Get There From Here
Offering conclusions without any hint of how that conclusion was arrived at has become an art form in many Christian circles. Even when it is a valid conclusion, failure to show younger or less mature believers the thought process misses a great opportunity to teach them how to be discerning. When invalid conclusions are adopted without question it is no better than embracing tradition as Scriptures, one of the very things the Protestant Reformation was trying to deal with. The cure is to encourage all believers to ask questions. The only bad question is the one not asked, when you are willing to seek and heed the answers found in God's word.
A quick answer which we've heard many times before, that professes to answer all of the above, goes something like this: "Everyone is supposed to give at least 10% of all they earn, or are given, to their church. The tithe is so the church has money to operate." Great answer! But is it Biblical?
Jumping to conclusions, especially taught ones, is easy to do. To counteract this tendency, instead think along the lines of the formula "A+B=C." Remember that you can't make "C" statements - similar to the entire sample answer above - unless you can prove "A" and "B" from the Bible. The whole picture has to add up. The "A" and "B" of our example includes providing biblical proof that the tithe is for everyone, that it is 10% of everything a person receives or earns, and that the church is to receive all of it. If any aspect of this does not hold up to biblical scrutiny, the answer ("C") has to be revised or scrapped.
As starting points of reference we need to consider lots of "C" statements. This also has no choice but to raise many more questions that will need answers. Bear with us; we will find the answers before long.
Commonplace ideas about the tithe are taught in seminaries and expounded from many pulpits. As those who have traveled and participated in numerous churches throughout North America, representing a host of denominations, we're perhaps intrigued most by the positions that are mutually exclusive - in other words, they contradict each other (see the two quotes above). Of course, each of these positions is held up by their adherents and proponents as being "biblical." When asked why they believe these things, a majority of people will acknowledge some level of traditional influence. Occasional "proof texts" or verses are held out in support of what they've been taught. Yet when challenged on flaws or gaps in their biblical "proof," more than one have said that it doesn't matter if their method of getting there is flawed as long as it ends up teaching people to uphold the practice. Scary! This ends-justifies-the-means theology is pervasive outside the church, but should never become so inside it.
Apart from completely irrational claims, positions are really methodologies. The following three methods summarize most of what is being used to say that the tithe applies to the church today. Consider each position and their accompanying questions as we seek to find out if "tithing is a biblical tradition," as one denominational pamphlet so confidently asserts in promoting this practice to its churches.
While some of the examples we will give may appear to condemn church and denominational leadership, and in some cases justifiably so, we need to emphasize that the vast majority of people (leadership or not) hold to traditional views out of ignorance. It was only after we had received a number of questions about tithing, and a few specific challenges, that we set out to examine the entire subject objectively from Scriptures. What we found was a surprise, as it will be for many readers.
It's not wrong for a person to change their position on anything in the Bible after further study. It's only wrong when a person refuses to change their belief and practice to bring it into line with Scriptures. As for us, what we now believe and teach must conform to God's Word.