Skip to comments.Thoughts on Tithing (John MacArthur)
Posted on 01/23/2010 8:53:54 PM PST by fkabuckeyesrule
There is a very popular Charismatic TV program that promotes the "law of reciprocity," as far as tithing goes--giving money to the Lord. In effect, that whatever you give to the Lord, you are going to receive it back while you are on earth. I just want to hear you views on that.
Open your Bible to a very important portion of Scripture that has to be considered in any discussion like this [tithing], on that question, and that is 2 Corinthians 8-9, because this is where the issue is discussed. The principle that is laid down here has to be brought into thought. The whole section of 8 and 9 is talking about giving, by the way, there is nothing in here about tithing--there is nothing in the New Testament any place to advocate tithing.
"Tithing," are you familiar with the concept of tithing, you know, "Give 10% to the church," you know, that kind of thing? Tithing, basically, is never, ever advocated in the New Testament; it is never taught in the New Testamentnever!
It is referred to a couple of times, that's all, as a historical fact: it talks about tithes being offered by Abraham to Aaron, you know, "in the loins of Abraham," it says, Aaron paid tithes to Melchizedekit is just an historical reference. It talks about the fact that Abraham gave tithes, also of a tenth of the heap, which he took in the battle with the kings. So it is only an historic reference. And then in the gospels it talks about the fact that the Jews tithed to their government, again a historical reference. No place in the entire New Testament is it ever advocated for us to give tithes, that is, for us to give 10% to the church. You say, "Well what was it in the Old Testament?" Every year a Jew had to give 10% of all of his crop and all of his produce, and all of whatever he had. He gave 10%, which was called the "Levite's Tithe," and what you have to understand is that the nation Israel was a theocracy, that is, it was ruled by God through priests. There were 24 different orders of priests, with thousands upon thousands of prieststhey were the government officials, they were the Senate, the Congress, the whole thing, only they didn't have to vote on anythingthey just sought God and God told them what to do. So it was a theocracy ruled by God and that rule was disseminated through these people.
Well, since they were the agents of the government, they had to be supported. Do you remember that the twelve tribes were each given land, but they split the tribe of Joseph in to two tribes: Ephriam and Manassah to make up twelve, because Levi was taken out, because Levi was the priestly tribe and they owned nothing. So they had to be supported by all the other tribes. They were given cities in the locations of the other tribal areas and people had to give money to support their livelihoodpart of their sheep, part of their crop, and everything had to go to support Levi's tribe, because they were the ones who represented God in the government.
So when you gave your 10% each year you gave it to the government for the care of the country, the nation. Secondly, you gave another 10% every year, which was for the festivals and the religious convocations of the nation. In other words, all of the big things that were held in Jerusalem, all the things that had to be done to prepared for the feasts and so forth in Jerusalem, and all the holy days, and all the Sabbaths, and all the everything else that went with it.
So you pay 10% to the Levites to support them as they operated in behalf of God in the government; you paid 10% to take care of the national festivals, which were many, many. Then you paid another 10% every third year, which went to the poor and the widows. So if you broke that down, you are at about 23.3% per year. Now what that was, was an income tax system. That was a system of taxation to fund the government and its religious activities and its welfare needs.
So when people today say, "We want to tithe now like they did in the Old Testament," they can't stop at 10%, they got 23.3% to start with. In addition to that, you paid a half shekel temple tax every year, in addition to that, if you had a field, you had to harvest the field in a circle and leave the corners open for the poor. It was a profit-sharing plan. If you dropped a bail of hay off your wagon, on the way to the barn, you had to leave that for the poor. So you start adding that up and you are looking at about 25% of their income went to fund the national entity of the government. Now when you get into the New Testament, the Jews were still doing that, because they still had a nation, even though they were an occupied nation, they were still a nation. They were occupied by the Romans, but they weren't run by the Romans. They had their own religious hierarchy, they had their own school systems, they had their own festivals, and all that stuff, and so they had to take care of that. They had their own priesthood; it all had to go on, that is why Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," in other words, pay the Romans what they asked, and render to God the things that are God's. So just to clarify that at the very beginning, when you are talking about a tithe, you are talking about the "taxation." Now when you translate that over into our time, it is kind of interesting to me that the base tax system in our country is about 20%, you add sales tax to that and you probably get another 5%, we are on about the same level they were then--about 25% of our income goes out for taxation, if you are in the normal tax bracket and with normal deductions, unless you are really doing well, but then they get you in different ways, because the more money you have the more things you buy, the more things you buy, the higher sales tax you pay, so maybe it comes out even harder for people who have more. Nonetheless, that's taxation. OK? Giving was always something different, always you gave whatever you wanted, like when they built the tabernacle and God said, "Let every man bring whatever he purposes in his heart; let him do it willingly, whatever he wants to give." And they kept coming, bringing so much that finally they said, "Stop, don't bring anymore--that's enough." So giving is always a "freewill," it's always an expression of love and appreciation--whatever you want to do.
Now you come to 2 Corinthians, chapter eight, and you learn how the church gave. The church knew there was a need so the church gave. How did they give? Well, it wasn't 10%, it says, "The churches in Macedonia, 2Cor 8:1, gave abundantly out of deep poverty. It says that their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality." Here was a very poor church in Macedonia, very poor, but they gave generously, out of their hearts liberally. In fact, verse three says, they gave beyond their ability. They gave more than they should have given--more then they could of given, and the reason they did that was in verse five, because they first gave themselves. I mean when you give yourself then everything you have belongs to the Lord. So, Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "If you want a lesson in giving, look at these people--out of deep poverty they gave everything they had." In fact, they gave more then they should of, but they did that because they had already given themselves to the Lord. Now you have the key motive in giving; what is the right motive in giving? It is not to get anything. It is in that whole hearted abandonment, "they gave everything."
I worry about this Charismatic "Health and Wealth" prosperity business, where you are just simply saying, "Well I am going to give my money so I can get it!" That is not the spirit of the Macedonians, they didn't even have enough to give what they gave, but they gave it anyway, because they had already given themselves to the Lord. Their whole program was a "give myself away" program, not a "get for myself" program. We are suffering today, in Christianity, from an absolutely pervasive greed. Our contemporary Christianity is so self-indulgent it boggles the mind. That is why we don't reach out to people, because we are consumed with feeding ourselves. It's a mentality that all of us fall prey to.
A guy in our church told me the other day that he was meeting with a group of Christians, and all they could talk about was their latest investments. You look around you and you see people all around the world, you know, who have need. I was talking to Mitz (sp.) and he was telling me there are about 32,000 people in the city of Los Angeles who are homeless. We have been strategizing the last few days about what we are going to do about that. Some people are talking about how they can get another Mercedes, and there are some people who are trying to get up out of the gutter to feed their family.
So, we have a mentality, and of course, what we have done, see, we justified our materialism by developing a theology to accommodate it--you know, "Jesus wants you healthy and wealthy."
There was a book called "Prime Time Religion" about Oral Roberts, and it showed how he has become a multimillionaire by the way he works things. In the book it points out, for example, he writes a book or has someone write it for him, and then he publishes it with his own publishing house (it describes all this, one of the guys on his staff wrote the book--unhappily for them); it shows how he publishes the book and then sells it to the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association--sells them about two million copies so they can send it out to all the people on their mailing list, who send them twenty-five bucks, only he sells to them for a dollar profit on each book. So he writes a book, publishes the book, makes a buck profit selling it to his own organization, pockets two million dollars and then they distribute it.
Now, those are the kinds of people, for the most part, who are on television begging you for your money, and telling you that God is going to make you rich and so forth.
So there is a theology that has developed, and then what they do, trying to live with that is very difficult, so in order to live with that kind of thing you develop a theology that says "Jesus wants you wealthy," and that's how you deal with your conscience--"God wants you rich!" I mean, you read in a magazine--we were in Israel and we find people, who go over there to lead tours to Israel, demand $1,000 per day rooms, they demand limousine service everywhere, they go into these little shops where they take their tourists to buy things, and one guy told me that one group went in there and the leader wanted $12,000 worth of jewelry to bring his group to their store.
These are the people who develop this kind of accommodating theology, "Jesus wants you wealthy, Jesus wants you rich, Jesus wants you prosperous, He wants you healthy and all that kind of thing," and I really believe that it is a "back door" means to justify a materialistic attitude, and the Lord needs to deliver us from that.
These people [2 Cor 8:1] gave out of their deep poverty, not because they wanted anything back because they were so abandoned to the Lord. Having said all of that, all right--this is a long sermon--I want you to look at chapter nine, verse six, "But this I say, he that sows sparingly shall reap sparingly; he that sows bountifully shall reap bountifully." In this sense, we have to admit that they have a kernel of the truth, because if you sow a little bit you reap a little, if you sow a lot you reap a lot, and it is true that when you give to the Lord--He does give back, but if that is your motive--it's warped. It is true that He does that, but if you come to the Lords work and say, "I'm going to put this in, because I know that I am going to get back multiplied, then your giving is illegitimate. But if you can do it with a free, clear conscience, and even though you have to fight yourself, you know, sometimes you say, "Boy, I know the Lord is going to return this but that's not going to be my motive," you know, you kind of go back and forth, but if you have a clear conscience about that then it is ok. So, "you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly; you sow bountifully, you reap bountifully." There is the fact that God will bless, Luke 6:38, Jesus says, "Give, and it shall be. . . ." what? "Given unto you, " That's a great statement, "pressed down, shaken together and running over."
Did you ever buy a box of crackers and shake it, and open it, and you got about a third of a box of crackers? But that isn't how it is going to be when the Lord gives, it will be pressed down, shaken together, and still running over. He'll give.
Now, you say, "Yeah, I know what will happen to me. I will give all of my money and the Lord will give me back all spiritual blessings." That might happen, but in verse seven it says, "every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, nor of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." And, he will minister (verse 10) "He that ministers seed to the sower will minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness." Verse 10 is really key: He says He will not only give you back what you sowed; He'll give you back bread for your food--He'll take care of your physical needs when you give, and He'll increase the fruit of your righteousness. It doesn't say that He'll make you wealthy, does it? It says, He'll meet your needs, and He will fill your life with righteousness.
I did notice that most of the verses they used to promote this were out of the Old Testament.
It's very popular doctrine--people want to be rich, they want to be wealthy. The hottest new cult there is, is Terri Cole Whittiker (sp.)--I don't know if you've seen her? She is nothing but a slick Doris Day type Reverend Ike! She is in it for the money. She comes out of "Science of Mind." She's manipulative--she has figured out how to make a fortune and she is "milking" it for every dime that she can get out of it. And she can do it because people will do anything to get rich. People will do anything to get two things: money and health--and if you can promise people health and wealth, they will follow you off the end of the pier--believe me, they will.
Why do you think Jesus told the disciples when He sent them out, "Take no money when you heal," because if they would have taken money, they would have become instant millionaires--people will pay any price for healing--and they could really do it! And they [people] will pay any price, they will invest anything, if they think that they can get rich.
You see, this is what "Reverend Ike" did for years. What he did was, he told these people, "You send me money--you might get rich." And he told story after story, after story about it and what "his" company did was, at random they would pick out people off their mailing list and deliver a new Cadillac to them. They would do that to 100 to 200 people a year, with the millions that were coming in, and then they would have them get up and give a testimony, how that one day there was a new Cadillac delivered in front of their door. And it becomes a lottery system--that's all it is. It is like buying a ticket in a raffle, and you know raffles work and people are gamblers--look at Las Vegas.
So if people think there is a way to get either health or wealth they will do anything, and that kind of doctrine will be popular and people will send money to it like "gangbusters." Oral Roberts has been doing that for thirty years. You ought to read his letters, "If you will send me $25 today, right today, the day you get this letter, I'll promise you that Jesus will give you back $250 within the next six months from an unexpected place." Very typical letter. And you know, you are liable to get $250 back somewhere you didn't expect it. Right? You old Aunt died, or you got an income tax return, or you got a social security check you didn't expect, or whatever. In the long run it hooks people--it's really tragic.
Great biblical teaching. I’ve read and heard him speak on the subject. It is refreshing not to have the obsession with money sadly taught in most churches these days. The churches God wants to bless will always have the financial means to do His will and His elect will give freely as He purposes in each one’s heart to meet those needs.
You will find no spending of money on buildings, "programs," vestments, gilded icons, or any other worldly nonsense. In fact, the few times real estate transactions are mentioned, the people were selling the land to help the poor, not buying land to build cathedrals or chapels.
I stopped giving to my previous church when I noticed that they were spending my money on enormous flat-panel TVs, fancy sound systems, professional musicians, furniture, expensively-printed advertisements, keeping a graphic artist on staff, paying for a fabulous interactive website that cost $25K, etc.
I have been disgusted with prosperity preaching and the feel-good religion of self esteem for years.
I have often wondered if Old Testament tithing really was just kind of like paying taxes.
As a purely pragmatic matter, the tithe has a nice application, that is, if ten households put a tithe together, the result should be enough to call a pastor and pay him the average of what the ten households earn.
I do think this is a practical consideration, not a commandment proof or anything.
Some households may be destitute, consist of only one person when a pastor has five kids and a wife, whatever, it’s just sort of a general rule.
This is prosperity theology. Christ never says that we will receive in due measure what we give to him. Christ says that we will receive what God decides that we ought to receive. God isn’t a pez dispenser, you won’t get more blessings by simply giving more to him in a tithe.
Rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked and we must understand this right from the beginning. God never promises that we will receive our blessings here on earth, only that all those who repent and hold fast to the end will be saved.
Why ‘hold fast’? Because he knows we will be tempted to stray to walk away from him, and that the world will hate us and that we will suffer all for standing true to Him.
Yes, Christ does say, “Cast your bread upon the water, and after many days it shall return to you.” I firmly believe that this is so. Just, it will be at the time and choosing of God, not you.
Who said I’m arguing with you. :)
Disagree about the applicability of the tithe to Christians.
It was the practice of Jesus, of the Apostles, and of the people of God before the law was given.
As indicated it was given for conducting ministry and worship through the priests (read: pastors and churches of our day.)
Therefore, it is NOT a legal requirement, but it is a practice of subservience to God, and it is the practice of every known, righteous biblical character, Old and New Testament.
great read. I really like McArthur. He does an excellent job of telling us what REAL tithing is and that it’s all a product of complete surrender of ourselves to God.
I don't recall it ever being mentioned in the Bible that Jesus gave a tithe. As Jesus was a carpenter, he would not have had agricultural products to tithe anyway. He did tell the Pharisees under the law that they had done right in tithing of agricultural products.
I also don't recall any mention of any apostle tithing. Pre-law, we have a couple of examples of one-time tithes (Abraham from the spoils of war and Jacob after he promised God one time he would if God answered his prayer). Neither were examples of the weekly style tithe of money that so many churches are erroneously implying are needed.
Giving responsibly only to those ministries which demonstrate good stewardship of those gifts for advancing the true gospel and helping the truly needy is my sacred duty, for those uses are clearly the Lord's will.
It’s ALL His to begin with anyway.
He’s just letting us use it.
bump for later
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