Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tithing and Charities

Three Christians were asked to answer the following question: “Is it stealing from God to split your tithe between the church and other charities?” This is a great question to ask and I’m glad Christianity Today has asked three people to respond to it. Here are the responses and my thoughts about their responses.
Gary Moore, Amie Streater, Douglas LeBlanc (from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/october/split-tithe-between-church-charities.html?start=1)

Gary Moore’s answered puzzled me at many points. I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to say sometimes. For example, when he says “Neither did Malachi say to bring the full tithes for the operation of the temple. The storehouse was for the needy,” I’m puzzled at how he views the relationship between the Old Covenant institution of “temple” and the New Covenant “church.” While the three main tithes commanded in the Mosaic Law (Festival, Levitical, and Charity) were all related, on some level, to the needy or poor, the Levitical Tithe really shouldn’t be viewed as for the poor. The “storehouse” was simply the place where the tithes were stored.

I fully agree with his analysis of the Empty Tomb data, but I’m not sure how that relates to the actual question. I think he was trying to insert a motivation to give more (which I generally agree with).

His conclusion: “Should the church reassume more biblical responsibilities, it would be entitled to more of the biblical tithe.” Oh how I wish he had attempted to define the tithe! If he means “10% of income,” then I would need to disagree with that definition. I can only assume he means that since he gives no other definition, but that definition cannot be sustained from Scripture.

Amie Streater is very clear: if you give part of your tithe to some other charity besides your local church, you are disobedient. She claims that tithing “is not spoken of differently in the Old and New Testaments.” While I actually kind of agree with that statement, it really hurts the argument being made. Since there were multiple tithes in the Old Testament Law, and since it is claimed that the tithe is not “spoken of differently,” that means Christians better be giving at least 20% of their income (or should I say, at least 20% of the produce from their crops and cattle [at least, those that are from the land of Israel]).

She gives a clear definition: “Tithe means a tenth.” The dictionary might say that, but that does not define the tithe in Scripture. She utilizes Deuteronomy 26:1-4 to demonstrate that the tithe must go to “the local church.” She then cites Malachi 3:10  and the “storehouse,” calling it “the church.” On what basis is the temple of Deuteronomy 26 and the “storehouse” of Malachi 3 equal to the church?

After explaining the typical view on tithing prevalent in churches today, she says: “As believers we can choose to bicker and nitpick about these Scriptures and search for evidence to give less. We have the freedom to do that.” Ouch. So, I guess that is a pre-emptive strike on those who disagree with her about tithing. Apparently they (including “me”) are trying to find ways to give less … I will respectfully disagree with that evaluation of the motivation of my heart.

Douglas LeBlanc explains that his Dad interpreted Malachi 3:10 to mean that Christians must tithe (“10% of income”?) to their place of worship. Then he states: “Whether my father’s exegesis would pass the muster of scholastic theologians does not matter to me.” Ouch (again!). What exactly does this mean? Is he saying: “whether or not the text actually meant/means what my father says, I will teach it to others”? … or maybe just that he disagrees with those “scholastic theologians”.

His answer to the question of the article is that splitting the tithe between a charity and our local church is not robbing God, but we “patronize God’ and we “distort tithing to mean something foreign to Scripture.” Interesting … so the meaning of Scripture does matter at this point. He never really defined “tithing” in Scripture, so I’m left to assume he believes it means “10% of income.” Again, we will disagree on this point.

So, I find zero satisfaction in all three of these answers, with the first being the closest to my view. What is my view? Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!


Chris said...

I really appreciated your analysis and arguments.

Got it via Challies.com.

- Chris

David A. Croteau said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Chris.

Rob said...

This is a great post, and I can't wait to read your viewpoint tomorrow! Thanks, Dr. Croteau.

Lisa Crooms said...

What always gets me is the assumption that those who disagree with the tithe or tenth in the New Testament Church are looking for a loophole to give less. I, in fact, believe just the opposite--and think that New Testament Scripture bears this out; giving 10% limits giving, since most tithe payers restrict their giving to that 10% and an perhaps an offering of something (usually) less than that 10%. New Testament Christians gave lavishly--even giving "all", and dividing the proceeds of the sale of their property to insure that everyone regardless of their station in life had what he or she needed. The Scriptures in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 teach us how we are to give, and how the Macedonian saints gave to support others who were struggling in spite of their own need.

David A. Croteau said...

I TOTALLY agree with you. For the most part, I think that the principles in the New Testament will lead to most American Christians giving well beyond 10%. Thanks for your comment!

Gifts That Matter said...

In addition, once you are sure of their capabilities, you can go ahead and make a donation. Make sure that the intimation you get from them in acknowledgement, is in compliance with IRS requirements or you could run into problems later.

Anonymous said...

Even though I do not believe in God, helping others is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Since my company's started to earn more (thanks to microsoft dynamics partners!), I'm supporting several fundations and I hope there's much more to come.