|Within certain theological circles, it is a
well-established fact that unless you give 10percent of your gross income to the
church as a tithe, you are robbing God and a curse will fall upon your finances. Giving is
not even considered as such until after you pay the tithe and give an offering, because
the tithe is simply the "rent" you owe God for living on His green earth and
breathing His air. The proof-text for this tithe-or-else teaching is Malachi 3:8-10:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, "How do we rob you? In tithes
and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing
me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house".
Who in their right mind would rob God?
Well, for starters, the preachers who assert such a seamless connection
between Malachi 3 and new covenant giving. Because if one examines the purpose of the
tithe, it was not only to meet the needs of the Levites who had no inheritance (Numbers
18:21, 23-24), but every third and sixth year it was used to meet the needs of the aliens,
the father-less and the widows (Deuteronomy 14:27-29). In many of these
"tithing" churches, if the needy are taken care of at all, this need is
typically funded by a "monetary benevolence offering" given above and beyond the
The seventh year of the seven-year tithing cycle was a year of Sabbath rest for the
land, and the agricultural tithe that year (grain and fruit) stayed in the possession of
the people. (Leviticus 25:2-7). Let's see how well that will preach!
One is left to wonder why dogmatic adherence to the wording of Malachi 3 is taught as
it applies to our giving, but as for its purpose and distribution, we observe a radical
departure from scripture. Even more questionable is the practice of insisting that
someone who is poor and in dire need of help must give their way out of debt
by "planting seed"
|in the church; that
failure to tithe is the reason for their predicament (i.e. the curse). Let's not
deceive ourselves. Whether through tithes or by other means, the heart of God has always
been: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no
pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17).
The truth is, there is not a seamless connection between the regulations of
tithing and giving to a local church. For example, the tithing regulations
never involved money, unless it was to purchase a tithe in a faraway city,
or redeem back a tithe (animal or produce) previously offered. For an excellent discussion
of the common misconceptions of the tithing ordinances and Spirit-led giving, I highly
recommend a book entitled, Beyond Tithes & Offerings by Michael and Mitchell Webb.4
It has some eye-popping comparisons on what is commonly taught in churches today
versus what the bible actually says concerning tithes and offerings.
We have a duty to be generous to the ministry where we worship, and 10
percent is a great guideline for our giving. But if the Spirit prompts you to give 20
percent, don't feel good about just giving 10. And if circumstances are such that you
cannot afford 10 percent, then sacrificially but with cheerfulness give what you can, without
fear of a curse.