Believers should be able to give as much as they want to the church and to church projects; and they should determine for themselves how much to give based on their own criteria, but telling people they are obligated to pay tithes to the church is WRONG.
Yet many ministers, and church members as well, insist that believers who don’t tithe to the church are robbing God and neglecting their Christian duty. Some add that a believer who does not tithe will not prosper because of it.
The doctrine of mandatory tithing is harmful and misguided.
In this post I assert the harmfulness of mandatory tithing and give 5 reasons why it is wrong. On the other side of the issue, proponents of mandatory tithing produce a number of biblical proof-texts claiming to support the doctrine; I addressed the major proof-texts in the previous post–they all fail.
Here I speak to the harmfulness of this doctrine.
1. Mandatory Tithing is Legalistic
The wide-spread teaching of mandatory tithing among many believers is outright legalism—pure and simple. Mandatory tithing is promoted as a command from God, himself, even though the proof-texts offered do not support that claim.
But Jesus does away with all forms of legalism; legalism is not part of our relationship with God at all, and tithing is no exception. Jesus’ good news of the kingdom is one of love, reconciliation, and freedom. Kingdom living is built on principles—not rules, and the only commandment Jesus gives is that we love each other. There is no place for legalistic rules in following Jesus; Jesus gives us rest from such burdens.
Intimidation and fear of an angry God should never be used to manipulate believers in their giving.
2. Mandatory Tithing Misrepresents the Bible
The doctrine of mandatory tithing to the church is contrived and misrepresents the Bible. Tithing was an Old Testament institution for support of the temple and its priests. It never applies to believers; we have neither the temple nor priests to support it.
Jesus provides us with our clearest insights on God and the kingdom, which often conflict with the views of the Old Testament. Trying to import an Old Testament institution into Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is misguided and invalid. It misrepresents both Jesus and the Bible.
The Bible nowhere suggests that believers are obligated to pay tithes to the church.
3. Mandatory Tithing is Often Burdensome
The legalistic tithing requirement (usually followed by requests for additional ‘offerings’) puts an extreme burden on people who really need that money for daily survival. Perry, one of my readers, wrote recently, “One of my great regrets: Dad died, leaving Mom in tough circumstances. But I could have helped more if I’d given her what I was giving the church.” I agree that helping his Mom was the more important use of his money.
Mandatory tithing is an unwarranted burden on the poor, the disadvantaged, and those in extreme circumstances. It is unconscionable for the church to demand so much of these people when it is more appropriate for the church to be helping them.
4. Mandatory Tithing is Sometimes Deceiving
Another harmful aspect of promoting mandatory tithing and offerings is the common implication, sometimes clearly stated, that giving is an investment: Give and God will give back to you. Giving might be an investment in the lives of the poor and needy, but it is not a divine financial investment. Making such unfounded promises is no less deceiving than similar promises from shady salesmen.
The opposite implication is that if we do not pay our tithes, then we will not prosper from the money we have. Sometimes Haggai 1 is quoted:
You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.
As a student, without means, struggling financially to put myself through college, I mentioned my car problems to a fellow student. Their response: ‘Are you paying your tithes?’ To them, my poverty in trying to get an education was my own fault.
5. Mandatory Tithing is Often Self-serving
Who benefits from convincing believers that tithing to the church is mandatory? I hate to say it, but it is usually ministers, their constant building programs, and their expanding church staff. Preaching mandatory tithing is often self-serving. For some ministers the need for more money never stops, no matter how much money is coming in.
Some ministers even castigate those who do believe in mandatory tithing but understand the tithe to be on the net instead of the gross. These ministers want every dollar they can get.
However, I do not think this is the spirit of most ministers. Many have much healthier attitudes toward stewardship, and some struggle financially themselves—especially in smaller churches. Congregations do need a certain amount of money for operations, but I think we often put far too much money into operations, building, and paid staff. And I don’t think the church should be the primary recipient of our money unless they have a strong outreach to the poor and needy.
Just because I think mandatory tithing is harmful and wrong does not mean I oppose stewardship and generous giving. Next time we will discuss a far more appropriate approach to proper stewardship than mandatory tithing to the church.
Articles in this series: Teaching Mandatory Tithing is Wrong
The Bible Does not Teach Mandatory Tithing for Believers: Answering False Proof-texts
5 Reasons Why the Harmful Doctrine of Mandatory Tithing is Wrong
Stewardship is not Just Giving to the Church – Stewardship is Giving Wisely
Does Paul Tell Us to Bring Our Tithes to Church on Sundays? He Does Not
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