Thursday, September 30, 2010


Some time ago, I was challenged by a church member concerning the concept of the tithe. The assertion behind the challenge was, basically, that the tithe was an Old Testament law that is no longer in force with Christians. The following response from me may prove helpful in the discussion: Let me begin by thanking you for attending our church and giving sacrificially to this ministry . . . As for your study of the tithe, you make some good points. However, for me personally (and, I want to be clear, this principle is something I both preach and practice), the fact that the pattern of the tithe preceded the law (as did the pattern of the Sabbath rest), that Jesus reaffirmed it himself in the Gospels (which I consider a post Old Covenant dispensation, otherwise Jesus’ would not have made such radical claims of fulfillment of the law at the time-see John 6:29 where Jesus clearly presents belief in Him as the basis for salvation before He dies and before Pentecost--Some scholars describe the period of the Gospels as sort of an intermediate dispensation with elements of the Law still in force and elements of grace newly in place. I would say that the radical nature of Jesus new commands (ex. Jn 13:34) suggests that from the moment of His birth, a new dispensation occurred), and the clear teaching of the Epistles to give “bountifully” or “generously” (ex. 2 Cor. 9:6) suggests that a tithe is a minimum amount. Paul clearly had this in mind when he uses the pattern of Old Testament tithing as the New Testament pattern of local church support (note the pattern of tithing under the law in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14: “Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? IN THE SAME WAY, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”). It is true that the Bible does not teach the tithe, it suggests that the tithe is just the beginning of giving. Actually, Jesus wants it all. It is hard for me to fathom one day standing before the King when He says “How did you give for my Kingdom purposes and provide for my Bride with the resources I gave you?” and answering “I gave less than $1 out of every $10 You gave me.” I don’t want to say that at the Judgment seat of Christ. I’d rather say “I gave abundantly.” The overwhelming testimony of the early church fathers (that is, the disciples of the disciples, some of whom sat at the feet of the original 12) is to, at a minimum, tithe. For example, historian Collin Hanson states: “The early church's views on tithing foreshadowed many of today's stewardship debates. The Eastern Church began tithing out of obligation because they believed Jesus' conversation with the rich young man demanded sacrificial generosity. Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus pleaded with the church to surpass even the Old Testament tithe since Christ had freed them from the Law. Later church fathers—John Chrysostom, Cyprian, Origen, and Augustine among them—complained from time to time that their followers lacked Christian charity. Chrysostom even shamed his stingy church for marveling at those who tithed. He contrasted their amazement with the dutiful giving of Old Testament Jews. The early church's expectation that every Christian would tithe found formal expression at the Synod of Mâçon in 585 . . “ Another pastor writes: “Irenaeus, was a disciple of the Apostle John & Polycarp. He wrote that “systems of giving like tithing never ceased to be taught” ...but that the focus was not on "what's the minimum amount the Bible commands us to give." Rather, he writes: “Instead of being taught the tithe, we were taught to give all our possessions...” (See Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-36). Other historical writings show that the Apostles taught tithing as a "starting point" for those whose faith was too weak to give more than 10%.” I think the early church fathers got it right. Certainly God expects His church to be more generous than the Israelites under obligation to the law! (Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ). But, you’re right, it’s your decision and is between you and God. Pray about it and do what God tells you. My job is to teach what I believe fully to be consistent biblical teaching, for which I will give an account before God. Your job is to evaluate said teaching before the Lord and do what He tells you to do. May the Lord bless you brother. Again, thanks for the honor of pastoring you! In Him, Pastor Rusty