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Churches Should Think Twice about Preaching the Tithe

January 19, 2010

Among other donations, I give ten percent of my paycheck to my church. My church does not demand it, nor does the pastor ask for more than we are moved by the spirit to give. I still give ten percent off the top and then, often more when the needs of the church or others present themselves.

This post isn’t about my giving – it’s about my church’s attitude toward giving vs. tithing as is preached at some other churches.

There are plenty of arguments against tithing in general – tithes are scripturally received at the – now nonexistent – temple, they are meant primarily for the Levites – who can no longer really be identified, they are solely based on the crops and herd animals you raised and not your work as an employee or in other fields of endeavor and new testament scripture seriously suggests that mandatory duties have been replaced by (possibly much more generous) offerings from the heart. However, the argument could still be made that we are expected to give ten percent to our church – indeed many churches DO make this claim. My issue is not with whether we should pay a tithe. Rather it is with whether it is in a church’s best interest to receive one.

Why would a church be better off without receiving a tithe? Mainly because a tithe comes with SERIOUS strings attached to it – strings that could REALLY hamper a church’s operations.

The purpose of a tithe, as practiced in the old testament, was to take care of those who weren’t otherwise taken care of. The tithe principally went to the Levites, who, as a tribe, had been denied an inheritance in the promised land. The Levites were to assist the priesthood in managing the temple (they were NOT necessarily priests in themselves – they were the help). As such, the tithe sustained them when otherwise they would have had to resort to begging to survive. Beyond this, the tithe (more specifically the SECOND tithe) was spent specifically in the rejoiceful worship of God or in providing for the widows and orphans.

So if we are to extend the principles of the tithe to the present day, we have to extend its purpose as well, provide for the church staff (again, not necessarily the church itself), rejoice in the Lord and give to widows and orphans. All of which are, of course, good and noble endeavors. However, they do leave out a significant amount of things that churches often think important – building funds, for one, Evangelical outreaches, advertising, conferences, education, even Sunday Schools all lie outside the provisions of the tithe.

And I would give SERIOUS thought before using money designated as tithe for ANYTHING other than what is obviously stated as its purpose. Remember, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead simply for LYING to God – just imagine the smack-down you would be inviting for stealing His money!

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