Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Testament Tithes

Many churches nowadays teach and require their members to pay a "Tithe" of their earnings from jobs or other means to the religious organization they belong to. Most of these organizations that do this pay their ministry out of the tithes and/or offerings that are submitted by the members, and a very few use the monies for the exclusive use of feeding the poor, widowed, orphaned, etc. I was raised in a UPCI congregation, and was taught that 10% (tithe literally means one tenth) belonged to God, and therefore was to be submitted every week or two, depending on my pay schedule. This money was then disbursed by the Pastor at his sole discretion, and that, supposedly, was the way it was supposed to be.

When you are raised being taught something, you will generally accept it as true until you are confronted by someone asking questions. In my case, I was reading an article online, and the author mentioned tithes being used to run the church, with the Pastor's salary coming from the offerings. Of course, if you are familiar with the UPCI format, the opposite is what they teach, with the tithes belonging to the Pastor as his salary, and the offerings being what runs the church (rent, utilities, mortgage, etc).

Having been raised UPCI and attending a
UPCI congregation here in Medicine Hat as an adult, you can imagine my surprise when I heard this other way of doing things. So, in an effort to find out what the truth is, I started reading. There are many many many articles online written by scholars from almost every denomination, sect, and organization on the planet.

Most organizations have a model of a paid clergy. Some encourage giving as Paul did in 1 Corinthians chapters 9 and 16, but don't
necessarily require 10%. Others mandate a minimum 10%. Still other more legalistic ones mandate 10% tithes, with offerings required over and above. Some even more stringent congregations maintain 10% tithes, 5% offerings, and have other amounts that have to be paid or you are ostracized and looked down on. Lastly, some very strict congregations hold to the exact same Old Testament teaching of 10% every year to the Levites, another 10% every year to the Temple for the care of the poor, widowed, and orphaned, and an extra 10% in years 3 and 6 of the 7 year sabbatical cycle to keep the Temple stocked for the charitable work, and to help provide for the 3 feasts totalling 22 days every year that the males of Israel were required to attend. Thus, the people would actually be giving approximately 23.3% to the Temple to be administered by the Levites.

However, the Old Testament Law that required mandatory tithing was done away with twice: first when Jesus lived and died and was raised which removed the yoke that our forefather's couldn't bear (Acts 15:10-11), and second when the Temple was destroyed by invading armies in 70+ AD. Without the Temple, we cannot fulfill the law that required the tithes to be brought to the Temple, therefore the law is done away with. When the Israelites were in captivity they didn't bring tithes....they couldn't. So we have a precedent that when we don't have the Old Testament Temple, we don't bring tithes.

In the New Testament, the word tithe doesn't even appear anywhere as a commandment. It appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke where Jesus is condemning the Pharisees (a breed I wish had died out 2000 years ago but continues to blab away in our day and age) for there ritualistic and silly practices, and in Hebrews where Paul (presumed to be the author of the book) does a fantastic job of showing that the law is of no more effect or requirement, and especially so in chapter 7 where he specifically states the
Levitical priesthood collected tithes, but a new priesthood has been created and ushered in. So if we are no longer under the law, and no more Levitical priesthood exists, who is claiming the right to mandate tithes?

Now, you say: But John, Paul stated that the ministry should be supported by the church in 1 Corinthians. My answer: absolutely. But where does the NT at any point mandate a 10% tithe to belong to the ministry as his/her salary? It simply cannot be shown. It isn't there. If you teach that 10% tithing is mandatory and
Biblically required by the NT church, and belongs to the ministry, you are completely out of line with God's word. Yes the ministry should be supported...but to the extent of their ministry. It all comes back to what a Pastor/Shepherd/Elder is in the Bible, which is completely at odds with what these self appointed Pastors in legalistic organizations state. If you wish to hold to the OT tithing system, then you must hold to the entire OT law. So you better have an appointed (hereditarily chosen by God) priesthood in your organization that also does all the work in the Church/Temple, and does all the ministering, and doesn't have an inheritance, etc. The problem is that we no longer live in a Theocracy. The OT tithing system was God's social tax system to support the Government (Levites), social assistance programs (feeding the poor, widowed, and orphaned etc), and public festivals (feasts). When the Theocracy was no longer the model of government, the tithes were no longer needed.

Yet we still come back to the absolute 10% tithes. As well, a UPCI preacher I know has stated on many occasions that you don't come before God empty handed. This was in reference to offerings. Then he would make comments about 5 and 10 bucks not being very big offerings. This from a guy that claims he is
Biblically entitled to 10% of all monies earned by members of his cult. So, now he is teaching that he is owed (through God of course, because the tithe is for God's ministry, and since he is the minister appointed by God, the tithes are his...blabbety blah blah blah) 10% from each and every penny earned by any living person in his congregation (and gets up to condemn and blast other cults that have monetary requirements). Ridiculous. So now we have to give 10% of our gross income (his teaching), plus offerings (say 20 bucks twice a week to not be in danger of giving too little) so the average house that earns 60,000 a year between 2 income getters, now gives $10160 (if there are two services a week with offerings collected) per year, out of a total of $45600 (approx after taxes) net income, which reduces their entire disposable income to $35440 per year, or $2953 per month. This money then goes to INCREASE the "minister's" salary 500 dollars a month (tithes only, apparently the "pastor" would be entitled to $500 tithes but the House of God is entitled to only $250 offering according to this system). To top it off, these types of "pastors" then claim: "I pay my tithes too you know!" But hang on, if I give money to a fund that belongs to me, then I'm just paying how does that line up with the Biblical model? The Levites didn't pay themselves tithes. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizidek. So where does the Bible say the ministry pays themselves tithes? It doesn't. Now if they paid tithes to someone else, I would perhaps agree that there's a sacrifice there, but they don't. Absolutely amazing what these guys pull off.

In fairness to the current circumstance, this "pastor" does not get to collect the tithes for personal use as the building they are having meetings in costs more than what comes in as offerings. However, if enough people convert to this cult, then eventually enough would be coming in to support the church on offerings alone. At that point, he could realistically claim his "entitlement" to the 10% tithes, and be making buckets of money: say 20 families (conservative estimate as he thinks he's the only "real" church in his town and wants to convert everyone in the city) all making the above amount of 60000 per year = 1,200,000 gross total
income = 120,000 per year in tithes. Obscene. Jesus had not even a place to lay His head, Paul was a tent maker and died for the Gospel, Peter was a fisherman and was crucified for his adherence to Jesus Christ, but modern day so-called "ministers" are getting rich off the Gospel that Jesus and these men DIED for. Then they get up and preach that we should die to ourselves, all the while living far above the means of many of the people in their congregation.

Often, Acts chapter 5 is used as justification for the mandatory collection of tithes. In this chapter, Ananias and Sapphira were killed because they lied to the Holy Ghost about what was the price they had gotten for the land. This is at a time where people in the early church were selling what they had extra and giving the price of it to be disbursed to those that had need. The sin of Ananias and his wife was not that they gave too little; it was that they said they were giving the entire price of the land when they weren't. They were well within their right (according to Peter) to give less, but they were attempting to gain recognition and status for something they weren't doing. They were being deceitful. Read the story again:

So that scripture passage doesn't support the tithing model. Paul didn't espouse it, Jesus didn't espouse it as He was the one that did away with the Law....We have no record anywhere of Jesus paying tithes...taxes yes, tithes no.

I guess it comes down to this: what amount should we give to the church? Well that's pretty easy actually. Give what you can. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 - "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem." So it says Paul wants a collection "FOR" the saints, not a mandated tithe FROM the saints, and this money would be taken to Jerusalem to help in the ministry of God's word, and FOR the saints that had need. He even says "according to your liberality" not "according to the OT law that you are no longer under but which I use to force you to pay 10% of your gross income with".

We are called to give to support the ministry it is true, and we should support the church we belong to with our funds (how can it exist without them). However, we are not called to make the so-called ministry rich. When you give, pray first, budget, see what you have left after your needs, give up something that is a want rather than a need that month or 2 weeks (depending on your budget) and give that for God to prosper and use in the ministry of His word. Give 10% if you feel that is appropriate. Give more than 10% if you are able. Give less if you aren't. It's possible you may fall under the category of poor, widowed, or then you should be receiving charity from the offerings. But in no circumstance should you be bound by Old Testament law and traditions of men...we are free of it. Jesus did away with the OT law, and if anyone had a right to collect tithes, He did. The law is finished, God doesn't need your money, your church family does. Base your giving on that, rather than someone preaching at you that God wants 10% of your income.

Finally, don't attach yourself to a congregation that has a single person in charge of funds collection and disbursement. Find one that teaches the Bible, lives the NT church model, and has a council of Elders that prays, fasts, and decides the direction of the church. That's Biblical. All else isn't, and is based on traditions of men.

God Bless you


King James Version

Young's Literal Translation

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