Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Best Explanation of Tithing I've Ever Heard

January is always tithing month at my old church. While every service included a mini-sermon on tithing "if you don't tithe God can't bless you", a special emphasis is placed on tithing in January. Every single Sunday school lesson, and a few church sermons, are devoted to the topic. Have you ever tried to explain tithing to a Kindergartener? I have. My Kindergarten-aged child still doesn't really know the difference between a dollar and a penny... and we've been counting money nearly every day since October!

If you were having any problems in your life, my old church would ask "do you tithe?" It doesn't matter if your income is $3000 a month and your bills and necessities total $3100 a month, the solution to all your money problems is to tithe.

Every week you'd hear testimonials about how people were in debt and they started tithing, and a year later, they're magically debt-free. I'm sure that their stories are true, the people with the testimonials were trustworthy people. You hear over and over again "everybody can afford to tithe, because it's the FIRST 10% that goes to the Lord."

Okay, that's fine and good, I'm sure that I can give the first 10%. Even on the whopping $1500 we made this month, I could give $150 of that to the Lord. Then you have the mortgage of $1000, and I'm left with $350. My electric bill was $150 this month, so that leaves me with $200 to pay for gas, food, water, sewer, trash, the car payment, etc. It doesn't really work out, does it?

This month is an extreme example, but the $3000 for $3100 in bills is not. I'm sure that God could be a magic money machine that could provide me with an extra $444, every single month, so I can afford to tithe when ends don't meet by normal means, and I'm sure that there are some people out there that have a lot of faith that can make it work... but I'm not one of them. I see the Dave Ramsey budget laid out in front of me and I shake my head and say "it's not going to work."

We were talking about tithing at my new church, which is not something that my new pastor normally talks about. He said that the one time he did try preaching about tithing, someone had a heart attack or something like that, so he took it as a sign that he shouldn't preach any more about tithing, lol. But we had a Sunday school topic on it, so he gave a really good explanation, of what to do when your income doesn't cover, or just barely covers, necessary expenses like food, transportation to get to work and church, your bills, and a place to live?

He said that sometimes people get off the path, and then they want to start doing the right thing, but it's not always something that one can do overnight. Getting to the point where you're living beyond your means is one of those things. Or in our case, we were once living within our means, but our income was slashed, but our bills did not decrease. When we realize that we are living beyond our means, we need to repent of it, and then do whatever we can to get to the point where we can tithe. It would probably be a worse testimony to the Lord if we decided to tithe all of a sudden and stopped paying our mortgage as a result.

Not that we should go out, when we can't afford to tithe, and buy a new set of cookware or some fancy gizmo that we see on television when we can't tithe. We need to do what we can to tithe before we start buying those extras that we don't need.

It makes a lot of sense to me. I know miracles happen... my nephew is having a birthday party on Tuesday, and we really didn't have enough money to buy a gift for him. What do you know, the $25 Target gift card that I won back in November showed up today, so I can get a box of diapers and a present, without spending any money.

Maybe I should believe that God will show up on my doorstep magically with $1500, but unfortunately, I don't.


russkellyphd said...


Have you ever considered that the entire tithing doctrine is wrong?

In the OT the only people who were required to tithe were farmers and herdsmen who reaped the miraculous increase God provided off of His holy land of Israel. There are over 25 OT tithing principles and NONE of them are followed by the church today.

The testimonies you mentioned can be found everywhere including secular atheistic financial planning seminars. You never hear the majority who may have been “tithing” for generations and remain in poverty. I list a lot of those stories on my web site.

The church erroneously calls the tithe a “firstfruits.” In reality they are two different offerings in the OT and the firstfruits was an extremely small token offering which could be carried by hand. See Lev 23:10-11,Deu 26:1-10 and Neh 10:35-37. In the OT Jews could not bring tithed food that came from pagan lands.

Dave Ramsey is not a trained theologian. While most of his financial advice is sound, he is wrong about tithing. He says that Proverbs alone has over 20 tithe texts when it actually has NONE and only one “firstfruits” text.

Stop and carefully read 1st Timothy 5:8. Your first responsibility is to buy food, medicine, shelter and heat for your family. If you live above your means perhaps you should take Ramsey’s advice and downscale your house or car or lifestyle.

The NT tells us to give in response to God’s gift. It teaches cheerful sacrificial giving. The problem with churches is not solved by teaching a percentage giving of 10% because many affluent stop there instead of giving sacrificially until it hurts.

The NT teaches “equality” giving, not tithing. Many give more and some give less. It equals per 2 Cor 8:12-14.

I pray that you can give to the best of your ability whether that is more or less than 10%.

Please start by reading my 19 point essay, Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine. My site has over 100 articles on tithing.

In Christ’s love
Russ Kelly

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD, author of Should the Church Teach Tithing?

Brooke Lorren said...

I've looked that the verses myself, and I have come to the conclusion that it is the ideal. And I didn't get it from Dave Ramsey... although he is right on when he talks about the borrower being slave to the lender.

We haven't tithed since I was making good money working for the Navy. You just can't get blood out of a stone, so we've been giving what we could. For much of the past several years it's never been more than about $10 a month. I'm not about to end up out on the street from not paying my mortgage in order to tithe.

We don't live beyond our means, there's not much we can downsize. I paid $1400 cash for my car, but I don't trust driving it more than a few miles from home, so it's definitely not a commuter car. Dh's car we purchased used after our old car decided to have the engine and transmission die, both in the same month. It was the least expensive car on the lot... which was at a used car lot, but not a junk used car lot. I've been to those places looking for cars, and there's absolutely nothing that I can find there that is worth the price.