Saturday, October 02, 2010

WHY OH WHY DOES THE CHURCH TITHE?

The tithe (literally "a tenth") is an Old Testament law designed to provide for the Levitical Priesthood (who could not own property) and to maintain the temple in Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, there is no temple to provide for except the people of God. That is, there is no building or structure to support and maintain. Why? Because the New Testament Church is not a building.

In Ephesians 2:21, (and elsewhere), we are told that we are the Temple of God:

"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." - Eph 2:21-22

Under the New Covenant the people of God are the only Temple. This is why the Apostles and the early Christians didn't bother to build a Christian temple for people to worship in. They fully understood that God did not live in temples built by human hands (as both Stephen and Paul affirm in the book of Acts), but that He has now poured out His Spirit on all flesh - old and young, male and female, Jew and Gentile. This is the New Covenant.

Because there is no longer a physical temple to maintain, there is no longer any need for a tithe to the Church. Historically, the Apostles, and the early church did not collect a tithe from anyone.

In fact, the Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century. Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be? To begin with, offerings in the early, New Testament church were voluntary and freely given out of love. Most gave more than a tithe (or "tenth"), they sold everything they had and shared it with those around them who had need. Still, this offering wasn't a law or a command of the Church, it was freely shared out of love.

Tertullian, in his "Apology" (2nd Century) affirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but says:

"Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old."

Under Constantine, the clergy were paid for their services (for the first time in Church history), but that payment was provided by the Roman Government, not by the Christians themselves.

Additionally, under the New Covenant, every single believer is a priest of God. Therefore we should either keep our offerings to ourselves (to "pay our priests") or we should give and share with those in need around us.

Here's what the early christians did with their money:

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”- Acts 4:32-35

Our house church family gives freely to help the poor in our community. We do not pass a basket. Yet we do give 100% of every penny received to buy groceries, support families in need, and to care for the needs of people in our own Body and in our community.

This is only possible if we do not pay our pastors or maintain a building, but under the New Covenant of God, this is more than a possibility, it's highly encouraged.

Giving is a high value in the New Testament Church, but tithing is unknown under the New Covenant of God.

-kg

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you need to er-read the Pauline epistles. While not specifically speaking of tithing Paul does speak of giving for those who bring the word of God.

Keith Giles said...

Anonymous (if that IS your real name...): You're getting ahead of the dialog here.

I'll address this in my next blog.

I am aware that people mis-read the Pauline epistles to say that we should put leaders on the payroll. However, that's not what Paul is suggesting, and I'll demonstrate this soon.

A quick thing to consider in the meantime is that we know from church history that elders were not financially compensated. Paul does call for support for those who travel from town to town preaching the Gospel (apostles and evangelists) but this isn't the same as finanically supporting a stay-at-home teacher who serves in the Body week-by-week, etc.

krspond said...

Well put. However, you have simultaneously said something I agree with while saying something that I do not agree with. I have researched the tithe extensively and have come to the same conclusion as you, that it is not a New Covenant principle. I think that anyone who actually studies the subject should reach the same conclusion. I do also agree that we (the Church) should be providing for the needs as they come and that is what is now classified as Christian giving. Where I believe your opinion begins to get a little shaky is with the tone and implications that giving 10 percent of your income to a local institutional church (if I may call it that) to provide for the ministries, bills, pastoral salaries, missionaries, benevolence, outreaches, other staff, special events, etc. is wrong.

C.S. Lewis said,

"It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergencies of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice."

So is a giving principle like that of the tithe a bad thing? More so, is it wrong? Regardless of whether or not the motives of every church are good or doctrinally correct, a principle for giving such as a tenth is a good principal. This is especially true when you consider the largeness of the congregations and how much good, Christian churches actually do with that money. Paying a Pastor is not wrong, and I believe that we may just have an interpretation disagreement there, which is fine. My main point is, at the center of your house church, and at the center of the Catholic church, and at the center of the Baptist church, and the Pentecostal, and so on, there are the believers who are real disciples of Christ. We understand the importance of Christ and Him crucified as the purpose to our living. With that, there is no reason to elevate your methods over that of some other groups of brothers and sisters of yours who want to pay their pastor for shepherding them.

Finally, if I have misinterpreted your tone and implications then I am deeply sorry and I repent. If I have not, I would ask that you consider if there is anything you may need to repent for.

In love, brother.

Kenneth Spond

ps. I wasn't just searching for blogs to disagree with, I was referred by a friend.

Keith Giles said...

Ken: Obviously, the Catholics and the Baptists, etc. are elevating their practice over one another, and I am outlining my practice here so that others can decide for themselves.

You don't have to agree with me, or the Catholics, etc., but hopefully we can talk about these things as brothers in Christ.

I think the part that you and I disagree on is when you say:

"consider...how much good, Christian churches actually do with that money..."

In my previous post I broke down how most traditional churches spend the tithe they receive. Most spend 60 to 80 percent of the tithe on the pastor's salary and the building. Is this "how much good" is done?

You're correct in assuming that I have chosen to follow a more New Testament model of ecclesia where the offering is given to help the poor, the widow, the orphan and the people in need within the Body itself.

Rather than spend most of the money on ourselves, we've chosen to spend all of our money on the poor and those in need around us.

In my next article I will go into more detail about whether or not we should put our pastors on the payroll. This article was mainly making the point that - as you've already discovered for yourself - the New Testament Church did not teach or collect a tithe.

The only reason to collect a tithe in our modern church is to pay for a building we don't need and a professional clergy who will do what the entire Body should be doing according to the Scriptures.

krspond said...

The "so much good" that I mention is primarily written in comparison to house church fellowship. I have no disagreements with the fellowship methods of house churches, however, there is a staggering difference in reach, effectiveness, and efficiency. Pros of the house church include, but certainly aren't limited to, closer fellowship, more doctrinal freedom, more personal outreach, and no overhead expenses. Now, while those things are certainly lacking in institutional churches, they certainly have their pros as well with their impact. Though institutional churches do have overhead costs and expenses, the amount of money brought in is exponentially greater than that of the house church as a whole; therefore, the percentage that is given to the poor and needy and so forth will generally be much more than all that a house church gives. And this is not just about quantity here, this is weighing pros and cons. And, in my opinion, if an overhead costs must go hand in hand with feeding thousands of families (ministries such as Saddleback), ministering to thousand of families in many ways(such as Focus on the Family), or any other numerous ministries conducted by institutional churches, than it is a good thing.
I agree, if the church (ecclesia) could all at once realize the truth of giving and live like the early church, all with the same mind and spirit, having all things in common, accepting a group of common minded leaders, accepting the same doctrine, remaining obedient to Christ and His authority, meeting in a common place together such as Solomon's Portico and in their homes, then that would be preferred and our reach would ever expand and our giving to the poor would greatly increase. However, not to be pessimistic, but that is not happening any time soon. So, let's Philippians 4:8 this issue and think about the good that is happening. I agree, all is better. All is the charge of Christ. I don't like that the church has become what it is. But there are still commendable, honorable, good, lovely, pure, true, excellent, praiseworthy things happening within and outside of their walls, so let us not so consistently focus on their wrongs. After all, we can speak the truth about an issue without contrasting those who we don't believe are living by it.
And again, do notice that I was speaking of the spiritually grounded people at the center of the aforementioned denominations, not the group as a whole, who are of one spirit with all other true disciples. Also, you are not justified in your self elevation by pointing to another group who is doing it.

Kenneth Spond

p.s. I'm digging this conversation. It is nice to talk to someone who cares to respond on a person to person level. Appreciated.

Keith Giles said...

Ken,

Hopefully you don't get the feeling that I am condemning or bashing my brothers and sisters who practice tithing or support buildings, pastoral salaries, etc. That's not my aim here.

I have many friends who are senior pastors or who serve as full-time paid staff at various churches - including Saddleback. So, this article isn't aimed as an attack on them. I simply want to communicate the truth here - that the New Testament church only recently re-instituted the OT tithe.

However, I think your point about mega churches being able to do so much more than house churches isn't quite correct. I mean, take those same 10,000 christians and break them into 40,000 house churches. They would still have the same money available and they could still help and serve the same number of people - in fact more because they wouldn't have a need to spend 60% of their money on any building or pastoral staff salaries!

Still, you may choose to give your offering to the traditional church and support those things if you feel called to do so. I must say that I have abandoned that system after about 15 years as a paid pastor and have found more joy in giving and serving others by sharing 100% of our ofering with the poor as we engage directly with them daily.

Peace!

kevinstewart said...

I think that sometimes its useful to look at things from a different perspective, either by stepping back and looking at the big picture or by zooming in on the details.

Let's say I have $1 to give. The difference that I see in these two options is that with one if I give a $1 then a person in need will get $1. With the other, if I give $1 then the person in need will get $.20 (I think these is a very generous estimate).

It will naturally take an exponentially greater amount of money (5 times more, again I think the number is much greater up to as much as 20 to 50 times more)for option 2 to have the same overall effect as option 1.

To go even further, if you give that dollar to a church who in turn gives that dollar (now twenty cents) to another organization to "help the needy" you have to account for the overhead of that organization as well. Your dollar turned twenty cents may now be less than a dime.

Anonymous said...

Many churches are filled with lords and hireling NOT Servants of the Lord. Thought Jesus said the greatest among us is the greatest servant, not those who lord it over people and their wallets.

I was in one church where there was Pastor's Anniversary, Pastor's Birthday, Pastor's Wife Birthday, Pastor's Anniversary, Expensive Tickets for Banquets and endless cost to attend expensive Conferences, Pastor's Appreciation, Founder's Convention, The Church Building Fund where you had to pledge money to expand the bldg. plus Tithes and Offerings. The Pastor said cut back and give more but bought a brand new car and another vacation house. This appeal for money for some new thing went on every other month ( and this Church was in a lower income area). I finally was so tapped out. I had a choice between feeding my family, or continue being a member of this church.
It took one whole year before they sent me a post card wondering why I was not tithing any longer. I called and told them I had given my notice of withdrawing my membership months back. I was promptly hung up on without so much as a pretense that we miss you and not your tithe money.
NO thanks to organized religions anymore! I can pray and read my bible at home
Sincerely,
From Fred Up
PS Orthodox Devout Jews no longer tithe but give Free will offerings in their Synagogue since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and there is no longer a Tribe of Levites to maintain the temple with it's animal sacrifices. Looks like we gentile church goers have been duped.

Anonymous said...

Many churches are filled with lords and hireling NOT Servants of the Lord. Thought Jesus said the greatest among us is the greatest servant, not those who lord it over people and their wallets.

I was in one church where there was Pastor's Anniversary, Pastor's Birthday, Pastor's Wife Birthday, Pastor's Anniversary, Expensive Tickets for Banquets and endless cost to attend expensive Conferences, Pastor's Appreciation, Founder's Convention, The Church Building Fund where you had to pledge money to expand the bldg. plus Tithes and Offerings. The Pastor said cut back and give more but bought a brand new car and another vacation house. This appeal for money for some new thing went on every other month ( and this Church was in a lower income area). I finally was so tapped out. I had a choice between feeding my family, or continue being a member of this church.
It took one whole year before they sent me a post card wondering why I was not tithing any longer. I called and told them I had given my notice of withdrawing my membership months back. I was promptly hung up on without so much as a pretense that we miss you and not your tithe money.
NO thanks to organized religions anymore! I can pray and read my bible at home
Sincerely,
From Fred Up
PS call an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue and be surprised to
discover Jews give free will offering and no longer keep the tithe ordinances since the Temple in Jerusalem with it's Tribe of Levi and animal sacrifices no longer exist and was destroyed in 70AD. I think they were given this ordinance by God first and should know how God specifically wanted it carried it out a certain way.

Jim Puntney said...

The message of John 3:16 (evangelicals) wouldn't have a leg to stand on if it were not for Malachi 3:8

The Law of Moses cannot be used like a cafeteria. You are either under law, or Christ, there isn't a middle ground.

"I'll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses." ~ Paul