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Tithing

My family and I have just finished watching a set of personal finance videos by Dave Ramsey as part of my teenage boys' high school curriculum for our homeschool.  The lessons have been very good and practical, and I am hopeful that my boys will abide by the overall wisdom of this course in their own financial dealings. The information was very closely aligned with biblical principles concerning money, and for this reason I would be comfortable recommending it to others.

The last chapter in this course was about giving, and in that lesson Mr. Ramsey stressed the necessity of tithing.  He explained that tithing means that each person should give ten percent of his gross income to the local church.  He cited Scripture for this practice, saying that passages such as Deuteronomy 14:22 ("You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year") establish the tithe for Christians. He explained how these laws from the old covenant through Moses translated to Christians.  Rather than the tithe going to the storehouse of the tabernacle or the temple, it now goes to the local church.  Rather than the Levites being supported by the tithe, now preachers and missionaries are to be supported.  Just as widows and orphans were to be supported by the tithe then, so also they are to be supported now.  (I am not implying that these assertions are all Scripturally factual, but rather I am simply restating Mr. Ramsey's explanations.)

Mr. Ramsey acknowledged the disagreement that exists concerning his view of the tithe, and he attempted to answer it.  For those like me who say that the tithe was part of the Law of Moses and therefore does not apply to Christians, he said that the tithe preceded the Law of Moses.  He cited Genesis 14:18, when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils from conquering his enemies.  He also noted Genesis 28:22 and Jacob's vow to give a tenth to God.  He said that these set a precedent for tithing that transcends Moses' Law.  He also referred to Matthew 23:23, where Jesus told the Pharisees that they had carefully and correctly tithed, but they failed to keep the weightier matters of the Law.  Besides these, Mr. Ramsey said that the matter of tithing is not a salvation issue, so he was not attempting to bind it upon anyone.

I believe that Scripture disagrees with Mr. Ramsey concerning tithing as a prescribed practice for Christians. Indeed, the tithe is a precept of the Law of Moses, and that old covenant has passed away and has been replaced by a new covenant in Christ (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:13; 10:9).  The examples of Abraham and Jacob are not mandates for universal practices even though they preceded the Law of Moses. Furthermore, Christ's rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 explicitly acknowledged tithing as a provision of the Law of Moses, which is not in effect for Christians today. Instead, we have our own instructions concerning giving, such as the Lord's words in Matthew 5:42 ("Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you") and Luke 6:35 ("...lend, expecting nothing in return...").  We also have these words from 2Corinthians 9:6-11:

6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9as it is written, "He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever." 10Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

It may seem that I am in opposition to Dave Ramsey's teaching on this, but I actually agree with him in practical terms.  Although I don't believe he correctly applies Scripture when he states that the tithe is a rule for Christians, I do believe the Old Testament examples give us guidance for our own giving.  Scripture says, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).  As we are instructed by that which "was written in earlier times," is there anything that indicates to us that God will be pleased with less than ten percent given?  Do we feel that ten percent is too much and unreasonable?  Can we sow bountifully with less than ten percent?

Dear Christians, you are not be compelled to give anything, for God loves a cheerful giver.  "Freely you received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8).  However, if your heart is motivated by the love of God and others to give freely and in good cheer, then ten percent stands as a Scriptural benchmark for giving.  This is not law, but it is wisdom.

Stacey E. Durham




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