Chapter 9

Disinformation III

Tithing Began in the Garden of Eden

Some people say that tending to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil without being able to eat of its fruit is the same principle as the tithe. They want to show that Adam and Eve were tithing in the garden of Eden to prove that tithing is an eternal principle, still in effect today.

The tree was the focal point for the issue of obedience to God; however, calling the tree a tithe is another distortion of the scripture. People have read something into the Bible that isn't there because they haven't understood the nature of New Covenant life in Christ and they are looking for something to validate and promote the doctrine of tithing.

When Jesus Died on the Cross, God Was Paying His Tithe

Most people have never heard this statement, but it has become popular among some well-respected ministries. It sounds scriptural and at first it doesn't seem to violate the gospel message, but it distorts the meaning of both the cross and the tithe. It's an inaccurate parallel that is used to promote tithing. It seems relatively harmless, but it is part of a serious theological error that has produced a church that is weak and ineffective, by God's standards.

When Jesus died on the cross, he was fulfilling the eternal plan of God that existed before creation. He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8b) His death on the cross was also God's fulfillment of a promise to Abraham. God had tested Abraham's faith and commitment by commanding him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham passed the test and the event became God's prophetic picture of his own covenant obligation to offer Jesus as a sacrifice for man's salvation.

Jesus' death was a fulfillment of God's covenant commitment but it had nothing to do with a tithe. When Abraham offered up Isaac it had nothing to do with a tithe either. Isaac was 100 percent of all that Abraham had because the rest of his wealth was worthless compared to his son. A tithe is a tenth and it leaves you with 90 percent. Abraham was giving everything when he offered Isaac.

Likewise, when the Father gave Jesus it was everything on his part as well. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus Christ was the full expression of God and everything that he could give, not just a tithe.

Tithes are based on the increase of something that has already been received. God gave in advance, before he received anything. He gave without any guarantees. He gave without regard to whether anyone would accept the sacrifice of Jesus or not. He gave because it is his nature.

God didn't owe a tithe to us or to himself. We owed him a debt that we could never pay. The message of the cross is that Jesus was there in our place, on our behalf. He was doing something for us that we could not do for ourselves. So if God was paying anyone's tithe it would not have been his, it would have been ours.

Paul did describe the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ as the firstfruits.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Cor. 15:20)

However, a firstfruits offering is a completely different Old Covenant offering than the tithe. The how, when, and why of a firstfruits offering is based on a different concept and the two are not interchangeable. God made tithes and firstfruits distinctly different so that they would portray different spiritual lessons. Beyond that, in describing Jesus as the firstfruits, Paul was talking about his resurrection not his death. There is no sound scriptural basis to call Jesus' death on the cross a tithe. That is a faulty parallel. It is a misleading concept that reinforces the erroneous tithing doctrine.

If You Don't Tithe, God Will Take That Ten Percent from You

Some say it this way, “God will get what is his.” This teaching is based on the idea that God owns a tenth of everything that comes to you. If you don't tithe, you are a thief in possession of stolen property and God will take it from you to teach you a lesson. I heard a story about a person who didn't tithe one week and then had a situation occur that cost them exactly what their tithe would have been.

The word of God should be the basis of our faith and our doctrine, not someone's experience. Everything in that teaching is contrary to what the Bible clearly says about the New Covenant. Since his resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ is the absolute owner of all things, not just the tithe. Jesus purchased us with his blood and we belong to him as well. But that is not the end of the story. When we were born again we were placed into spiritual union with Jesus and we now jointly own all things with him.

We have no stolen property because we share rightful title to everything with Jesus. On the other hand 100 percent of it is dedicated to his lordship and the purposes of his kingdom, not just a tenth. He doesn't want a tithe. He wants people who will use everything they have for him.

Those who don't know the truth about life in Christ are subject to whatever wrong teaching they hear. If they think they will be cursed for not tithing, their own fear will open a door to destruction. They can't receive God's blessing and protection if they think they are breaking his law.

We are in a new, joyous, spiritual relationship with God that only includes freewill giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says,

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

If God was holding curses over people's heads he couldn't have truly cheerful givers because they would be giving under duress.

If Everyone Tithed, Churches Would Have Plenty of Money

Churches and ministries do need money and they would have more than they have now if everyone tithed, but tithing is not God's solution for the problem.

We need to step back and ask ourselves why preaching the doctrine of tithing isn't working. Why do so few Christians tithe in spite of the endless haranguing to do so? The Barna Research Group's nationwide survey of donations indicates that only 14 percent of born-again Christians in the continental United States gave at least ten percent of their income in 2001.1 Instead of beating our heads against the wall, we should see if our theology is in agreement with the word of God.

Mark 16:20 indicates that Jesus confirms the preaching of his word with signs following. But tithing is not the plan of God for the New Covenant and Jesus is not confirming that message. The Holy Spirit can't do a work of grace in the hearts of people to obey a teaching that isn't grace or truth. If the true message of the New Covenant and life in union with Christ would be preached, we would see the Holy Spirit move in the church. There would be enough financial giving to do anything the Lord directs. There would be a completely new spirit of revival as well.

Heaven Will Be Shut Up Against You If You Don't Tithe

The Old Covenant declared that a curse would come on Israel if they broke God's law. In Leviticus 26:19 God said he would make their heaven as iron and in Deuteronomy 28:23 he said it would be brass. Naturally speaking, lack of rain for crops and livestock would be a devastating punishment. It was spiritually symbolic too. There would be no answer to their prayers as a result of their disobedience.

This teaching about heaven being shut up against God's people if they don't tithe also comes from Malachi 3 where God is rebuking the nation of Israel for breaking the covenant. In verse 10 he says:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Israel wasn't giving God the tithes that were required by their covenant, so they were a nation of God-robbers and they were under a curse. God promised to open the windows of heaven for them if they would tithe because that was the cause of their problem. But tithing is not part of our covenant, so failure to tithe is not the source of our problems and tithing is not the solution for them.

Miracle Testimonies Prove That Tithing Is God's Will

There are many testimonies of God's miraculous provision for people who tithe. There are just as many testimonies of God's blessing and provision for people who live wholeheartedly for him without tithing. Christians who live blessed and prosperous lives without tithing are not publicized. No one has anything to gain by telling their story, so you hear nothing about them. Something else that is not publicized is the number of people who tithe regularly and are not receiving the financial provision that they should.

There are many things that affect the level of blessing and prosperity in a person's life. God looks at the heart. Sometimes people get an attitude corrected or move from unbelief to faith, which allows God to bless them, but they mistakenly attribute the blessing to something they have done, like tithing. When faithful tithers are not receiving a reasonable level of financial blessing they are told that they are still missing it somewhere else in their life—rightly so. But when they get the other things corrected and start receiving God's provision, tithing still gets the credit.

People say, “I wouldn't stop tithing, I've done it too long and I know it works.” They don't realize that God is good and gracious and he responds to faith where he can find it.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chron. 16:9)

God blesses sincere people who put actions to their faith even though their theology may not be correct.

How Will We Get Our Needs Met If We Don't Tithe?

This question shows that some people think their tithe is what makes their provision come to them. They think God would stop causing it to come if they stopped tithing. They have more faith in a system they are working than they do in a God who has committed himself to be a Father to them. They don't understand that life in Christ is life as an immediate member of God's own family. Their relationship to God has been thoroughly systematized: built around programs and institutions. It is so corrupted by carnal religious inventions that they don't know how to walk with God as sons. They don't realize how well God is providing for millions of dedicated Christians who don't tithe.

Give Only to People and Ministries That Tithe or Your Seed Won't Multiply

This teaching comes partly from the faulty premise that the purpose of giving is to get a return and partly from theological invention. For many people, giving has become primarily a business venture because they don't understand the New Covenant.

There are many promises in the Bible about blessings coming to people who give and to people who help the poor but none of them require the recipient of the gift to be a tither. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and that he would have treasure in heaven. He didn't say, “Make sure they are tithers or your seed won't multiply.”

The largest passages in the New Testament epistles that refer to giving are talking about an offering that was being collected for the poor Christians in Jerusalem who were going through a famine. This was not a collection for full-time ministers. It was for all the poor people in the church. In regard to this offering, Paul said:

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. (2 Cor. 9:6)

The blessing promised didn't depend on the recipient being a tither.

Twenty-Percent Penalty on Unpaid Tithes

This teaching is rare but it shows how far some have gone in applying the Old Covenant to the New. The Law included a penalty of 20 percent for any trespass that related to the holy things of the Lord. (Lev. 5:15–16) If a person sinned through ignorance, they were to bring a ram for a sacrifice plus the value of the trespass in silver shekels and include a twenty-percent penalty.

I heard a story about a husband and wife who stopped tithing because they were having financial difficulties. They kept track of what it should have been and paid it later with interest. Their sincerity was admirable but they didn't have a revelation of New Covenant life in Christ.

Statement from the Old Testament to Make When Tithing

Deuteronomy 26:1–15 instructed the Israelites what to say to the priest when they brought their firstfruits offerings and their tithes. (There were actually two separate offerings with two separate declarations.) Most preachers aren't legalistic about this. They are just drawing a parallel from the Old Covenant and applying it to us. However, its overall effect is to keep the church's attention on tithing. The greater error is that they are basing life in Christ on an obsolete, Old Covenant paradigm.

Legalistic Nature of Tithing

Law by nature must be clear and specific. Therefore, it requires constant expansion and clarification to accurately apply it to all the different situations that continue to arise. The religious leaders in Israel added a great body of oral law to the Law that Moses received at Mt. Sinai.

Many preachers of tithing vigorously deny that they are preaching a law, but it fits the profile perfectly. There are as many opinions of how tithing should be done as there are preachers who promote it. This should be an indication to perceptive Christians that it is not the Holy Spirit's plan for us today.

Consider the following questions and issues that relate to tithing.

The fact that people have to ask so many questions about how to tithe shows that it is not an inward working of the Holy Spirit. It is not Christ in them that is motivating them to do it. They are trying to fulfill a law that they have been given.