Why Pastors Shouldn’t Teach Tithing — One Pastor’s Gracious Response

I didn’t see it coming. I hadn’t intended it to happen. But last week, Average Us became controversial. I wrote a post about Why Pastors Shouldn’t Teach Tithing and lots of you showed up to read why, tell me you agree, or disagree, or imply that I’m a false prophet.

Calvin and Hobbes fighting

(Phew! I’m just a little too average for all that. And btw – we Christians should give generously to support the mission Jesus has given to the church. I explain how much we should give, and why we should give, in What Jesus and His Apostles Taught About Giving.)

One of the disagree-ers was Pastor Tom from California. He wrote a very thoughtful comment explaining why he disagreed, and I thought it was such a great example of Christ-like humility and charity that I asked his permission to offer a reply in this post. Here is Pastor Tom’s comment:

1) Abraham gave tithes before the Law. He was saved by faith without the Law, and he gave the tenth before the Law (Genesis 14:20).

2) Most of the churches Paul started began with Jews and Gentiles (God-fearers) who were attending synagogues (i.e. the Corinthian church and the Thessalonian church). When these churches began, they already knew about tithing and were already practicing it. Hence Paul did not need to teach it in his epistles. Lon, your conclusion about Paul not teaching it to Gentiles is only an assumption you are making.

3) People who never have to pastor a church and be responsible for its financial survival are always quick to throw out the tithe. Yet, every other organization has prescribed amounts for its citizens or members (i.e. tax rates, membership dues). There is even what we call the msrp (manufacturers suggested retail price). So in everything else there are precise percentages and numbers, but yet the church is supposed to survive without any objective system of giving? I don’t think so. The tenth is God’s suggested number, and New Testament Christian giving should start there.

I have to lovingly disagree with Lon’s argumentation here. It doesn’t hold any greater weight than the long-held traditional Christian teaching of the tithe.

Pastor Tom
Community Baptist Church
Norwalk, CA

I really appreciate this comment because Pastor Tom isn’t pointing a finger through the web just to say, “You’re wrong, and you’re bad for thinking so.” He makes a reasonable argument without getting personal that can be discussed and debated. He’s not interested in fighting. He clearly wants to reflect the Savior he loves while standing his ground on his convictions. Here’s a quick how to disagree and still sound like a Christian.

  1. Make a reasonable argument — explain and support your point.
  2. Respond to the other person’s point — don’t ignore it.
  3. Don’t make assumptions about the other person’s motives or make personal attacks.
  4. Marry your conviction with humility and love.

And it’s on that basis that I’ll offer these answers to Pastor Tom’s comments.

1. Abraham gave tithes before the Law.

True. Abraham did tithe to the mysterious Melchizedek before the Law of Moses (e.g. the old covenant) came into effect. I mentioned this in Why the Apostles Didn’t Teach Tithing. But an example of someone tithing is not the same thing as a command to do so. Abraham’s example of tithing the spoils of war nowhere receives the divine “Do thou likewise.” God gave Israel specific commands to financially support the old covenant sacrificial system with their tithes. He did not leave Israel to simply follow Abraham’s example. And it is factual to say that when Jesus created the new covenant, neither He nor the Apostles re-issued the tithing command to Gentile believers who were never part of the old covenant. The purpose of the tithe under the old covenant was to financially support the sacrificial system. And since Jesus was sacrificed once for all as our passover lamb, and has given us a new covenant in his blood, there is no more sacrificial system to support.

So, even if we choose to give 10%, which is fine, it’s not the tithe of Scripture, so pastors shouldn’t teach it as such.

2. The early churches already knew about, and practiced, tithing.

True again that the early churches included both Jews and Gentiles. But, it’s a big leap — an assumption, if you will — to say that this explains why Paul didn’t teach tithing in his letters. We simply have no information in Scripture, pro or con, on this point. More importantly, this assumption also doesn’t explain why the Apostles chose not to speak about the tithe even in these two very relevant circumstances:

  1. When the council of Jerusalem met to discuss the question, “should Gentile converts have to keep the law?” they gave specific commands, but didn’t include tithing (or giving of any sort).
  2. When Paul was raising funds for a relief offering to bring to Jerusalem he could have taught a specific percentage to be given. He could have taught 5%, or 10%, or 50%. But he left it as a matter of conscience between the giver and God.

So, whatever we choose to give, it remains a matter of conscience, not an imposed percentage, so pastors shouldn’t teach it as such.

3. The church needs an objective system of financial support.

This is not a biblical question, but a practical one. So, I’ll respond to it as a lifelong churchman, and former pastor who believed in tithing at the time.

Now, whether the tithe has always been the Christian standard is something I am beginning to doubt. I haven’t done the historical research yet, but I can’t recall ever reading anything older than 100 years or so that taught tithing as the objective standard of Christian giving. If anyone knows of an earlier source please share in the comments.

But, certainly the Great Commission requires significant financial support. And I know what it is to hope the offering will cover the church mortgage and my salary, and something for ministries, missions, etc. So, an objective system could be useful. But even so, we should not call it the tithe because it isn’t. And it should not come with promises of blessing or cursing because it doesn’t. And it should be voluntary, because God didn’t command it.

Having said that, I believe there is a better way to raise funds, pursue the mission, and bring believers to spiritual maturity. And that is, for pastors to inspire us again and again with our grand mission, His Great Commission. Remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our families, and bigger than our local church. Lead us by example by making the Great Commission the first line item on the budget, and strategizing all other expenses to support that priority. Show us that neither operating expenses (mortgage, salaries, utilities, etc), nor capital expenses (more buildings, larger buildings, etc), are the priority. Set a visionary goal like adding 1% per year to the church budget that is exclusively devoted to pursuing the Great Commission and Great Commandment. How inspiring would it be to see the church leadership commit to giving away an increasing portion of their total offerings in service to the worldwide mission of the gospel?

So pastors, when you ask us to give, show us how our church is pursuing the Great Commission first. Inspire us with the scope, and joy, and motive of our mission. Then, leave our personal budgets to our consciences, and I believe, the Holy Spirit will move us to give generously and cheerfully, often beyond 10%, and without ever talking about tithing.

Thanks once again to Pastor Tom for sounding like a Christian while disagreeing with my perspective. May God multiply His grace and peace to him and Community Baptist Church in Norwalk, California.

(Here are more posts on tithing.)

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24 thoughts on “Why Pastors Shouldn’t Teach Tithing — One Pastor’s Gracious Response

  1. Hi Lon,

    I received this web site from a friend and have spent the past days scanning through it. I must say, it was like meeting a kindred spirit,ha! I have been accused of having an analytical mind and therefore enjoy various viewpoints.

    As for the tithing issue, I read a book many years ago called ‘Beyond Tithing’ and it fell in line with my personal struggles on the subject. Your views and the supporting views of others on this site are perfectly in line with scripture as far as I am concerned. A few years ago I challenged myself to discard the tithing principle and pray for a giving heart. I challenge others to do the same…..on a trial bases, if you wish. I assure you that you will most likely give more and give everywhere. In every teaching in the scripture, God is always focused on the condition of our heart.

    I do find that most opposing views are usually subjective, not objective, and there lays the problem. It’s a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality that often comes from fear of change. Unfortunately, it often leads to personal attacks. Don’t be discouraged by this. You are definitely on the right track. You may not be a ‘minister’ but you are definitely ministering. Thanks for having the courage to speak out publicly.

    May God bless your ministry

    P.S. I, too, am just an average guy, and I’m having the same struggles with Pentecostalism!

  2. If the tithe sill works like in the Old Testament temple, it must go to the priests – and I am one. Go tithing!

  3. This appears to be a revelation that must be revealed by the Spirit through the Word of God. It is difficult for a person to accept those things taught since youth could possibly be incorrect. I encourage all believer to study the word for themselves. Now, if one decides to tithe, then they have given to God what they believe is right. If one believes the he/she should give as God has laid upon their heart then they too have given to God in good faith. I personally believe tithing is not a part of the New Testament Church. I don’t believe that God, in all His wisdom, would have left such an important issue out of setting up the Church. So, I suggest that each give as they are convicted. I encourage all to study the word. As much as I hate to say it, there are those that are fleecing the flock and living lavishly on the back of the poor. If you feel that tithing is a weight around your neck, I would encourage you to seek and pray for guidance. Everything preached in the pulpits aren’t true and many are misled. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed. Do not fall to the cunning words of men; instead, study to show yourself approve and then you can rightly divide what is of God and what is tradition.

    I wish God’s wisdom, revelation and direction to all that fervently seek the truth. God will not withhold wisdom from you.

    Good Bless

  4. Pingback: Why Pastors Shouldn’t Teach Tithing « Average Us

  5. I wouldn’t even say that the tithing system was financial support for the sacrificial system because they didn’t tithe money, then. They tithed produce and meat. If their produce was too much for them to carry to Jerusalem, they could change it for money, but they were to change that money back to whatever produce they wanted to buy when they got their. So when people say we give money today, because they didn’t have money them I look at them sideways. They had money. They didn’t tithe money. We have money. We tithe it? No. I’m tired of being held guilty through various sermons when my finances are miniscule and I can’t afford to give on a regular basis. And I’m afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled a stingy heretic. It makes me hate giving in church, although I give to people continually outside of church.

    • An understandable reaction, Nathan, but kind of sad. I pray God would bless you with more income and more freedom to give as your heart desires. Thanks for your comment, Lon

  6. Lon,

    I have been intrigued by the short account in Matthew (17:24-27) concerning a Temple poll-tax and whether there is an application in principle to tithing today. Jesus’ question to Peter was whether kings of the earth take taxes from their sons, or others? Peter responds “from others.” Then Jesus says “Then the sons are free (ESV), exempt (NASB).” The basis of the Temple poll-tax, it turns out, was based on Law in Exodus 30:11-16 (DA Carson, Matthew) which was used to support the Tabernacle. The salient principle may be those under the Law must comply with the Law, but those not under the Law are free of legal compliance. In other words, legalism may say “You *must* pay a tithe,” but sonship by adoption in Christ says otherwise. Sons are free. It is true that Jesus did pay the poll-tax, but (1) He was living righteously under the Law (to set us free from it’s condemnation), (2) He did not want to cause a legal incident and snare for the tax men, (3) He did not want to be seen as discrediting Temple worship, and (4) He did not use money given to Him for His support from others to pay it, but rather acquired the payment coin apart from his supporters. (Most of the points from Carson).

    My much belabored point is that if the sons are free of the Law, and tithing is the Law, then must we comply of legal coercion, or are we to give freely, not as a legal tithe, but as a God honoring free will gift, no matter the amount?

    • Thanks for this. I whole heartedly agree with your point. I would also add that we should be clear that “The Law” which was part of the Sinai covenant and including tithe regulations was given to ethnic, national Israel only. However, “the moral law” which is an expression of the perfect righteousness that God is, and requires (and gives in Christ) is for all people at all times. This moral law includes free generosity (aka cheerful giving) as an expression of “love thy neighbor.”

  7. Dear Lon, Thank you for your post, I have been struggling with tithing for years now and my relationship won God has suffered because I don’t feel like I’m good enough to pray to God because my church teaches that it is sin not to pay 1st,2nd,and third tithe in the third year and I have been feeling like something is wrong.It is a terrible feeling to feel like you can’t afford to be a Christian. My husband and I feel like giving up on Christianity and I’m sure others feel this way too.It takes all our money just to make ends meet.

    • You are welcome. I hope you will find more instructive and grace-motivated help on giving than what you hear at your church. You will find it on Average Us by typing “tithe” or “tithing” or “giving” into the search box at the top-right of the page. Grace to you from God our Father. Jesus paid all the price that need ever be paid for you to belong to Him and own the name “Christian.”

  8. Lon, Tithed for 14 years……got in a big financial bind and lost house but still tithed. God allowed this to set me free from its clutches. Took everything I have ever learned and been taught and threw away and started fresh. After much study and overcoming false guilt I am free. Tithe was never money and freewill offerings always existed to build Gods house and still do today. Giving cheerfully and secretly is new covenant way. Tithe manipulation has brought many to ruin in the church. Its time people study to show themselves approved by God, not men.Thanks for the post

  9. It’s excellent that you have taken your time to build up and unshackle other believers with these posts. In point #3, Tom essentially backs his way into your point from the initial article “If you make giving about supporting your local church (mortgage, utilities, salaries, events, etc), then you’ve reduced it to club dues.”. The church is a body of individuals who need food and clothes, not salaries, buildings and other overhead. Once you have an institution to support, you need mandatory giving- giving that 2 Cor 9:7 says should be done “not grudgingly, or of necessity”. If it’s truly a need, why would a “pastor” feel financial responsibilty when God is able to supply all our need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus according to Philippians 4:19? I would modify one statement you made in the last article- instead of give all you can, I think it should be give all you can (are able) that you want to give. If there’s no desire to give, it can’t be freely given. Psalm 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the Lord ; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”. As people look to the love of Christ in the gospel, they will be moved to distribute to those who are in need- spiritually and physically- middle men are not necessary for the priesthood of believers.

    • All good points, Aaron. I appreciate your encouragement. My hearts desire is to use my resources, gifts, time, money more and more to further the gospel and obey the Great Commandment. I hope this series of posts inspires others to see this as a worthy aim, without being held to an obsolete law. Thanks again, Lon

  10. Lon, I am so encouraged by this article and your other articles on why tithing is incorrect for the new testament church. I studied the Word intensely about this subject for the past 5 years or so and broke free of the tithing teaching, but had stayed hidden on the subject for fear of the disputes which would break out and the attacks that would most likely ensue. I just recently (2 days ago) decided to break the silence and let my Christian brothers and sisters know where I stand on this subject. Let’s just say it was not very well received but regardless, I know I have been set free and that tithing is a false teaching today. I have such freedom now and am thankful for the encouragement in this article. Keep up the good work!!

    • Thanks Michael. Feel free to share these posts with you friends. Whether the agree or disagree, I’d love to hear their thoughts. Grace and peace, Lon

  11. You know a lot of Pastor use the same line over and over again (Will A Man Rob God) But what’s funny to me is when I read the whole book that line came from I understood as a Warning because your actually Robing God when you don’t tell people the TRUTH……

  12. Lon you don’t know how much I appreciate you for bringing this point to the light. I have always had thoughts and wondered whether that system of tithing had changed with the times. I thank you for giving references and making extremely valid points considering a topic that more Pastors harp on than actually focusing on the spiritual warfare that is upon us at this time. AGAIN THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Sean. As you know this topic breeds argument, so I have tried to write carefully and thoughtfully. I have several posts on his topic. You find them with the search tool in the top-right. I hope to provide you with valuable inspiration that you’ll want to follow, engage with, and share. Thanks again! Lon

  13. In Matthew 4:19
    Jesus said to His first two disciples.
    “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”
    I have talked to so many people who claim to belong to Jesus but they never go and share the gospel to anyone on purpose much less regularly.
    Jesus came and fulfilled the law and has set us free from the law of sin and death by His sacrifice.
    The opposite of Matthew 4:19 would be true as well.
    Those that are not soul winners are not following Jesus.
    My question to all that claim to be Christian is simple, has Jesus transformed you into a on purpose soul winner because you are following him?

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