Appease and be spared. Sacrifice and be blessed. These are the ways of the gods. Humanity has primarily seen their deities and spirits in this context. Not much has changed. We still see our God the same way. Much of the Christian church perpetuates a transactional relationship with a deity that it claims loves and accepts humanity freely. Why do we continue to live in this paradoxical mindset that shouts of this free acceptance while whispering the actual conditions of the transaction? Unfortunately, bad teaching and a lack of historical study has left us with a practice that wonderfully demonstrates our misunderstanding of God and Christ’s message of freedom…the false doctrine of a required 10% tithe. Generations of believers have unwittingly fallen prey to this curse that teaches they will never be “fully” accepted or experience God’s “favor and blessing” unless they are faithful to pay money to the church.
The fear of not being in “good standing” with God, the guilt of being “less than” or in “sin” because of financial strain, the expectation of extravagant return from “pouring in to the kingdom,” all lie just below the surface and continues to enslave believers to this transactional faith– a distortion of scripture and the opposite of Christ’s message.
Churches grow larger. Budgets grow bigger. Pastors become richer. Worship becomes grander. Guilt grows greater. The poor become poorer. And teaching becomes blander. Our capitalistic and self-improvement-fueled culture fits nicely into this teaching that ranges from a seemingly harmless doctrine in hometown churches to megachurch, prosperity, seed-faith doctrines that teach you are robbing God by not bringing your money into *His storehouse.
But…..the church is not a storehouse. The storehouses were literally storehouses in this Old Testament story. I will leave the study and details about Israel’s governing process, multiple tithes (in upwards of 23%), the Levitical responsibilities, and why Malachi was addressing this, for you to discover.
There is Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek which was a one time free-will offering from the spoils of war. It was not of his income or personal property. And there was the story of Ananias and Sapphire about being deceitful.
So many verses are used to support this requirement for believers and to secure a flow of financial support into the church. While many very honest and well-intentioned pastors teach this doctrine, it flows from bad teaching that was given to them.
My point for addressing this topic is not one of malice nor of seeking excuses to not be generous. This is not about “not giving.” This is about “giving everything.”
The new testament never taught a required tithe nor ever demanded a certain percent of payment. It definitely did not require a faithful payment for God’s favor, blessing, or breakthrough.
No. Christ’s message is a greater revelation. It is one of total sacrifice fueled from a renewed heart. It is one of complete acceptance and love by a Creator that requires no appeasement. It is one of freedom. And it is one that demands us to take care of the world around us with no thought of gain.
It is troubling to realize that a majority of churches could not keep their doors open if they stopped teaching that tithing to the church is a biblical requirement that comes with consequence to the individual. Encouraging followers to live Christ’s example in the world is the core teaching that will convert hearts from self-centeredness to hearts of generosity. We have much larger issues at hand within the Christian community if ceasing to enforce a false doctrine causes the doors of a church to close.
God does not need your club fees.