Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why Pastors Promote Tithing: "Pragmatism, Tradition and Ignorance, Quite Frankly"

That's the argument made by one of the most widely respected NT scholars in the United States, Andreas Kostenberger. He's cited in this piece in the Wall Street Journal.

My presumption is that tithing is another issue on which we're going to see something of a generation gap among fundamentalists and evangelicals. To some degree, it's no doubt a reflection of the increasing across-the-board rejection of religious authority. But to another degree, I suspect the differences arise from a theological realignment that reexamines both what Scripture actually requires and what really motivates and accomplishes spiritual transformation in the human heart.


Alan Knox said...


As a pastor, I do not tithe, nor do I teach tithing, at least not as "the tithe" is general taught in churches today. However, I give and encourage others to give to those in need. However, my understanding of tithing has nothing to do with "a rejection of religious of authority" and everything to do with "what Scripture actually requires".


Anonymous said...

I doubt there is but a small percentage that actually tithe according to the standards of the O.T.

John MacArthur, God's Plan for Giving:

"Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite's tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today's income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10; Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation."

So to say one tithes ... they must give at least 20%.

What fundamentalist pastors call "tithing" is not really tithing at all, is it!

russkellyphd said...

Except for a few state church activists the book mentioned in the article proves that tithing was not taught in the American colonies until decades after the`1870s discussions. It took the SBC over 300 years (1649-1963) to even put the texts in the Faith and Message and the word "tithe" stil dos not appear

Tithing has absolutely no Biblical hermeneutic for the Church and that is why tithe-promnoters will not enter dialog and defend their position.

Russell Earl Kelly, PH. D., author of Should the Church Teach Tithing?

Alan, please contact me so I can list your church on my web site to attract visitors.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Nothing personal, but I deleted the anonymous post with links. I don't mind most links, but I'm not going to keep them in anonymous posts, just as I don't interact with anonymous posts.

Ben said...

Good comments here. I agree that the absence of tithing in NT instruction to churches is striking. Although I don't think the common admonitions that a 10% tithe is a good place to start, it seems to me that the NT emphasis is on giving being willing, regular, and sacrificial.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You keep up an interesting blog here. Thanks for the heads-up on this one.

He says "pragmatism, tradition, and ignorance." I'm guessing that the journalist picked out the most controversial part in order to inflame the hearers. He succeeded.

I think the subject is always worth revisiting, you know, to make sure it isn't tradition, pragmatism, or ignorance. Men have taught some poor arguments, but I see proportional giving taught in the NT and the proportion in Scripture is the tithe. I'm open to dialogue in order to help my ignorance.

I wonder if people "not tithing" could also be pragmatic and perhaps ignorant.

russkellyphd said...

The idea that the proportion in Scriptue is the tithe is the great false assumption that all tithing is built upon.

I discuss this both in my book and in my essay online.

People assume taht money was not important in the early Bible. It will shock you to find how essential it was for everyday use and even for paying sanctuary taxes, buying slaves, and paying fines.

Tithes were always only food from farmers and herdsmen inside of Israel. 16 of 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe limit it to food, even in Jesus day in Mt 23:23 wehn everybody used money. Yet --and this is very important-- God never included money in thting. The increse of tithes came from his miracle and the incresse from other sources amce from man's skills which woudl give him room to boast.

Jesus (carpenter), Peter (fisherman) and Paul (weaver) did not qualify as tithe-payers and had nothing to tithe. And both the temple and the priesthod were replaced by the priesthood of every believer. The storehouse comparison is a lie and does not hold up to scrutiny.

Ben said...

Kent wrote:
"I'm guessing that the journalist picked out the most controversial part in order to inflame the hearers."

Well, I suppose that's true, but I'm not about to throw stones, since that's pretty much what I did, after all. ;-)

Kent Brandenburg said...


To start, I sincerely want to congratulate you for the way that you have forged on and accomplished an incredible amount of work being legally blind. I'm amazed you can do all you have done with that condition.

I went to your website against tithing and skimmed some of your rebuttals---I was also interested in what the arguments were of the other guys. Then I noticed the free download of your book, so I downloaded it so as to better understand your thoughts about this. I went to the chapter, especially that looked like it would deal with the passage that I believe gives the best NT tithing argument---1 Corinthians 9. I read that chapter with an open mind, because I don't have a belief that Scripture can't move me from. With no disrespect toward you, it didn't persuade me. I can tell you are passionate about this topic, having a massive website and book dedicated completely against tithing.

First, you say that tithing is food only in Scripture. I don't see that when I look at the Greek word and its usage. You give Matthew 23:23, the passage where the Pharisees tithed on their mint, etc. I don't think that text assumes that they tithed only on mint, cummmin, etc. Another place was Luke 18:12, that says,"I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." "All that I possess" doesn't seem to narrow it down to just food. I would assume that food would be a major one in what continued OT and NT to be an agrarian culture, but it wasn't food only, as seen in Luke 18:12.

Louw-Nida's lexicon says that apodekatoo means: "to give a tenth of one's income."

I'm not planning on arguing this one here, but I do see proportional giving to be OT and NT and that the proportion was a tithe.

Ben said...

Dr. Köstenberger has clarified the WSJ quote. He doesn't like the way he was characterized, but he hasn't denied the substance of it. Read about it here.

Mikha'el said...

This is an issue I have been mulling over for a while in my personal relationship with God, so I have found this discussion quite interesting.

I first began to question tithing while my family was attending a church formerly affiliated with the SBC. Annually the pastor would do a month long series on tithing. The basic message I received about giving was that if one is not giving at least 10% of his gross annual income to his local church, then he is in gross sin.

Furthermore, that church left the tithing of a mere 10% to "baby Christians", and strongly pressed for an arbitrary commitment to a "faith-promise" giving programme that seemed fiscally irresponsible.

I have not done extensive research on the topic, but my conclusion has been that "tithing" is not seen in the New Covenant, rather an overarching attitude of giving and sacrifice, working together for the good of the gospel.

The 10% tithe teaching seems to be counter to the culture the NT teaches. Our churches are full of people filling pews, many of them dutifully writing a check for a regular budgeted amount, but without real giving, sacrifice, and co-operation for God's work. And where does that money go? To the work of the gospel? Or to bloated programmes budgets and excessive church mortgage payments?

There is also danger in the other approach, however. Not having the discipline of writing a weekly check for a set amount makes it easy not to give at all—a danger I must constantly guard against.

Mikha'el | Lotus for Breakfast

Adopted Son said...

Tithes are compulsory and obligatory. They are of the law. Why would God expect us to abandon an obsolete law, yet cling to a single component of it - tithing? We should cheerfully give as the Spirit leads, as opposed to entering into a legal contract concerning our giving. Of course, the most heated discussions I've ever had around this matter are with those who teach tithing and are dependent upon giving to support themselves financially. (Of course, anyone depending on my giving instead of God's provision has missed the point entirely.)