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The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

. . . "I recall once visiting a church, and on that morning the pastor said, “If you don’t tithe before you pay your electric bill, then you are sinning against God.”

As I eagerly awaited the Biblical evidence, not surprisingly he produced none. On the contrary, a simple survey of Biblical passages on tithing shows another conclusion entirely.

The first Biblical mention of the concept is in Genesis 14:20 (and discussed in Heb 7:7-10), when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of victory.

Importantly, Abraham did so voluntarily, and was not under any legal requirement to do so. Hence, Abraham’s actions in that instance are as binding on future generations as his preparing meat, curds, and milk for visiting strangers (Gen 18:6-7).

I can hear the pastor now: “If you don’t prepare meat, curds, and milk for visiting strangers before paying your electric bill, you are sinning against God!”

“But pastor, how will I prepare the food if my refrigerator and electric stove aren't working?”

Tithing under the mosaic law

Outside of that context, the other 34 Biblical mentions of the tithe are all within the confines of the Mosaic Law and the days when Israel was under that Law. All of them.

And the tithe wasn't just money—it was land, seeds, and fruit too (Lev 27:30). Then, along with the tithe, there were burnt offerings and sacrifices, votive and freewill offerings, and the firstborn of the herds and flocks (Deut 12:6).

And then there was the tithe of the tithe (Num 18:26). There was even the “year of tithing” (Deut 26:12). Further, the tithes had to be presented to the tribe of Levi at the place the Lord selected (Deut 12:11, 17; 14:22).

God took the tithe seriously, rebuking Israel for failing to present the tithe (Mal 3:8-10). The tribe of Levi was not given a land inheritance at the level of other tribes, and the Levites spent so much of their time administering the Mosaic Law that they had no time to work the land as the other tribes did. Hence, the tithe was designed in part to support the tribe of Levi.

When anyone tells you that you are required to tithe, they are placing you under a Law that Jesus died to fulfill, and under a Law that Paul says you are not under (Rom 6:14-15). Of course that does not mean that we shouldn't be generous and giving. On the contrary:

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed (2 Cor 9:6-8).

Giving is not to be done sparingly, and should be based on what each one has determined (no rules about percentages, etc.), and should be done with good cheer.

Further, we need to remember that when God blesses with physical blessings it is for good deeds.

Finally, we need to understand that Christian giving is designed to help the poor (2 Cor 9:9) and to meet the needs of the saints (2 Cor 9:12). We are to help believers and those who aren't believers (Gal 6:10).

So, not all of our giving must be funneled through the administration of a local church. Sometimes that is the best way to meet the needs of the saints and the poor, but sometimes it isn't. We have freedom in areas such as these.


Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

I agree Donna. If a tithe is how you want to give, go for it! But it is no longer a mandate. Paul does say in 1 Cor. 9:13-14 that a pastor of the Good News should live off the Good News, but he also says "each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart" ~2 Cor. 9:7. I've always viewed the church's stance on tithes as a way to "make money" to "keep the lights on".

Originally I believe Paul's words were for the pastor alone. Not for offerings to be for the band, the lighting, the rent, the *insert expense here*. They had no "mega-churches" in the first century. It makes "church" into "funding a business" rather than making sure the pastor makes a living off his preaching.


Email: rebeccagoings@gmail.com

Website: http://yahwehishisname.blogspot.com

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

I have believed this way for a while but a lot of the church is ready to shoot you over this. I have wanted to say maybe we are not seeing any results consistently when we do give because so many ask for a receipt so they can take if off their taxes(which I have done). Doing their alms before men so to speak. The viewpoint Donna is presenting was on Calvary Chapel's main website the other day and a confirmation to me about my decision to attend one of their churches. God loves a cheerful giver, not a reluctant one. It is a heart issue. What about the rich who gladly tithe but won't give of their time feeling they have done their part. Thanks for posting this Donna!

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

yes, Becka and Mo2 ~~ Paul helped sum it up nicely, huh speaking to the church~
. . "But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary" . . Philemon 14.

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

Thanks, Donna! I agree with the teaching. I read once that if one really wanted to tithe according to OT, they would have to give 23% of their earnings (accounting for all tithes). I remember a friend of mine who was struggling financially to raise her daughter heard a guest speaker at her church on tithing. She was told to have faith, and that she would not be blessed unless she tithed. She was really troubled and wondered if she should use her overdraft to tithe - basically getting in debt to give. Then, she would not have enough for her own needs, and the church would help. I felt it was just wrong.

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

The tithe was instituted for the tribe of Levi, as they could own no land. This instead was their inheritance.

The pillars upon which tithing is taught is shaky indeed.

When Abraham paid tithes, he paid from the spoils of war, on one time basis only.

Tithing can be spirit led, but it not doctrinally binding.

I'm not jewish, I don't support the "temple of the Lord", and I'm not a Levi.

This practice has been high-jacked by corporate church and religious entities.

Love & blessings...Tender Reed

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

I agree that tithing, or charity if you prefer, needs not to be a legalism thing if it is to glorify God and have eternal significance. If we give because we "must", I doubt the Lord is particularly pleased. But I also think that those who enable missionaries to evangelize their fields will receive a reward. It reminds me of a recent explanation of the parable of the fired manager. Jesus commended the manager in the parable for being wiser than many in the kingdom. Which never made sense to me at all. But this teacher taught that God owns everything (check) and that we are supposed to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted us with (check) and that we often fail (check). The manager in this parable didn't steal from his Master, but rather forgave the debts of others in his Master's name, using the Master's riches to build relationships and friendships. What can we take with us to heaven? Friends and people who have also come to the Lord. So the meaning of the parable could be expressed "use what God has provided you with for His kingdom, not for selfish pleasures."

I also found these facts a tad distressing:

"A quarter of respondents in a new national study said they tithed 10 percent of their income to charity. But when their donations were checked against income figures, only 3 percent of the group gave more than 5 percent to charity.

The people most likely to misreport high levels of giving were those who said faith was very important to them and those who attend services more than weekly, according to a report by University of Notre Dame sociologists Christian Smith and Heather Price presented at the recent Association for the Sociology of Religion meeting in Denver."
"From 1968 to 2009, member giving to church finances as a percentage of income decreased from 2.45 percent to 2.04 percent, a decline of 17 percent. Far more dramatic has been the decline in giving for benevolences, or the broader mission of the church ranging from supporting seminaries to feeding the poor. Per member giving for benevolences dropped 48 percent, from .66 percent of income in 1968 to .34 percent in 2009, empty tomb reported."

fair use for educational and discussion purposes

I suspect that a big reason that the Church doesn't give more generously, such as actually tithing, is that we don't trust our local church to spend the money as well as we can. So much waste on excess, on spending God's money on themselves and not on Kingdom work. I so appreciate my local pastor. He lives in my area (lower to middle middle class, 30 - 50 year old homes) drives a car in worse shape than mine, albeit a newer one, our church doesn't grow until the cash is in hand. And 20 - 23% of all incoming money goes out into the mission field. I can invest into this local church and trust that my money will grow dividends of eternal worth. But how many can say this?

I will say that part of the tithing issue begins with making budget choices that show good stewardship. Not buying more house or car than you actually need. Not spending more money on starbucks than God. etc. If we would stop serving our flesh so much, most of us would have more money left available to give. After all, it ALL belongs to Him. We're just the managers, until He calls us Home for the accounting.

Email: TxThom@raptureintheairnow.com

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

Indeed the Lord will always honor whatever we do or give to Him, for He must honor the practice of trust, though He prefers our obedience rather that the works of tithing. Again, this is a high-jakced teaching which the "corporate church" and par-church organizations have turned it into a sacred cow. When I shared my feelings on this subject it was without having even read this or any other article. There have been a few bible teachers who have been honest and subjective enough to declare the truth about tithing, but for most it has become a most convenient source of income.

Love & blessings..Tender Reed

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

I went back to my parent's church last weekend, hoping maybe the leadership had matured, but it was the same. They had a guest speaker but the main pastor was down in the front row. I don't want to sound like I'm judging him, but whenever the speaker said something about how God blesses those that are willing to put their money first into the Kingdom of God (church), both he and his wife both jumped out of the seat applauding and laughing, "AMEN!". It was quite over the top. I'm sure the church is hurting and they need the money but I grew up in that church and they probably harped on tithing more than average. I do think tithing is important, but it defitenly has to be of one's own free will, and should go to a theological sound and mature church. :)

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

Boy Donna - you hit on a BIG pet peeve of mine. I have not found in the New Testament anything on tithing. What I consider Jesus reference to tithing is in Matthew 22:

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “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.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

When he said to give what is God's to God, he was talking about our hearts. He gave himself in exchange for our hearts. Our 'tithing' is complete submission of our heart.

The mindset that I like to work on within myself is that ALL I have is a blessing from God. All of my money is his that he put in my care. So giving back to him should be a natural thing - it's his to start with.

I love my pastor but this is one area that I disagree with him on. When he quotes scripture on tithing - every bit of it is Old Testament and he says that it is scriptural that we give a certain percentage. The church needs financial support. As much as we may not like it, the Lord's work costs money. I would MUCH rather hear a pastor get in the pulpit and say 'Hey, these are the things we're trying to support in addition to keeping the lights on here and we need your help.'

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

I would love for a church to have a lock-box in the back of the sanctuary - and let the congregation give as they will. I can't stand the speech about tithes as well as the offering plate/bag that goes around. Who invented the offering plate? Didn't church begin with a lock-box in the back? The story of Yeshua and the widow with the two mites was her dropping it into the "treasury" of the temple. There was no "offering plate" passed around the rabbis.

Do they have an offering plate at a Catholic mass? I don't even know.

People shouldn't feel bullied/shamed/obligated to give. God wants us to give from the heart, and the only way to do that is for the offering to be graceful. My old church used to have a short word/mini sermon about tithes/offerings. Maybe just 2 to 5 minutes long, but still... Everyone knows you should give to the church. It's not a new idea. I wonder what would happen if a church tried the honor system offering.


Email: rebeccagoings@gmail.com

Website: http://yahwehishisname.blogspot.com

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

Your local church is not going to function without it receiving some kind of income from its congregants on a regular basis. Most churches are probably 501-C3s, so they can use their money without paying taxes---so salaries, church upkeep and running, ministries to the pubic, are not magically being paid. So although the tithe is a part of the law, let's also know that giving unto God supports His church and gets us away from idolizing our money.

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

The Calvary Chapels I have been to do it this way. No offering plate passed and a lock box outside the sanctuary.

Re: The 'tything myth' ~ By Dr. Christopher Cone

requirement to tithe is under the Law again , which Christ already fulfilled for us so that we could just give as we will , cheerfully .
The Word : The Lord loves a cheerful giver !

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