The Word for Today, Bob Gass Gets Tithing Wrong
It's estimated that less than one-tenth of all those who attend church give a tenth of their income to God's work, even though the Bible clearly teaches that the first tenth of all we earn belongs to God. 'A tithe of everything... is holy to the Lord.' (Leviticus 27:30 NIV)
Bob quotes this verse from Leviticus but hides over 60% of the text with an ellipsis (the "..."), including the all important limiting clause. Here is the verse unedited:
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. - Leviticus 27:30
This verse does not start with "A tithe of everything", instead it starts with "A tithe of everything from the land". The reality is that the tithe talked about here only concerned those who grew crops and fruit. This is why Jesus would not have tithed this tithe, since he was a carpenter and did not produce from the land. Remember, there were three different tithes in the Old Testament, none of which match the "ten percent of your gross earnings each week" taught by Christian tithe teachers today; you can read more about these tithes here.
So, does this verse support the statement "the Bible clearly teaches that the first tenth of all we earn belongs to God"? It clearly does not.
Today it is estimated that two-thirds of the church's income comes from people aged 69 or older. That's alarming! We need to teach our children the responsibility and rewards of tithing.
It is alarming, but it does not follow that Christian tithing is the only solution. There are other solutions to this problem, as proved by the many churches around the world that do not teach tithing yet have a good income from giving.
Perhaps you think tithing only applied to those who lived under the Old Testament law, like the Pharisees. No, Jesus said, '...unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees... you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' (Matthew 5:20 NIV)
So is Bob making Christian tithing a salvation issue now? That is a pretty serious charge. After all, he seems to be saying that if you don't tithe then "you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven". Adding extra criteria to salvation is one of the attributes of the cults, since it messes with the foundations of our faith. In fact, this sounds like Bob is promoting a works based salvation, if you don't tithe (the work) then you are not saved.
The key here is context. We all know the importance of reading verses in context don't we? In context, Jesus has said four verses before then "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Like a contract Jesus has fulfilled the law, He has not abolished it rather he has completed it. And of course once a contract is fulfilled, it is no longer in force (Hebrews 9:15-17).
In context, Jesus is pointing out that without Him you would have to obey the whole law, and do it better than the Pharisees (because even they weren't doing it well enough). In other words Jesus is underlining how impossible it is for anyone to be justified by the law, and how fortunate it is that He fulfilled the law for us.
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. - Galatians 3:23-25
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." - Galatians 3:10
The tithe is a minimum; your love and faith should determine the maximum.
Nowhere does the Bible say this. Bob has either made this up or heard it from the tithe teachers. If tithing really was the minimum for Christians then surely it would have been taught clearly somewhere in the New Testament?
Abraham paid tithes 600 years before the law (Genesis 14:20),
This is one of the classic tithe teacher chestnuts. It features because they know that Christians are not under the law, and therefore they need to find a pre-law precedent to justify their insistence that tithing is for Christians today.
First, this tithe was a one off occurrence, however Bob says "Abraham paid tithes 600 years before the law", but he should have written "Abraham paid a tithe 600 years before the law". There is no other evidence in scripture that Abraham tithed again - Bob has no justification for pluralizing the word tithe.
Second, Abraham did not tithe from his earned income, rather it was a tenth of his war plunder. He gave a tenth of his spoils of battle to Melchizedek the king of Salem.
Let's mix this tithe into the doctrine of the tithe teachers: if we were to duplicate Abraham's tithe then we would need to first fight and win a battle, and then give ten percent of the spoils to our church. Well, imagine the look on your pastor's face if you did that.
Abraham's single war plunder tithe cannot be used as proof that you must give ten percent of your earned income to your local church. It was a completely different thing, and so cannot be used as a precedent for Christian tithing.
then Jesus endorsed it saying we 'ought' to tithe (Matthew 23:23 NKJV),
The funny thing is that this favorite verse of the tithe teachers actually works against them, as you will see.
In context, Jesus is talking directly to the Pharisees telling them off for focusing on the lesser parts of the law while forgetting the most important parts:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. - Matthew 23:23
First notice that the tithe is a tenth of their spice crop, not ten percent of their monetary earnings (see earlier about Leviticus 27:30 "A tithe of everything from the land...").
Next read the verses around this verse too, there is no question that Jesus is correcting the Pharisees - speaking directly to them. At this time before the cross the law had not yet been fulfilled and so still applied. These Pharisees were getting a harsh lesson in the law from the one who had written the law. This is what this verse is about; it is not aimed at Christians living after the cross in the time of grace.
Lastly, this verse actually works against the tithing teachers. Remember Bob has just said "Abraham paid tithes 600 years before the law (Genesis 14:20), then Jesus endorsed it...". No, Jesus clearly wasn't endorsing Abraham's tithe. In this verse Jesus says, "You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law". Jesus confirms that tithing is part of the law, not something that was before the law. This is the same law that Jesus fulfilled and so does not apply to Christians.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. - Romans 7:6
and the writer to the Hebrews confirmed that it is still God's plan (Hebrews 7:4-5 NIV).
Really? Well here are the verses Bob is referring to:
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people-that is, their brothers-even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. - Hebrews 7:4-5
Well these verses do confirm that Abraham's tithe was of war plunder. However, as for saying anything about tithing being God's plan for Christians, they clearly do not.
Did you notice that in these verses the priests are the ones that collect a tenth from the people? Well all Christians are part of "a royal priesthood" according to 1 Peter 2:9. So since we are all priests, then should all Christians collect the tithe? After all that is what these verses tell us that the law requires priests to do. But collect the tithe from whom? Each other? But priests don't have to tithe, instead they are the ones who collect the tithe. Arrggh! Bob's tithing idea and verses lead to a doctrine paradox, but thankfully if we read a few verses on, then our heads will stop hurting - since we discover that we are not under the law:
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. - Hebrews 7:18-19
As believers, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham, and as such, his blessings have been promised to us (Galatians 3:14 NKJV).
Bob refers to Galatians 3:14, but it is more enlightening to start reading four verses before then:
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. - Hebrews 3:10-14
But if you want what Abraham had, you've got to do what Abraham did - and he was the first man in Scripture to tithe!
OK, this is interesting logic. The verses in Galatians are clearly saying that we get these promises by faith, like Abraham had, not by doing what he did. Read all of Galatians 3. Especially note that it starts out saying:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? - Galatians 3:1-3
The whole theme of Galatians 3 is that we gain by faith, not by following the law.
But, just for a moment, let's imagine that Bob is right. That we have "got to do what Abraham did" to receive the promise of the Spirit. OK then, so along with tithing our war plunder, we should also scare our first born son witless by almost sacrificing him (Genesis 22:1-18).
Imagine if Bob had actually written, "But if you want what Abraham had, you've got to do what Abraham did - and he was the first man in Scripture to almost sacrifice his son."
Giving God the first tenth of your income makes Him number one in your priorities. His Word says, 'Bring the whole tithe... Test me in this... and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.' (Malachi 3:10 NIV) Do you want to walk in God's blessings? Become a tither!
Every tithe teacher invokes the Malachi verses, despite knowing full well that they are about the law, and so do not apply to Christians. There are other reasons that the Malachi verses do not apply, read here for more information.
In conclusion Bob Gass is wrong, tithing is not compulsory for Christians. When we look at his arguments and the scriptures he quotes, we see they do not support his assertions.
If you want to be blessed then it is true that giving is useful, but don't give under the law, instead give in grace guided by the Holy Spirit:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver - 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
To learn more read the articles and free books at TithingDebate.com, and get set free from the unbiblical burden that is "Christian tithing".
This article was written by Cultwatch director Mark Vrankovich. Send your comments about this arcticle directly to the author using this email address:
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