The Tithe: A Modern Obsession Gone Way Off Course

It was the winter of 2004 when during a leadership meeting our pastor warned our church staff that if we were not tithing we would be removed from our leadership positions, no questions asked. It was explained that one could not be a devout Christian without tithing, and if one was not a devout Christian he or she had no business being in ministry. Besides, if we didn’t tithe the devil would destroy our finances, so… might as well.

Something burned within me during this meeting as it followed on the heels of many months of abuse and manipulation coming from our pulpit in the attempt to raise money. I knew our church was struggling financially and I knew the senior pastor was worried about the very future existence of our church, but this did not excuse the methods by which he was pushing the congregation to give (the details of which I will leave unsaid for now). Our church had degenerated into financial survival mode with the accompanying endless emphasis on tithes and offerings – a very familiar experience for many within the independent Charismatic church world. One was hard pressed to hear the gospel since it had to compete with the effort to raise money during every service. Either the sermon was centered on money or we had to endure 20 minute mini-sermons on the tithe prior to the main sermon. It was exhausting. We were basically open for the sake of raising money; like the televangelist who begs for money so that he can spend it buying more air time in order to beg for more money – a vicious cycle.

To make a fairly long story short, after this particular meeting I returned home and began to study what the Bible really had to say about the tithe, in addition I began to study the place of the tithe within the broader scope of church history. At the end of it all I wrote my pastor a private letter explaining my findings and why it was that I no longer believed the tithe was a Christian practice, much less a qualification for church leadership. It was at this point that my longtime friend and pastor of 15 years gave me and my wife the right foot of fellowship. Don’t mess with a man’s paycheck!

In terms of giving, my wife and I had given more to this particular church than perhaps any other church in our past; well past 10% of our income, time, and energies. We are not, nor have we ever been, anti-giving. This is an important point to emphasize as I’ve found that many conflate the idea of “tithing” with the idea of “giving” in general. One can give without believing in the tithe, in fact one is more likely to give much more than 10% if they abandon this legalistic demand. The attitude of the tithe asks, “how much do I have to give?” When the answer is “10%” then the lines are drawn, good luck talking them into 90%. The early Church, as recorded in Acts, gave ALL they had. This never would have happened if they were stuck on the tithe. At any rate, the following are some of the major points of interest that I came across during this period of searching.

1.  There is no Biblical mandate for a Christian to tithe; interestingly, there is only encouragement to deny the practice.

Take for example Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” The entire 9th chapter contains Paul’s teaching on giving to the church and one would expect that if he desired to teach the tithe as a Christian practice he would have used this opportunity to do so. Instead what the reader finds is encouragement to give as one purposes in his own heart, not a pre-determined amount by a legal authority. More than that, one is not to give out of “necessity.” The tithe is not a gift that one gives casually. If one is following the prescriptions given in the Mosaic Law and by tithe enthusiast preachers, the tithe is a necessary offering if one wants to be in good standing with God, AND (adds the modern day preacher) tithing will also protect one’s ‘stuff’ from the devil; thus laying waste to Paul’s prescribed method of giving.

Consider also the only time the New Testament even mentions the tithe: the event when Jesus confronts the scribes and Pharisees who had tithed everything, even down to the spices in their gardens, but had forgotten the weightier matters of the law, i.e. justice, mercy and faith (Matt 23:23). When one reads these verses they’ll find that Jesus points them back to the law when referencing the tithe (“do not leave the rest undone,” meaning the requirements of the whole Law). Why? Because the tithe is part of the Old Testament law, it is not some lofty spiritual principle which begun prior to the Law, as in the case of Abraham and Melchizedek, and thus a requirement that “transcends” the Law. This is a line often toted by those who want to both instill the tithe yet avoid obeying the Law. Notice also that Jesus says in no uncertain terms that tithing does not require justice, mercy or faith – the staple virtues of the Christian life. It is a wonder that so called “word of faith” churches are often so insistent on preserving this law which does not require faith to perform, indeed even if one were to practice it to perfection as the Pharisees had.

2.  The regulation of the tithe as described in the Mosaic Law is impossible for a Christian to keep.

There is only one source of teaching by which one can accurately follow the tithe, i.e. that which is given in the Old Testament, again, it is not taught in the New Testament. If one desires to keep the tithe according to the Biblical teaching one will quickly discover that the tithe is governed by two major qualifications; qualifications which are not open to any living Christian today: (1) the tithe must be agricultural produce or livestock grown or raised within the land of Israel, (2) the tithe is to be given by a Jewish believer to the Levites for their inheritance, since the tribe of Levi was denied a land inheritance. As such, the tithe was a requirement for Jewish land owners within Israel; it was an offering of food, not money; and it was given to Levites (and eventually to the priests). For someone to perform the Biblical tithe today would require them to not only to become Jewish, but to be a landowner in Israel and to give their tithe to a group of priests who no longer exist. In reality, these requirements restricted Christ Himself from tithing since He was a carpenter, and the Apostles since none of them were farmers, but I digress.

3.  As a matter of historical record, the tithe is almost non-existent in the Church for its first 800 years.

The tithe officially makes its way into the Western Church during the reign of Charlemagne (9th century), Europe’s first king. Prior to Charlemagne, the tithe had seen some sporadic practice throughout the Church in different regions, but as a fully embraced doctrine, the tithe first appears as a mandatory tax enacted by Charlemagne upon all his subjects, Christian or not, payable to the Church in Rome.

4.  Holy Tradition and the writings of the Church Fathers are almost completely silent on the tithe.

I am not a patristic scholar by any means, but from my personal reading of the Church Fathers (I follow a daily regimen of readings from the Prologue of Ohrid and the Orthodox Philokalia and have studied certain Church figures in greater depth) I have discovered shockingly little coverage of the subject, much less, any teachings on the tithe as a mandatory Christian doctrine. There is however a major exception which I believe deserves notice – the Didache. The Didache is one of the earliest known documents which outlines, something like, a rule of faith for the Church. One finds the mention of the tithe in section 13, it reads: “…So, too, with your money, and your clothing, and all your possessions; take a tithe of them in whatever way you think best, and make a gift of it, as the commandment bids you.”

This short verse gives ample credence that the tithe was on the conscience of at least some Christians in the early centuries of the Church. To what degree the author of the Didache believed the tithe was a doctrine for the Church to be followed in a Judaic-wise fashion is up for considerable debate. One will find that tithe preachers will almost never refer to the Didache as a reference for historical validation, and the reason for this is manifold. To a large degree such preachers are altogether ignorant that such a text even exists. Many who do know of its existence couldn’t care less due to the fact that it is not contained within the Scripture (a rejection based on a Zwinglian-tempered doctrine of Sola Scriptura). For others it is roundly ignored since it contains many harsh rebukes of money hungry ministers. Take for example section 12 which says, “An apostle at his departure should accept nothing but as much provisions as will last him to his next night’s lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet” (if this line was believed by every Christian today televangelists would disappear tomorrow), or this line from the same section, “If any prophet, speaking in the spirit, says, ‘Give me money,’ do not listen to him.”

All that said one should follow the Didache’s closing admonition, “In your prayers, your almsgiving, and everything you do, be guided by what you read in the Gospel of our Lord.” If the Gospel instructs one to tithe, then one should tithe. However, this is not the case. From an Orthodox point of view, if Holy Tradition teaches one to tithe then one should tithe. But as already mentioned, Holy Tradition is almost completely silent on the issue. Instead, a Christian should rise above mechanical giving – giving grudgingly or of necessity, as Paul says – and give as he or she purposes in his or her heart. As Christians we should give out of a divine sense of “justice, mercy and faith” as our Savior taught us. Such giving will not only involve one’s finances but will bring him or her into a full-orbed life of giving – cheerful giving – which delights the heart of the Father.

In closing I would like to note that these observations are my own and are not in any way the official stance within the Orthodox Church. One is free to take it or leave it. To my knowledge there is no dogmatic teaching on the tithe within Orthodoxy. There are many within the Church who believe the tithe is in fact a Christian practice and many who do not. I respect both opinions and I respect even more that the tithe has never been of serious concern within the Orthodox Church for the last 20 centuries. The treatment of the tithe within Orthodoxy, or the lack thereof, is in itself a stark rebuke to the obsession many modern ministers have with the tithe as a sort of “guaranteed paycheck.” Thank you for reading.

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35 thoughts on “The Tithe: A Modern Obsession Gone Way Off Course

  1. Loved this! Thanks for sharing your research. I’m not anti-tithe, but this is one of those things that when I read it, my heart and spirit said Yes! I’m going to share this with my family.

  2. Nice piece of writing, Eric, and I whole heartedly concur and there are so many things I could say in support of your conclusions. I will refrain from most of it. My journey is not much different than yours in this regard. The moment I spoke out against the tithe, church leaders turned on me like I had the plague. One thing I find humorous is that, as you relate in point 2 above, the tithe in the Old Testament went to the Levites. That means that they did not go to the priests, who, though they were Levites, were not considered part of the group that got the tithe. The priests were given the first fruit offerings instead. The priests did the work of ministry in the Temple and the Levites did all the carrying and lifting. They took care of the facilities and such. If that were translated accurately into church life today, that would mean that pastors, who claim the tithe as a right of priesthood, would actually be barred from receiving the tithe. The tithe would go entirely to the church janitors and secretaries. So much for literal interpretation.

  3. To be even more accurate, God gave His tithe to the non-priest Levites who were servants to the priests; i.e. janitors, secretaries, ushers, singers, musicians, etc. Then the non-priest Levites were commanded to give a tithe of the tithe to the priests. See Numbers 18.

    Once God chose Aaron and his sons to be the priests, they are no longer referred to as Levites in the scriptures.

  4. Don, great point, one that Gary (below) also made. I’ve found that there is oodles of information on the tithe contained in the OT that has escaped the notice of most tithe enthusiasts. I read a document years ago by a guy who took the time to outline every verse on the tithe in Scripture. If I remember correctly, his piece was over 250 single spaced pages of research. Its interesting stuff, but unfortunately very few believers care enough about the topic to read much more than a few simple points on the matter. And rightly so. It is not a major doctrine within traditional Christianity and it should remain that way.

  5. Well done (seriously). Now that you’ve laid waste to tithing (tisk tisk :)… if you were counseling a new(er) believer on how to think about giving – giving that embodied the full spirit of the Gospel, what would you say?

  6. Gary, or how bout the fact that the tithe is also to be given to the orphans, widows and strangers (Deut 26:13)? Or that one is to take the annual tithe and throw a massive party for him and his family, not sparing anything the eye desires, including alcohol galore (Deut 14:22-27)? That’s a tithe I can get behind. 🙂

  7. Andrew, interesting question. I’m sure you have far more to teach me on the matter than I do you. I would start by not allowing my newbie to imagine that the church is some sort of stock exchange – giving is not equivalent to investing. However, in the beginning giving is a sure sign that something has happened to a person internally. Like when Jesus said to the centurion who promised to give back to all he had cheated and 50% of his goods to the poor, Jesus says to him that the kingdom had come to his house. Or when Cornelius’ alms giving came up to the Lord as a “memorial” and Peter was sent to him to preach the gospel. Thus, material giving is a sign that the kingdom of God is becoming a reality on the inside of a person. Once a person has been baptized into Christ, giving remains a key virtue in a Christian’s life, primarily as healing from and protection against spiritual illness. In the Orthodox schema of theosis, alms giving is absolutely critical in one’s spiritual well being.

    It’s when people groom Christians with the false expectations that giving is going to give them back untold riches, 30, 60 and 100 fold that they are set up for a major fall later in their Christian walk. I have an old pastor from the church I first went to who wrote “How to be a Millionaire God’s Way.” Its a thesis on how to give your way out of debt and grow your money. He recently filed for bankruptcy. Throwing the tithe on top of all this makes matters so much worse because you have the added pressure of the Jewish Law coming down on their newbie ears with its related curses if it is not fulfilled.

  8. Eric, I think you touched on perhaps the most significant element in your post, 2 Corinthians 9:7 — Let each one give as he purposes in his heart. If I were to try to put biblical giving into a few sentences, I would certainly include what you just said in response to Andrew, but it might be as simple as: Generosity is good and God likes it. Giving should be voluntary. Look for places where your giving will accomplish good. Then give as you decide. Perhaps that’s oversimplified but it’s the pressure and the coercion that always bothered me about prosperity preaching.

  9. Word that… with our situation (lots of younger Xians), the thing I’m constantly wrestling with is how to combine (1) a well-articulated vision for a spirituality of sacrificial giving with (2) the logic of giving to your local community of faith, without (3) coming across as self-serving.

    The under-35 crowd wants “spirituality” without sacrifice and “community” without blood, sweat, and tears… and because they tend to be consumers (it simply IS the air we breathe in our culture) many of them don’t see the disconnect between coming week in and week out, benefiting from the sacrifice that many other are making without actually adding their own sacrifice…

    Frankly, its bad manners.

    So I’m always working to try and overcome that… connecting the spirituality of sacrificial giving with the joy of building together a community that blesses Denver, and all of it cutting against the me-centered, consumeristic, futureless spirit of the age.

  10. Andrew, you have my great sympathies. Like I said, you have much more to teach me on the matter than I you. Your description of the 20-30something mindset is perfect. What a challenge! In reality, much of the resistance to giving is probably due to the prevalence of abuse and manipulation in churches and media today to squeeze every possible dime out of worshipers. I remember entering the Charismatic movement after growing up Mormon. It took me a long time before I started giving because, as a Mormon, I was trained to distrust Charismatics, particularly the TV-type personalities. The con artists among us make it difficult for legitimate ministers like yourself to carry on regular pastoral duties, like paying the electric bill. Wish I had more to offer. In the end, I think Don (above) is right. Keep it simple and follow Paul’s teaching on the matter. Encourage them to give cheerfully, not out of necessity or grudgingly, and let the pieces fall where they may. 🙂

  11. I see one of the problems in this area is that the teaching of giving is separated from the teaching of good financial stewardship. There needs to be more teaching on seeking the Spirit in our spending. Most don’t seem to be aware of the power of interest – how you can get rich from that power, or wind up in bankruptcy through that power. I teach praying before making any major purchase. We should probably pray before making any purchase. We are a people of wants – always wanting more. Always wanting something bigger and better. When we can see what others lack, and weigh that lack with what we already have, it gets easier to give up some of our wants in order that others don’t lack as much. There’s no greater joy for me than being able to give to others in need. I have learned by the grace of God to ponder a purchase, sometimes for days and sometimes for weeks or months, sometimes to the point where the desire for that item vanishes. I am content with a 20-inc tv. I am content with a used cell phone with 3G capability rather than a new one with 4G. I mean, no one had a cell phone very many years ago! We tend to think things are necessary when it fact they are not. I believe anyone who has an ipod or iphone who cannot afford to be a generous giver has selfish priorities. Once we get our spending under control, we have more left to give.

  12. I’ll start by saying I’m not condoning the message that we must tithe to be blessed. There is a righteousness that comes apart from the law, and it is by faith. That being said, just to clear up for anyone who may read this without going the scripture (which we all often do 🙂 It was said that the Priests in the OT only received a first fruit offering. I’m so not being critical here, since I miss stuff all the time. I actually am not trying to argue a different point either, but it is good for us to really look too. So Numbers 18 in the Message translation says

    (Numbers 18:)1 -4 God said to Aaron, “You and your sons, along with your father’s family, are responsible for taking care of sins having to do with the Sanctuary; you and your sons are also responsible for sins involving the priesthood. So enlist your brothers of the tribe of Levi to join you and assist you and your sons in your duties in the Tent of Testimony. They will report to you as they go about their duties related to the Tent, but they must not have anything to do with the holy things of the Altar under penalty of death—both they and you will die! They are to work with you in taking care of the Tent of Meeting, whatever work is involved in the Tent. Outsiders are not allowed to help you.

    5 -7 “Your job is to take care of the Sanctuary and the Altar so that there will be no more outbreaks of anger on the People of Israel. I personally have picked your brothers, the Levites, from Israel as a whole. I’m giving them to you as a gift, a gift of God, to help with the work of the Tent of Meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests, working around the Altar and inside the curtain. The work of the priesthood is my exclusive gift to you; it cannot be delegated—anyone else who invades the Sanctuary will be executed.”

    8 -10 God spoke to Aaron, “I am personally putting you in charge of my contributions, all the holy gifts I get from the People of Israel. I am turning them over to you and your children for your personal use. This is the standing rule. You and your sons get what’s left from the offerings, whatever hasn’t been totally burned up on the Altar—the leftovers from Grain-Offerings, Absolution-Offerings, and Compensation-Offerings. Eat it reverently; it is most holy; every male may eat it. Treat it as holy.

    11 -13 “You also get the Wave-Offerings from the People of Israel. I present them to you and your sons and daughters as a gift. This is the standing rule. Anyone in your household who is ritually clean may eat it. I also give you all the best olive oil, the best new wine, and the grain that is offered to God as the firstfruits of their harvest—all the firstfruits they offer to God are yours. Anyone in your household who is ritually clean may eat it.

    14 -16 “You get every Totally-Devoted gift. Every firstborn that is offered to God, whether animal or person, is yours. Except you don’t get the firstborn itself, but its redemption price; firstborn humans and ritually clean animals are bought back and you get the redemption price. When the firstborn is a month old it must be redeemed at the redemption price of five shekels of silver, using the standard of the Sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.
    (end bible quote)
    So the Priests were definitely taken care of here, which is good, since they didn’t get an inheritance. Deut 14 talks at length about the tithe specifically, with a great big party and such. Now every THREE years that was to go directly to the Levites, aliens, fatherless, and the widows. Again, as Eric says, a case can be made to give far more than 10%, giving has to be from the heart, and this is part of God’s work in us, our giving needs to be a grace of giving, something we want to do. Then it’s cheerful. Abel gave by faith. Fred Price writes a book on giving and also points out that giving never guaranteed 30, 60, and 100 fold. I’m not sure what to think of that, since I love Fred Price, but I’ve certainly listened to Oral Roberts Sr say the opposite. I think it’s good to search and ask the Holy Spirit for insight so that we continue to grow. Like Einstein who at one point didn’t believe in God, and then later he did. For now, I just give cause I love to.

  13. Jason, I think you stopped a few verses too soon. The opening part of this chapter, which you quoted, speaks of the various offerings given to Aaron, his sons, his family and his tribe. Aaron is given charge of all of it (verse 8). The specific breakdown of how he is to disperse those offerings, to which I and Gary referred above begins in verse 21. I’ll quote the Message to maintain consistency:

    (21) I’m giving the Levites all the tithes of Israel as their pay for the work they do in the Tent of Meeting.

    (24) They get no inheritance among the People of Israel; instead I turn over to them the tithes that the People of Israel present as an offering to God.

    And as Gary Arnold rightly added above, the Levites then tithed from their tithe to the priests:

    (25-28) Speak to the Levites. Tell them, When you get the tithe from the People of Israel, the inheritance that I have assigned to you, you must tithe that tithe and present it as an offering to God. Your offerings will be treated the same as other people’s gifts of grain from the threshing floor or wine from the wine vat. This is your procedure for making offerings to God from all the tithes you get from the People of Israel: give God’s portion from these tithes to Aaron the priest.

    The Levites are also mentioned as tithe recipients in Deuteronomy 26:12-13, which is specifically the third year tithe, and actually something quite different from what is usually considered the tithe today. That would be the Levitical tithe.

    The priest’s were certainly taken care of, but that came primarily through the other offerings described through the first several chapters of Leviticus, not from the tithe, other than the portion given to them by the Levites.

    These include the grain offerings (Leviticus 2:3; 6:16-18; 7:9-10), a portion of the sin offering (Lev 6:26), the guilt offering, which was shared with the priest’s family (Lev 7:6), the hide from animals sacrificed as burnt offerings (Lev 7:8), the breast and right thigh of fellowship offerings (Lev 7:31-34), the firstfruits offering (Lev 23:20; Num 18:13; Deut 18:3-5).

    The point here is not that the priests were not taken care of, or that they should not be today. That is abundantly clear from 1 Corinthians 9:3-18, especially verse 11: “So if we have planted spiritual seed among you, is it out of line to expect a meal or two from you? Others demand plenty from you in these ways. Don‘t we who have never demanded deserve even more?”

    Rather the point is that the priests were not taken care of with the tithe, the thing that is preached so often today as the right of the pastor for his sustenance. If giving in the New Testament followed the definitions of the Old Testament law, then the pastor would have no claim to any tithe other than the tithe given by non-pastoral staff. We don’t do any of the other offerings that the law covers, with the exception of firstfruits. But that was never 10%. It was generally calculated at one fiftieth (Mishnah Terumot 4:3).

    I think the whole point is that the New Testament encourages giving, but it puts not regulations on it. The criteria include things like “according to your means” (2 Cor 8:11), “what he has decided in his heart to give: (2 Cor 9:7), “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7), “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor 9:7). Those qualities are preached in prosperity churches, but always with the threat that if you don’t give cheerfully, you will be cursed and lose everything.

    If tithing is presented as a requirement or a law, then the pastor has no claim to the tithe. If the pastor has a claim to support from his congregation, then it has to be under the New Testament conditions.

  14. Thanks for the additions, Jason. You’ll note that the prescribed manner in which the priests were taken care of, in the verses you gave, are wholly irrelevant for Christians. For example, when is the last time you gave a wave offering of olive oil and wine?, or when is the last time you threw a party for your family which constituted 10% of your income, and brought all the alcohol you could handle? (you’ll note that the verse encourages serious drinking 🙂

    The actual tithe as given in the OT amounts to something like 23% of one’s income, which is never taught in Christian churches (nor should it be), instead churches today teach their own invented doctrine of the tithe – “invented” because what they preach is found nowhere in Scripture, OT or NT, Message Bible or KJV.

    The point raised in this article is not that ministers should not be taken care of, that would be ridiculous. The discussion revolves around misuse and abuse of the tithe. Ministers have every right to be supported. But this, for me as an Orthodox Christian, would lead to a whole other discussion as to what qualifies one as a minister of the Gospel, or, as you put it, what qualifies one as a “priest.” I’ll leave that discussion for a later time. 🙂

  15. I haven’t read all the comments, so this may be redundant.

    I am on our small church’s parish council, and, yes, finances are a serious issue. Nobody is wearing a diamond ring, but we would like a young priest and his three kids to have a steady paycheck (meager as it is).

    This is what our church by-laws say regarding church membership (Orthodox Church of America, Diocese of the South:

    Article III Membership
    Section 1 Definition. Members of the Parish are those persons who:
    (a) have been baptized and chrismated, or otherwise canonically received, into the Church and who consciously uphold and profess the Orthodox Faith;
    (b) are regular communicants, that is, frequent participants in the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Communion. Members ideally partake of the Mysteries weekly, but in any case, no one can be a member of the Parish who fails to comply with this obligation at least once a year;
    (c) fulfill the financial obligations established by the Parish. All members are urged to make a yearly commitment for financial support of the Parish in the form of a pledge, the standard of which is a tithe (one-tenth) of their income;

    So . . . the standard held out is the tithe. Yes, the wording seems to indicate that faithful giving of a certain kind, though perhaps not as much as ten percent, is also acceptable. That is how we do it our church.

    Between avoiding the prosperity gospel, finding a way to support a a godly, austere pastor, and figuring out how to live out Matthew 6, it can be quiet a challenge.

  16. Dean, I fully appreciate that your parish has established 10% of one’s income as the standard of financial support, and I think many Orthodox parishes would agree to the standard. I guess my issue comes in when it is held out as a Biblical mandate or as a mandatory regulation, for all the reasons given in my article, the greatest of which is that one should not give out of a sense of “necessity” as Paul warned. “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart,” is his primary qualification for New Testament style giving (2 Cor 9:7). None of the Apostles waste a drop of ink on the tithe.

  17. Eric!
    As the son of a televangelist, I have to thank you for your contribution to this subject. In my new ministry role I have the responsibility to do announcements…and offering. I really appreciated the part about “not coming off as self serving.” That kind of plea turns my stomach.

    Also, my father-in-law is going to LOVE this post! I knew you were wondering about that.

    Seriously though, you’ve given me a starting point to dig in an area of struggled with for a LONG LONG time.

    cheers

  18. The 10% teaching has done so much damage to the average laymen because of the guilt trip they experience when they think they are “robbing” God. I know my wife and I did not pay “man” a few times because we thought surely it is worse to rob God! But then that puts shame on the name of Christ that a Christian would be late on paying bills, so either way, it’s bad, no win situation. I use to really wrestle with that before I learned that Christ set us free from the LAWS. We changed everything and focused on getting out of debt. We started paying 1% in offerings, and as God blessed that 1% we raised it to 2%. Now we are almost out of debt and paying 5% 0f gross income. We are still climbing and when we hit 10%, that will mean absolutely nothing to me. I wish more Churches taught the truth about this subject. The New Covenant in Christ simply does not teach a 10% LAW. We are to be led of the Spirit. So the important thing “now” is that we be “honest” with the Holy Spirit as he speaks to our heart.

  19. This is really interesting and liberating as well. I went to a church that never took up offerings – they had a box on the wall. No envelopes, no posted signboards, no pressure. They also never preached about tithing or giving. After several years the pastor finally did a teaching on what an offering was. It was a powerful experience where we saw our gifts used in a tangible way. It made my giving much more meaningful. I think the idea of traditional mosaic tithing is more of an obstacle than anything else – it breaks down the liberty given to us by the cross and creates a barrier of legalism.

  20. Very interesting, Eric. I appreciated reading your experiences on this topic.

    Imagine if committed Christians were still meeting in homes, rather than large or small edifices belonging to institutions.

    Imagine if Communion was a loving shared meal together in the home gathering.

    Imagine if these Christians chose to help others from what they could contribute, whether money or service.

    Imagine if nothing were kept for the home churches, all given in ministry.

    Imagine if ‘tithing” included service or living in justice toward all out of love.

    There may be some injustices even within religion, but individuals of faith and love gathered in Love are the Church, the Body of Christ, wherever that is.

    Purified intention in faith and love is of great significance. There are many ways of supporting church and ministry. Each individual must come to understand what they can offer and the reason they are doing so. It is the inspiration and intention that is important.

    The most significant relationship we can have is that with the Trinity. Discerning what we should do is dependent on that relationship. It is part of our growth in Oneness.

    Tithing is not about money, it is about love and service. Faith is not about supporting buildings and their expenses.

    The most important thing is growing into a relationship with God. That leads to understanding what the believer is truly inspired to give, not withhold. Paul’s example in Acts 4:32ff gives a great example in the contrast of intentions.

    I don’t know what all churches do, but I wonder how many members receive an annual report of what was received in tithes and how it was spent. Personally, I never remember receiving such a report. I never even received a report indicating whether or not anything I tithed bore fruit and in what way. Yet, religious institutions are big business today. Stakeholders in businesses receive and annual report. Are the members of the Body of no consequence?

    A faith community doesn’t mean that you never have a right to understand how the community is doing in continuing the mission of Christ in the world, and how one’s tithing is bearing fruit. Should faith always be blind?

    In small communities meeting in homes, as in the very early church, that would not be much of a problem because the community would be in a close participatory relationship. That very early Christian community was a wonder in more than just being victims of martyrdom.

    In Love, simplicity is reality. We just can’t resist making the simple complex, rather than the other way around. Spiritual growth reverses that.

  21. Home churches were indeed Christianity’s first form of gathering, due in large part to severe persecution. meeting in a public venue was dangerous, though they did manage to worship in the temple in Jerusalem till it was destroyed by the Romans.

    In my past life as a charismatic, word of faith evangelical, I use to rail against large churches and decry them as thieves in that they could have used the money spent on elaborate cathedrals for the poor instead. That was until I took trips to Europe and visited dozens of cathedrals. I can’t remember where it was exactly, but a guide during one of my visits explained that when a cathedral was built it employed hundreds of workers from the area, sometimes for entire lifetimes. One man would often work on a single work of art or wing of a church for decades, displaying his love for God through art and feeding his family at the same time. It was a set up that Keynesians today would salivate over. The money spend on cathedrals meant employment for every artisan and laborer in town.

    The Church did eventually move out of the living room and into the temple (i.e. church building), as the Judaic tradition had always been. But was this a bad thing? It gave more people access to the broader community of faith. It also allowed the authentic teachings and worship of the faith to be propagated and defended. Paul and the rest of the Apostles established bishops and deacons everywhere they went. People were not on their own without a shepherd. And thank God, otherwise the faith would have been gone long ago – similar to the deterioration of the American independent Christian world.

    What I’m saying is, meeting in a church building does not decree the propensity to have love between its congregants anymore or less than the living room would. I’ve been to many seriously awkward home “churches” and I’ll take meeting in a building with a bishop-priest-deacon structure any day over the go-it-alone deal. Just my two cents.

    And, I actually did attend a few churches that provided end of year reporting on all the giving. In fact, our Orthodox Church here in town does this every year. You should come visit if you’re ever in the Tulsa area. 🙂

  22. Eric, you gave some good history here. I agree there is a place for large churches and cathedrals. They do have an element of awe that can inspire hearts and minds.

    I also think the home church, when properly cultivated, though limited, can be a true experience of what church is about.

    Many years ago I started a group meeting together with not the slightest idea of what was happening. We were of different churches, some who went through the motions only. We met, shared scripture and the meaning for each of us. The Word is God’s Life, Light and Love .

    After a few years we had the occasion to reflect back on our passage and were awestruck at how the Spirit had led us, taught us, united us, and transformed us. We were in tears of love, joy and thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit had taught us what real church is. It was not a Charismatic group in the sense you mean, but it was charismatic in that the Holy Spirit was the source.

    I have know since that time what true church was, and it isn’t the edifice constructed by all who do really benefit from the work.

    While most days attending Mass, I was in deep prayer, community was a small band of solitary individuals, and church was the Mystical Body of Christ in One. However, I needed no building for that experiential state.

    By the way, I occasionally attended a Russian Eastern Rite Church that was really a wonderful experience. It was very humble, but the interior ambiance would immediately carry me into the embrace of the Spirit.

    There are different needs and purposes for Church. One is the Body, and the other is the gathering place. Even Charismatics have a place and something to give. Each serves to provide a way of growing in love and union with God.

    The problems always seem to be centered in egocentric power dynamics, but that dates back to the beginning.

    Yes, there are practical economic purposes for the church, but times have changed considerably. In any case, it is an issue that calls for deep reflection, separates the profound from the superficial, and that is what I hope for in Christians.

    Personally, I like all the expressions of Church and settings. We have different needs at various times and it is good to be able to participate in all the forms as we are inspired to to so. It is like enjoying a full course meal. 😉

    PS I agree about the Protestant Reformation reference. It is indeed very sad.

  23. Bravo to the churches that provide an annual report. I love hearing that.

    Thanks for the invitation, Eric. I’m afraid my traveling days are over, so I will have to be satisfied with enjoying your thought provoking blog.

    It’s been a long time since I studied theology, but perhaps I will have a few things I can add that might be worthwhile. I do like to express my opinions and thoughts, as best I can. It is another way of experiencing “church” and “community”, without any tithing requirements.

  24. As a member of my church is it wrong for me to stop paying tithe and offering when I feel that it just gets into the pockets of greedy leaders in the church? I know am not to judge but what do I do when it is obvious that the developments expected are never seen? I will rather give to the poor, which I am always ready to do.

  25. I know that with God your giving is honored if done with cheer and selflessness. Follow Scripture, that’s all I can say. If Scripture tells you to tithe, by all means. If not, why do it (again, giving a tithe and giving an offering are two different things. One should always give to their church if they believe in the church’s mission and whatnot)? You’ll never go wrong giving it to the poor. This is one area where their is no gray. We are told repeatedly throughout Scripture to give to the poor.

    Hope that helps. Good luck. 🙂

  26. Dear Eric Hyde

    the subject of tithe when viewed from its modern abuse can push bible students to find another extreme view against it and miss the principles which God was setting to deal with human selfishness then and now

  27. There is a clear reason for tithing which predates the Levitical order
    There are clear reasons which explains why tithes after the Cross

    in box me and i will explain as i cannot post all the info here

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