mean it’s prohibited. Indeed, I think the Holy Spirit may lead some people to purchase buildings for ministry purposes. However, when we are at the point where we “need” the things to support a big, high overhead model of church so much that we begin to corrupt our wisdom in order to support it, we have fallen to the same deception that caused Satan’s fall. This reminds me of Jesus’s temptation:


Luke 4:5-8  “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”


Jesus’s inheritance was already the kingdoms of the world. Yet Satan tempted him with an “end justifies the means” scenario. Jesus refused. We have been tempted to bow to Satan’s systems such as the Babylonian tithe in order to build ministries and reach people, and the gospel has been compromised in the process. No end justifies teaching falsehood.

We’re going to examine some more lies that have been fabricated out of corrupted wisdom, and see how absurd they really are. As absurd as some of these are, they aren’t fringe teachings but have been or are being taught by some of the leaders who have done the most to promote tithing in the Charismatic movement.


“Adam’s Sin in the Garden of Eden Was Failing to Tithe.”

I first heard this listening to Kenneth Copeland on You Tube.[2] I recently found a few other popular pastors who have taught it. I was shocked at how they seemed to be able to make out any story in the Bible to be about the tithe. Why? It’s corrupted wisdom. The text doesn’t say a thing about the tithe, not even hinting at it, but they somehow see it in there because they’re looking so hard for it. The teaching says that Adam and Eve sinned by eating of God’s portion, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tithe!

Kenneth says that Adam’s first sin was disobedience and his second was thievery, stealing the tithe. He continues by claiming that failure to tithe led Cain into serious crime and says “The first murder was over the tithe. The first sin was over the tithe.”

This is just stated as if it were a fact, with no support whatsoever. The only attempt to support this “Garden of Eden tithe” is the statement that Adam’s sons Abel and Cain knew about the tithe, so God must have taught Adam about it! However, the argument that Cain and Abel knew about the tithe is almost as absurd as the one that Adam did.

If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tithe, then there must have only been ten trees in the garden!


“Cain Killed Abel over the Tithe.”

Kenneth Copeland continues in the same sermon to claim that Cain killed Abel because Abel gave a tithe and God was pleased with it, but God was not pleased with Cain’s offering because Cain failed to tithe. He doesn’t give even a hint at why he believes this in the teaching, but only states it as if it were an uncontestable fact.

I later learned that there was a book published in 1956 that also connected the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden with the tithe.[3] Another teaching in 1906 also claimed Cain killed Abel over the tithe. This one made a little more of an attempt to back up that claim.

The argument was based on the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. It argued that this translation was more accurate than the available Hebrew texts. This translation which differs from the Hebrew texts says that Cain did not “rightly divide” his offering, and, assuming that “rightly dividing” an offering must be separating a tithe the conclusion is that Cain did not pay a tithe.[4]

Yet this wording is not in the Hebrew texts, and for it to stand one has to argue that the Greek translation of the Old Testament is superior to the Hebrew Old Testament itself! Dr. David Croteau explains how the translators could have easily misinterpreted the Hebrew text by confusing two particular Hebrew words to come to the conclusion that it was talking about Cain failing to rightly divide his sacrifice. The difference in the translations was due to an incorrect understanding of the Hebrew.[5]

It takes corrupted wisdom to go to such lengths in order to find a tithe in the story of Cain and Abel.


“The First Fruits is the Tithe”

I can’t say how many times I’ve heard this. I was shocked as a young person when I found out that many pastors really thought the first fruits and tithe were the same. Having read through the Bible as a child and several times as a teen, the idea that the tithe and the first fruits offerings were the same never crossed my mind. They were obviously different items, and I could understand that when I was 7 years old! It takes either corrupted wisdom or just blindly accepting human tradition to come to the conclusion that they are the same. Let’s look at the first fruits offering described in Leviticus 23:


Leviticus 23:9-16   “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.”


OK, note a few things from this passage. The first fruits offering described is a sheaf, which is a bundle of grain stalks, tied together. Unless a farmer only harvested ten sheaves, this is far less than a tithe! Notice that a burnt offering, a grain offering, and a drink offering are part of the same ordinance. In other words, even if the first fruits offering was the same as the tithe, how can we just separate the part of the ordinance we want from the rest of the same ordinance? Not to mention changing it from a sheaf of wheat to money?

Also, note that the first fruits offering was brought directly to the priest. On the contrary, the tithe was first given to the Levites, who then tithed on the tithe they received, giving it to the priests. The first fruits was given during a specific time of year and they counted from that time until when they would celebrate the festival of weeks. The first fruits offering was on grain while the tithe was not only on agricultural products but also on animals.

Let’s examine another description of a first fruits offering in Deuteronomy:


Deuteronomy 26:1-13  “When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.  But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.

Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”


This account is also clear about the difference between the first fruits and the tithe. God commanded this first fruits offering when the Israelites entered the promised land, but commanded that they share with the Levite, foreigner, fatherless, and widow on the third year, the year of the tithe. Thus, the first fruits and tithes were given at different times. The first fruits also had no specified amount but was small enough to carry in a basket, obviously much less than a tithe. The first fruits offering was a relatively small offering of thanksgiving.

The tithes given to the Levites were not the first part, but the tenth part! For example, they would count the animals and every tenth animal, whether good or bad, was separated for the tithe. We could look at other scriptures to show the obvious difference between tithes and first fruits, but I don’t think we need to. Even in modern Judaism, the first fruits celebration is totally different than the tithe.[6]

In spite of all this, equating first fruits with tithes creates another serious logical problem for those who teach tithing. It is an integral part of a feast which Colossians 2:16-17 says has found fulfillment in Christ, and other clear New Testament scriptures show the fulfillment of first fruits just as the animal sacrifices and burnt offerings also found fulfillment.


1 Corinthians 15:20  “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”


One pastor argued with me that he did not think there was clear fulfillment of the tithe in Christ, so tithing must continue while only animal sacrifices and elements which clearly were fulfilled in Christ had ceased… Yet he claimed first fruits and tithes were the same, and would preach on the fulfillment of the first fruits which is so clear in scripture! Even if it were true that first fruits and tithes were the same, this would be a strong argument against tithing because of the clear New Testament scriptures pointing to the fulfillment of first fruits which was a “shadow of better things to come.”[7]

I ask, how can seminary-trained Bible scholars use such poor reasoning? It’s only possible if our wisdom has become corrupted. We are looking for something so hard that we think we see it everywhere and it’s not in the text!


“1 Corinthians 16:2 is about Tithing.”

Although this passage says nothing about tithing, it seems like proof that Christians should tithe to those who are looking for it. Yet the context is so obvious to anybody who has read through 1 and 2 Corinthians that only corrupted wisdom could make us miss it. Let’s look at the verse in context in 1 Corinthians, and then the following information in 2 Corinthians:


1 Corinthians 16:1-5  “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia”.


Right away, who is the offering for? It’s for “the Lord’s people,” not for elders’ salaries, a building, overhead, or even for Paul. In particular, it’s an emergency offering being taken up for the Christians in Jerusalem who are suffering a famine.[8] Paul is giving instructions for a specific offering, not for the method by which the Corinthians were to finance a high-overhead church organization. Church historians generally do not believe they had their own buildings to meet in or paid local church leaders at that time. For example, Robert Baker wrote:


‘The leaders [before A.D. 100] usually worked with their hands for their material needs. There was no artificial distinction between clergy and laity.” … ‘The earliest bishops or presbyters engaged in secular labor to make their living and performed the duties of their church office when not at work.’”[9]


Notice Paul’s mention of going through Macedonia. Paul did go through Macedonia between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians, and the Macedonian believers contributed generously to help feed the hungry saints in Jerusalem.


2 Corinthians 8:1-4  “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’”


2 Corinthians 9:1-5, 12  “There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given… This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”


Notice a few additional things in the above text:


  • Paul mentions “last year.” This weekly offering was to be taken over the time of about a year and saved, after which it would be carried to Jerusalem by trustworthy men. Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:2 were not for all time, but for a limited period of time in a specific situation!


  • In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul was giving instructions about how to handle or coordinate an offering which they had eagerly decided to give of their own volition and which he did not command them to do. Here in 2 Corinthians, he is not commanding them to give but exhorting them to follow through on what they themselves previously promised.


  • The gift was acceptable according to what one has, and not what one doesn’t have. If you had 5% left after you cared for your family’s needs, the gift was acceptable.


  • Paul’s desire was that the Corinthians’ “plenty” or overflow supply the needs of the saints in Jerusalem. This is inconsistent with most tithe teachings among Charismatics which say your tithe is the first thing you pay, never something that comes out only after you pay your bills. “Plenty” is abundance you have left over after meeting needs. This gives the context for Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:2 that they set aside money in keeping with their income. They were setting aside money according to the abundance they had beyond meeting their own needs, not that they should lack but that there should be equality.


  • Paul said: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” Here he made it clear that if the Corinthians were to have a famine ten years down the road, and the saints in Jerusalem prospered, it would be consistent with the spirit of Christ for the saints in Jerusalem to do the same for the Corinthians. Therefore, if the Corinthians were to find themselves in need Paul would have been collecting an offering for them from the churches that were prospering rather than telling them to take up a weekly offering!


Jesus Referred to Tithing When He Said to Give to God What Is God’s

This is another statement that I feel like I shouldn’t even have to answer, because like many of these other passages, it says nothing about tithes. Yet I have heard so many people state it as a proof text for tithing lately, so let’s briefly consider the context:


Matthew 22:17-21  “’Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’”


As Dr. Russel Earl Kelly points out, the context of this was that the Jews were highly opposed to graven images and revolted over the issue several times in history. A coin with Caesar’s image could not enter the temple. Rather, Jews changed the money issued from Rome for the temple shekel in order to pay the temple tax. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said to give to God what is God’s. This was not a tithe given to priests and Levites, but another tax which was used for the maintenance of the temple.[10] As we’ve pointed out, money could not be tithed and could only be used to redeem your tithe if you added a fifth to the value.

Besides that, the point which we have previously made applies, that Jesus was speaking to Jews under the Old Covenant and when the temple was standing. If we are going to use this as a proof text for tithing, we must also apply it to everything else those Jews were required to give—including not only tithes but the separate offering of first fruits, the temple shekel, animal sacrifices, heave offerings, grain offerings, and everything which sustained the priests as their livelihood. Tithing alone as practiced by the Jews only provided a very small part of the priests’ sustenance.


Have We Been Reading the Bible with an Agenda?

It is sometimes easy to fall into reading the Bible with an agenda, and especially so when it comes to the subject of money. In fact, sometimes this bias gets so engrained in tradition that it is not even our own bias that is influencing us but the way we have always heard a scripture interpreted.

We have also heard many sermons preached without even a reference to the immediate context. For example, when I realized the obvious and immediate context for the story of the widow’s mite was the rebuke for devouring widow’s houses right before it, I was stunned. We rarely ever hear a pastor preaching on this text read the last few verses of the chapter right before it.

A few other scriptures have also been used to argue for a New Testament tithe. More important, however, than refuting every single argument is letting God’s word reveal the heart issues that lead to corrupted wisdom, inconsistent logic, and reading things into scripture passages that simply aren’t there.

Click here to return to the menu or download the pdf of the whole book.

Click here for the next chapter

[1] Brits, Bertie. Money Crucified: The Tithe Eating Tithe Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mzICkJqltE&t=1072s Accessed December 17th, 2019

[2] Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu84V6FGVA Accessed November 30th, 2019

[3] Kauffman, Milo. The Challenge of Christian Stewardship. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956. Pg. 60

[4] Lansdell, Henry. The Sacred Tenth. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1955. Pages 1-42

[5] Croteau, David A. You Mean I Dont Have to Tithe?: a Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving. Eugene, Or.: Pickwick Publications, 2010. Kindle Locations 2715-2731

[6] Feast of Shavuot Online: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shavuot-in-modern-times/

Online: https://reformjudaism.org/shavuot-customs-and-rituals Accessed December 7th, 2019.

[7] Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:17

[8] Acts 11:28

[9] Baker, Robert Andrew., and John M. Landers. A Summary of Christian History. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005. Pg. 11, 43

[10] Kelly, Russel Earl Money With Gentile Images Was Banned Online: http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id195.html Accessed January 1st, 2020