The Problem with Mandated Giving

Statistics sometimes speak volumes...

The news that tithing declined by about 62 percent last year presents the church with both a warning and a challenge, say several experts in Christian financial and seminary circles.

In mid-May, the Barna Research Group reported the results of a survey of 1,010 adults last January and February. It showed that the proportion of households tithing -- giving 10 percent of income -- to churches dropped from 8 percent in 2001 to just 3 percent in 2002. (Tithing: What should the church teach its members about giving? by Ken Walker, BP News, July 11, 2003)

Believers have grown disillusioned with the contradictory, illogical, and unbiblical teachings that they have been browbeat with for years. Unlike past generations that often attended the same church all their lives - making for a consistent message, regardless of how biblical or unbiblical. This generation has often attended many churches, not necessarily even in the same denomination. Certainly it has made it easier for them to see all the contradictory teachings on this subject of giving. Unfortunately it has not driven most of them to search out what Scriptures really teaches; rather it's pushed them into overall complacency. They have stopped giving because they don't know how and have, to some degree, bought the idea that no one can tell them what is right. They've heard it all and have come to believe that anyone can make the Bible say what they want it to say - because all these teachers claim to be speaking from the Word. The abuse of mandated giving has created a generation of disillusioned former givers. Remember most of them have been told it's not even worth trying if they can't hit the divine 10%. Nine and half percent is merely the futile act of a thief who would steal from God. There's no possible joy in giving, now or on the horizon, in this view of charity. The stats again bear this out...

According to data by Christian Financial Concepts in the September 2000 issue of SBC LIFE, 20 percent of evangelical church members give 80 percent of the money contributed to their church, while 30 percent give the other 20 percent. Fifty percent of church members give nothing to their church. (Ibid)

With seniors now comprising a majority of larger givers to both churches and other Christian organizations, the church is reaping what it has sown. It's time for people to be set free to give!

Some church leaders have said, "If we taught freedom instead of the tithe (meaning the popular version of what the tithe is today), we'd never be able to keep the doors of the church open." So our question is this... Which is greater, "Grace" or "Law?" If people are taught and learn of the freedom and responsibility they have been given under grace, that "the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love (Galatians 5:6)," won't grace always show itself to be greater? When people are enslaved to a rules-bound system not instituted by God, though having a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5), it is harmful because...

  • It makes "new law" (or reinstates the old) - see Galatians 5:1-6 and also Romans 6:14. Paul was extremely concerned with people trying to enslave believers to the Law again. While his specific example in Galatians was circumcision, the same could be said of any aspect or mandate of the Law. Generally speaking, apart from the Jews, it's not non-believers that are in danger of becoming enslaved to new law; it's people in the church. For so many believers who have been caught up in some form of enslavement, the church needs to start emphasizing Paul's opening words on this subject...

    Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

  • It places tradition over God's word (Matthew 15:6). If the tithe is not for the New Testament believer, then teaching it or mandating it to the detriment of what the Scriptures actually teach nullifies God's word. This becomes a dangerous precedent and practice. It becomes an important question to ask how any church can make an absolute statement that "the tithe must go to the local church," as more than one publication and message has asserted. Other churches speak contradictory words, holding that the church cannot require a tithe and then go on to make it a spiritual standard to exceed. This mingling of law and grace is just as dangerous. It's all tradition.

    Should a church require a tithe? No, a church cannot require a tithe without New Testament authority. But a church should preach hard about giving, teach members the origin and nature of the tithe, and exhort members about exceeding the tithe. And a church might use the tithe as a guideline for warning or disciplining members for covetousness. (Emphasis theirs. Should Christians Tithe?,

  • It robs the giver of joy.

  • It robs the world (especially the lost) of seeing grace and love in action!

  • It gives an excuse for Christians to not be responsible for what God has commanded (i.e. looking after the poor). Even if a person gives to their church it does not remove their personal responsibility to share and care for others. Sadly, many who have dropped something in an offering plate are self-satisfied that they have done their "duty." While the example is slightly different, the principle of this passage certainly applies...

    Mark 7:9-13 And he [Jesus] said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

Teaching any believer to serve out of compulsion, fear of punishment, or hope for finding favor through actions (or to get rewards) - rather than solely out of love - is in opposition to the message of the New Testament (John 14:15, 23-24).

1 John 2:5-6 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Jesus lived a life of love for the Father, which displayed itself in perfect obedience to the Father's Word. What a standard to live up to!

Sin, failing to do what we know is right (James 4:17), often temporarily blinds us, keeping us from seeing God's blessing (even though we are still the recipient of it). Giving has been turned into a burden by many believers, rather than a blessing through which God is given all the glory! The believer filled with love and compassion, which comes from God never from compulsion, has been set free to give.

Galatians 5:13, 18 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ...if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (NASU)

There is one final area that shows a serious problem with mandated giving, especially in regards to today's practice of the tithe. When the tithe is proclaimed as mandatory and disobedience to it - by amount or administration - is held to being stealing from God, the church's failure to treat it as the sin they proclaim it to be portrays the church as hypocritical and money-focused, both to the membership and to the watching world. How? Murder, while indirect sin against God, is an immediate offense against a fellow man. If the tithe advocates claim is true, that failure to tithe to the church is stealing from God, this should be considered an especially heinous sin. Here, by their definition, the sin is immediately and only against God.

Biblically, if an unrepentant murderer or adulterer was found in the church, professing to be a brother or sister in Christ, the church is commanded to put them out of the fellowship.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (Consider also Matthew 18:15-17)

With this professed heinous sin of tithing, directly against God, and hosts of unrepentant professed believers being found to be participating in this sin, church leadership turns a blind eye to it (other than few words). Why? Because the same churches that are using this method to shame people into giving are quite willing to accept the 2, 3 or 4 percent that most actually give. Ejecting them from the church as unrepentant sinners would jeopardize the church's income. Much like the reasons for why this new tithe was first implemented, this acceptance of its claimed abuse all comes down to pragmatics.

Without a doubt, this lack of Biblical action, for what these churches proclaim to be a direct sin against God, is seen for what it is, by both the church membership and the world: blatant hypocrisy! It's a lot like lying, one little lie often leads to many more to cover it up. The lie of modern tithing, in all its forms, has forced the church into subsequent abuses and lies. Ongoing hypocrisy is the lie of saying one thing and doing another. It shouldn't surprise us that the church has lost its credibility to speak with authority even on other issues. The only sure cure for all these lies is to get back to the absolute truth of God's word alone!

2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.