Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thursday, October 01, 2015

John Ortberg and Tithing

A few months ago John Ortberg preached a sermon called "The Main Thing." The general theme was about how to keep the main thing the main thing. In this message (around 22:45 into it) he brings up being generous. Being generous is a great principle for giving clearly advocated in Scripture. I have zero doubts about this. But as he discussed the concept of "generous giving," he reminded them a "The Tithing Challenge" he gave to the church last year. That is, give 10 percent of your income to the church for 90 days. If, at the end of 90 days, that is not financially sustainable, inform the church as they will refund your money. Over a 100 signed up, only 2 said it didn't work. What to make of this?

First, I do believe that the vast majority of American's should be able to give 10 percent of their income to their local churches without it being a huge financial strain. That is what this anecdote demonstrates. But that's all.

Second, the real issue is whether this challenge can legitimately be based upon Malachi 3. A few things to note about Malachi 3:
    1) the tithe discussed was probably meant for the support of the Levites and priests.
    2) the "offerings" discussed were not voluntary but required.
    3) the "storehouse" referred to an actual building (see 2 Chronicles 31:10-12) constructed many, many years after the Mosaic Law of tithing was given.

These three things are the beginning reasons for the issues of directly applying the Malachi 3 passage on tithing to Christians today:
    1) pastors are not Levites nor priests; in the church age we are all now priests, with Christ Jesus as our high priest.
    2) the word "offerings" are used today to reference voluntary gifts rather than required gifts; however, if they were required gifts in Malachi 3, and tithing is required because of the reference to it in Malachi 3, then those offerings would be required today.
    3) the "storehouse" in no way refers to the church today; it was simply a barn-type structure.

Therefore, using Malachi 3 the way that Ortberg does is not justified. Many people in America should be able to give 10 percent of their income without it being too burdensome, but many people in America cannot. There is no justification in Scripture for mandating a tithe. Theological and historical arguments fall short as well.