Why You Should Ignore the Tithe

This post is the second post in an 8 part series.  For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: On Giving

God owns everything.

This concept shapes how we think about life, money and success.  God owns the land that my house is built on, the land where my food was grown and processed, the land where my money is printed.  He owns the water I drink and the air I breathe.

This is the main reason you should ignore The Tithe.

A tithe is a King James-y way of saying 10% or one-tenth.  Throughout the Old Testament, God's people were instructed to give a tithe to God (ie. to their priests).  This practice predated the giving of the Law through Moses, as Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek generations earlier (see Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7).  The Tithe paid for a feast, supported the priests, helped the vulnerable (see Numbers 18 and Deuteronomy 14) ... but you should ignore it.

God owns everything, but The Tithe obscures this truth.

Conversation around The Tithe circles around "How much should I give?"  Pre-tax, post-tax?  Gross, net?  Weekly, monthly, yearly, immediately?  What if I have no income?  What if I have a huge income?  What if I have lots of assets but no income?

But these questions are the wrong questions.  We shouldn't be asking "How much should I give?" but "How much should I keep?"  Bill Hunter, my mentor and one of the most generous people I know, uses this principle to guide him and I've found it helpful.

That's the first reason you should ignore the tithe.

The Tithe is a distraction, used by churches to replace compassion. 

Now, you should be giving, giving to the local church and to missions, to your near and far neighbor, to the poor and the vulnerable.  You should be giving because your money ultimately belongs to God, not to you, and you have no right to keep all of it or spend all of it on yourself.  You should be giving because you love and care about people, because you love and care about God.  But the tithe makes giving a duty, and so distracts us.

This distraction is the second reason you should ignore the tithe. 

Three more reasons to ignore The Tithe ...

In Genesis 28, Jacob includes the tithe in an attempt to bribe God.  And we are all tempted to do this.  We feel that our tithing entitles us to more of God's favor and blessing.  What once was grace, now becomes payment.  What once had the power to stir gratitude in our hearts, now drives bitterness.  We feel that we deserve more because we give so much.

In 1 Samuel 8, a tithe is used as a sign of slavery and servitude when God's people asked for a human king to rule them.  That 10% was a weight around their necks, a burden, given without freedom and without choice and without joy.  I consider it no coincidence that the same amount Israel gave to the Levites, they were asked to give to their king.  The king replaced God.  Don't some of our churches do likewise?

In Luke 18, we see a Pharisee using his tithe as a display of righteousness, contrasted to the tax collector's humble "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  God prefers sinners who call out for mercy to sinners who think they aren't sinners because they tithe.  As a display of righteousness, a tithe is lousy.  God doesn't need the money.  And no amount of money can pay for your sins. 

What other reasons can you think of for ignoring the tithe?

Now, you might argue, aren't these five reasons all abuses of the tithe?  I mean, can't the tithe have some purpose?  God required his people to tithe for centuries, despite any confusion, distraction, bribery, enslavement and self-righteousness it caused.  Doesn't it still have some purpose?  Absolutely.  That's tomorrow's post.

1 comment:

  1. Okay ... one more I thought of as I sat down to start tomorrow's post. Did you ever notice that Paul "ignored the tithe" in his guidelines for elders and deacons (see 1 Timothy and Titus)?

    It's important to Paul that elders and deacons avoid dishonest gain and not be lovers of money, but he doesn't require that they give 10% to the church. Why do so many churches make this a requirement?