Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
46. Is tithing Scriptural for today?
(Editor's note: The person asking the question provided significant background for the reasons for asking this question, which have been condensed to this fundamental question, and Mike's reply.)
I am hesitant to make a judgment about all of this. Each man answers to God and I am not to be a judge. The simplest question asked is, "Is tithing Scriptural for today?" My answer is that it is. I propose several reasons for this conclusion:
(1) When Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their legalism, he said, "You tithe the mint, the anise, and the cumin, and this you should have done. But you neglect the weightier matters of the law...." (see Matthew 23:23) Jesus agrees that tithing is appropriate. He does not reject it as an appropriate way to demonstrate one's faith in God's faithfulness.
(2) Paul said, "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made" (1 Corinthians 16:2 NIV). More literal translations put it, "Each one should lay aside as God has prospered you." That is clearly a proportion. You give as God prospers. If in the Old Testament, God's people gave as much as 28 percent (total), would it not be appropriate to give a tithe (10 percent) in thanks to God? I am personally convicted that Christians should give far more than 10 percent because they have much better promises.
(3) In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul says you will reap sparingly if you sow sparingly (2 Corinthians 9:6). It is far better to be generous than stingy. Further, he writes that our giving should not be under compulsion but should be given cheerfully and willingly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
(4) There is no indication that Jesus intended to eradicate all the Old Testament principles. In fact, in Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them." (NIV) This would indicate that the instructions about giving would remain in place. However, it is no longer so much a legal requirement as a principle of generosity.
Having said all that, let me also say this:
(1) The tithes and offerings brought to God's storehouse (the church) should be administered by a plurality of leaders where there is full fiscal responsibility. In some congregations, all the donations go into an account that the minister (elder) administers and there is little accountability. This is a recipe for disaster and fiscal irresponsibility. God intended for the church to be superintended by a plurality of leaders. Paul told Titus to ordain elders in every city (Titus 1:5). According to 1 Timothy 3:3, an elder is "not a lover of money." (NIV) There is no occasion in the New Testament where one individual has responsibility for the whole church.
(2) Giving to the Lord is never to be coerced or demanded. How can one give cheerfully when someone demands you do something? Such demands result in "duty giving," not "cheerful giving." What a person gives is between the giver and the Lord. I favor making "Statements of Intention" or "Faith Promises" as the responsible leaders prepare a fiscally sound budget under which the church operates. This merely gives the leadership a picture of what the church can do in the upcoming year, but it ought never become a tool for placing demands on believers.
(3) Giving should not be required to bail out the irresponsible decisions of irresponsible leaders. Congregations and their leadership sometimes make decisions that over-extend what God is prepared to bless. This is not faith, it is foolishness.
As to whether or not you should leave the congregation, that is a personal decision you alone must make with your family. I know what I would do, but it is not my place to tell you what to do. There are generally three reasons a church is instructed to sever relationships with a member, and I expect it works both ways. (1) Do they reject the biblical teaching about Jesus, who He is, and what He came to do? If so, they should be rejected. (2) Are they immoral and sexually perverse? If so, they should be rejected (1 Corinthians 5). (3) Are they seeking to divide the church by creating factions? If so they should be rejected. I would think that a member could conscientiously leave if they (1) taught that which is untrue, (2) were immoral, (3) were so demanding that they drove people away instead of winsomely drawing them to Jesus.
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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.