5 Reasons Why the Harmful Doctrine of Mandatory Tithing is Wrong

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.


Image: Pixabay – public domain

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.

Proper Stewardship

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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40 Responses to 5 Reasons Why the Harmful Doctrine of Mandatory Tithing is Wrong

  1. Chas says:

    Tim, your post raises several items, the first being: should any clergy/pastors/leaders be paid? I remember that Paul claimed to have supported himself at one time, but justified being supported at another. The example of Jesus in the Gospels shows him being supported by others, including the women from Galilee. My own view is that God will provide for anyone He wishes to serve Him, although I cannot disprove the idea that the money for this might come from someone else.

    Perry’s words that you have quoted in Item 3 seem to go directly against the sentiment expressed in the Gospels: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions, because Moses wrote: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father, or mother is to be put to death,’ but you say that if someone declares as ‘devoted to God’ what might have been used to help their father, or mother, then it cannot be used to help their father, or mother. So you nullify the word of God by your traditions.” This suggests that we ought not to tithe in such circumstances, although I want to make it clear that I do not condemn Perry in any way for doing so.

    God allowed the item to be included in the Bible that says something like: ‘Test me in this (tithing) and see if I do not pour out on you so much blessing that you do not have room enough for it all.’ All I can say is that I have heard several testimonies from people who have recounted being very poor, so much so that they could barely get by, but nevertheless responded to this challenge and paid a 10% tithe on their income. In every case, their circumstances improved almost at once. It should, however, be noted that we will only hear testimonies of the successes, not the failures, if there were any. I tithed, but not in circumstances of want, giving mainly to two Christian charities in the field of helping to feed poor people in the Third World, as well as some to the church. I am sure that the leaders in the church did not know how much I earned, or they would have ‘leaned’ on me to give more to the church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, you ask: “Should any clergy/pastors/leaders be paid?” I have sometimes considered this myself, but I think there are a couple issues that support having a paid minister–especially for larger congregations. One is that seminary-educated ministers have devoted many low-income years getting their education and probably put out a lot of money to achieve it (not considering continuing educational debt).

      The other is that we have come to expect far too much from our pastors. They have far too many responsibilities that are not really part of a pastor’s essential contribution. These include administration, counseling, and ‘leadership’ duties that are not innate to the minister’s job. We cannot demand the advanced education and so much busyness without paying them.

      I agree that taking care of parents, and other situations, are more important than paying the church for all the things they decide they want. I can understand Perry’s regret for giving money to the church instead of his parents.

      You may recall that in the previous post I addressed the passage in Malachi 3 that you mention about ‘test me in this’. I think this expresses what the prophet felt about the situation he wrote about. Whether he was correct or not in his perspective, the passage applied to a specific context–supporting the temple in Old Testament Judaism. I don’t think it applies to us. I have heard some of the same kind of testimonials you discuss, but I also have known dedicated tithers who went bankrupt.

      In any case, I have no problem with people who wish to give 10% or more, but I do protest the teaching that we MUST give 10% in order to please God. I think you set a good example of choosing to tithe, but not in times of want, and splitting your giving between the church and charities. Good for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Tim, I think that you hit a sore point in your second paragraph where you have put ‘for all the things they decide they want’, because there is a temptation for church leaders to put surplus tithe money into things that are not essential, rather than helping people in need.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Absolutely! Many churches are very self-centered: increase attendance, increase money, and we will find a way to spend it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • sheila0405 says:

          Programs, church expansion of facilities, and hiring of unnecessary staff siphon off some of the money. I attended a church with a broken HVAC system and a bad roof which spent money on other things. It’s not an anomaly.


  2. mark says:

    The Clergy dine and invest on the sheep’s ignorance

    Liked by 1 person

    • mark says:

      A person does not need an institution to tell them where to put the Blessings GOD has provided….it is written in your heart where the need is at.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mark, this is often (TOO often) true, but it is not universal of course. There are many commendable ministers who do not do this.


      • mark says:

        Yes Tim..I think there are some honest Pastors out there and one elementary way I gauge that is by their stand on Tithing. If he is honest about that not being applicable to the NT Church, then I see him as trying from the start to represent the Gospel of Christ and not the gospel of Church LLC inc.

        Many folk are returning to Christianities roots by forming the NT version of church…small cell groups. The work load is shared by all members..ALL contribute not just the Pastor or leader. For the only Authority there is Jesus Christ, no “Pastor” is needed.
        Members of these cell groups grow spiritually because they become “Doer’s and not just Hearer’s” of the word.
        All are encouraged to go out into the community to spread the KingDom. Most gain new found knowledge of the Scripture because each person shares in the duties of the ministerial office. Very different from organized 501-3C Church where all duties are dumped on the Pastor or his team for bringing the message feeding the poor or visiting the oppressed
        Our exercise of the Faith isn’t supposed to be as a Spectator.

        Tim I am sure you are more than familiar with Christian Cell groups/Home Church. What are your thoughts or opinions on these….

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Mark, yes I am familiar with home churches and cell groups. I think they are a great alternative to larger churches with buildings and paid staff. I think laymen can even administer communion.


  3. Anonymous says:

    You mentioned that certain duties a pastor does really isn’t part of a pastor’s essential contribution. What is their essential contribution? I have always thought a pastor can be an initial counselor. What I see from my church is the church hires more pastors and create more unessential jobs that have hefty salaries. We have a pastor who preaches sometimes but she goes to those in hospital and nursing homes, when the previous pastors would split those duties.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anon, the earliest churches do not seem to have had ‘pastors’ at all. The local believers met together under a group of (unpaid) elders and each member contributed to the meeting as needed. However, a central pastor seems to have become the norm within less than a 100 years.

      Now in Paul’s case, he was not the pastor but the founder of the churches he was involved with. As such, he seemed to continue helping them develop and mature by visits and letters–but he was not their ‘pastor’.

      I think we have to determine, as a congregation (or denomination), the scope of a pastor’s duties; but I think we typically want too much–and too many. I agree with you that often “the church hires more pastors and create more unessential jobs that have hefty salaries”. Is this proper stewardship? I think many churches (certainly not all) keep spending money on the ‘church’ and not enough on the poor and needy.


      • Chas says:

        Tim, the origin of the word pastor relates to shepherds. The idea of a church leader as a shepherd can have both a temporal and a spiritual meaning by looking after the physical well-being of members of the congregation in regard to poverty, health and other needs, and also the encouragement of members in their walk with God and their understanding of Him.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. mandibelle16 says:

    Hey. I agree and disagree. When Jesus says : “Give Unto Caesar and to God What Is Gods.” In the NT. I believe this not only means we respect our civil leaders and pay our taxes and also refers to us giving our tithe to God. I learned growing up we do this because they did it in the OT, as a symbol. But also the thing is everything is Gods and he is only asking for ten percent to be dedicated to his work — the church. However, he wants us to give with an honest and true heart. What I mean by this if ten percent is something you are able and halve the sallary to give you should give it. But if it’s really going to make you bitter and hurt your finances, give less. Whatever amount you give even if it’s $10.00 a month God only wants it if it’s given freely. And I have to agree with they guy below. Tithing is the major source of how a pastor and church personnel are paid. I know some pastors are bad about this but in the Lutheran church here, thecoastours aren’t asking for an unreasonable thing, a decent sallary and benefits. We need enough to pay the church mortgage, pay utilities, and a bit for supplies etc and a few mission projects. On the other end, I will tell you my Grandpa went to a Pentecostal church, bc his mother was one. He broke his back and when my mom was young, elders came to ask him for his missed tithes. He was out of work, no disability and although he always believed in God and Jesus, never went back to church. But as a whole Giving what you can hopefully 10 percent, if you attend a church, is reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mandibelle, I agree with you that giving to the church is a balance, and it must come from the heart. I have no problem with people giving 10% or more because they wish to–but never because they are told they have to. You seem to have that good sense of balance.

      The story of your Grandpa is a terrible story, but I believe you; this is the attitude many churches have about mandatory tithing. I think what the elders did was very insensitive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mandibelle16 says:

        It was so insensitive and wrong. For men who were “elders” at church, they forgot about loving their neighbour and helping anyway they can to heal the sick. What’s worse is my Uncle vividly remembers this and won’t step foot in a church save funerals and weddings. My Grandpa remained a Christian but I don’t think my Uncle is — unknowingly these elders also spiritually and emotionally injured a child.

        Thanks for your comment back.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Children are very observant. Though they are often ignored, the way they see people treated can make a difference for the rest of their life.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve says:

    … on the other hand, 10% probably gets some folks (in the US) off the hook, lol.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Tithing wasn’t just about supporting priests and Levites, it was also part of the social welfare system along with gleaning fallow year harvest, debt cancellation and Jubilee that God commanded as the law of the nation, to care for the poor and immigrants. It is ironic that so many American churches that teach tithing, preach against national social welfare systems.
    Your view of legalistic tithing being an extreme burden on the poor is completely right. In the OT, tithing was meant for the rich, for landowners, who gave from the harvests of their land from their flocks and herds, not the poor and labourers who worked the land. Amos condemned taxing the poor Amos 5:11 …you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him…

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Deconneely, I agree with your excellent observation that tithing seems to be for land owners and not the poor. And the principles do, indeed, involve gleanings and jubilees, which are also methods for the haves to assist the have nots.

      I am afraid many churches and ministers would not be interested in this OT approach.


  7. tonycutty says:

    I find it hard to imagine churches like this. Even in my most ‘legalistic’ church, they were never as bad as that. But I do understand that these churches exist, and I find it reprehensible that they operate like that. I would never again go near a church like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tonycutty says:

    And while I agree that ‘ministers’ should be self supporting, that has to be balanced with making sure that each believer carries his/her own load wherever possible. If you have one person ‘in charge’, that erson will probably not have time to earn money to keep themselves and their family (because of course every minister has to have a family, don’t they, otherwise they don’t fit in with the ‘Timothy Rules’ on elders!). If we are going to load one person with all the Church business, they need to be paid.

    But I’m still not advocating mandatory tithing. If the believers want one person ‘over’ others, their joy in that structure should prompt their giving, pure and simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I like the idea of self-supporting ministers as well; but, as you say, we cannot overload a minister with tasks and projects and still expect them to be self-supporting.


  9. Marjorie Weiss says:

    I served in parish ministry for 35 years and always tithed, giving about 7% to the congregation and the rest to other charities. I also always told the members exactly that and gave them the monetary amount of my offerings to the congregation. It was not bragging since proportional giving is what we encouraged. It also was very good for the congregation to know how much I supported its work.

    It was one of the best things I did as an example of Christian living which is what my ordination vows said I should do. It encouraged others to think about their giving. I also sent regular, personal thank yous to the top 40 givers of the congregation to let them know what their offerings were doing in the congregation.

    Now I am retired and no longer tithe, preferring to have more flexibility to help my two daughters who live paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have to set that example anymore and I also figure I gave over $200,000 away over the years so now, my family takes priority. Is that justification? Maybe.

    I still feel kinda cheap now, so this tithing thing can easily elicit guilt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • sheila0405 says:

      You are investing in, and ministering to, your daughters. Don’t think you are cheap & never feel guilty for providing necessary support for them. My late MIL saved us many times when my husband and I struggled to support our newborn. She was an angel, and so are you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Marjorie, I love your approach! I wish I had a minister like that. You seem to have a very healthy and generous attitude about giving, without the baggage of mandatory tithing.


      • Marjorie Weiss says:

        We did not have an every member response either, most years, instead offering many opportunities for folks to give special gifts for tangible or nontangible specific items. It worked mostly until after a building was completed and overall giving stagnated. Yes, typical, but a sign to me that it was time to leave.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, there are several passages in the New Testament which may be relevant.
    Matthew 15:1-9. Matthew 23:17. Mark 12:40. All relevant to your article.
    This practice is much worse in the U.S.A. than in Australia, however, some of the newer Churches are copying the American example. Not Good.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Stewardship is not Just Giving to the Church – Stewardship is Giving Wisely | Jesus Without Baggage

  12. Pingback: The Bible Does not Teach Mandatory Tithing for Believers: Answering False Proof-texts | Jesus Without Baggage

  13. Pingback: Paul Had Remarkable Insights but He was not Inerrant | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. Pingback: Does Paul Tell Us to Bring Our Tithes to Church on Sundays? He Does Not | Jesus Without Baggage

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