by Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.;

Author of Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Before 1870 tithing was not even discussed in Protestant churches in the USA. After a Baptist history of over 300 years without tithing texts (1649-1963), the Southern Baptist Convention first introduced tithing references in The Faith and Message in 1963. Now they act like those who oppose tithing as a biblical doctrine are suddenly all heretics! Already most Baptist churches un-biblically require tithing from its church officers which implies that spiritual gifts only reside within financially capable persons. Thus it is becoming mostly a leadership of the elite. They are also slowly moving towards making tithing an un-biblical requirement even for church membership. Thus the poor and financially cripple will be pushed out of their view of God’s kingdom against Christ’s declarations.

In the opinion of this Baptist, the SBC (and others who do this) are guilty of promoting a false doctrine which they refuse to defend using sound biblical hermeneutics, biblical history, early church history and even Baptist history. Although their own church historians and leading seminary theologians usually disagree on tithing, leaders at the church level are demanding it be taught. Its paid employees (whose marching orders are found in the official Position Paper which is hard to find) must teach tithing! The methods they use to promote tithing clearly border on dishonesty.

The following statement from the un-circulated Position Paper on tithing allows no deviation or discussion. The entire paper is discussed elsewhere on this site.

“Tithing is the biblical standard for the stewardship of possessions. Giving the first and the best of possessions to God is a biblical model that must not be supplanted by any other standard. Believers may fall short of biblical standards, but the standards themselves must not be compromised by implying that something short of the standards is acceptable and pleasing to God. We will focus stewardship education on tithing as the standard and the beginning point that God has established for believers in their stewardship of possessions. … We will focus stewardship education on tithing as an expectation God has for obedient believers.”

The following list of errors must be addressed before the spiritual decay of conservative Christianity copies that of liberal Christianity. When money-gathering programs replace personal-evangelism programs, the organization falsely called the “church” will rot from within. Naturally, not every one of the following lies is found in every tithe-teaching Baptist church. While some are overtly stated and others are implied most of them are floating around ready to grasp the average church member and control him or her. See my essay on page one, Tithing is Not a Christian Doctrine and see my book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine.

ERROR #1: Post-Calvary giving principles are not good enough for the church. While founding all of its other doctrines almost solely on New Covenant texts and principles, church finances must depend on principles found only before Christ’s death. (Chapter 27; Essay #1.) This violates Baptist history for many centuries.

ERROR #2: “Tithe” includes money. Food was used as barter in the early Old Testament because money was not widely used or expected for payment. (Chapter #1; Essay #2, 3.) A simple word study proves this to be wrong.

ERROR #3: Everybody under the Old Covenant paid tithes with no exceptions. Tithing was the minimum beginning expectation of every Israelite. (Chapter 25; Essay #2.) Actually only OT farmers and herdsmen who lived inside Israel were required to tithe.

ERROR #4: In Genesis 14 Abraham freely tithed and he is an example of pre-Law tithing for the church to follow. (Chapter 2; Essay #4. Actually Abraham is only an example of tithing pagan spoils of war and giving 90% of them back to pagans which the church does not teach.

ERROR #5: Since the whole OT tithe went to the priests at the Temple and since NT church leaders and church buildings replaced the OT priests and Temple, then the whole tithe in the NT should go to the church. (Chapters 10-13, 19, 21; Essay #5 8, 10-16.) Actually the whole OT tithe went to the equivalents of our ushers, deacons, choir, musicians, maintenance men and political workers. The NT church is not a building or storehouse. Church buildings did not even exist for over 200 years after Calvary.

ERROR #6: The phrase “It is Holy to the LORD” In Leviticus 27 makes the tithe an eternal moral principle for the church to obey. (Chapter 5; Essay #6.) Actually almost everything else called “holy” or “most holy” in Leviticus has been discarded by the church.

ERROR #7: First-fruits are the same as tithes and should be given to the church before any bills are paid. (Chapters 1, 4, 12; Essay #5, 7, 10-12.) Actually neither the firstfruits nor the best were necessarily the tithe.

ERROR #8: There are four different tithes described in the Bible but the church only expects one of them. (Chapter 7; Essay #8.)

ERROR #9: Church leaders who receive tithes should be allowed to own and inherit property. (Chapter 6; Essay #5.) This is contrary to the Bible principle.

ERROR #10: The Levitical tithes were never used to pay salaries of deacons, builders, maintenance, choir members, judges and politicians. (Chapters 4, 10; Essay #5, 8, 10.) This is contrary to the Bible principle.

ERROR #11: The church is the only place where tithes should be brought. (Chapters 4, 7, 10-13; Essay #11, 12.) Actually very few of the OT tithes ever reached the Temple and Malachi 3:10 has been grossly misinterpreted.

ERROR #12: OT priests worked full-time in the Temple. (Chapters 11-13; Essay #5, 7, 10, 11.) Actually most tithe-receiving Levites and priests spent most of their time in the Levitical cities raising tithed animals or learning trades to use in the temple.

ERROR #13: Malachi 3 applies to the church today. (Chapter 13; Essay #13.) Actually there are at least 9 biblical reasons to reject this idea.

ERROR #14: Concerning tithing there is very little difference between the Old and New Covenants. (Chapters 16-26; Essay #14-18.)

ERROR #15: Jesus in Matthew 23:23 and the book of Acts taught tithing to the church. (Chapters 14, 16. 28; Essay #9, 13, 14.) Actually the context found in Mt 23:2 and 3 (matters of the law) and Acts 21:20 disprove this idea.

ERROR #16: It is OK to add to God’s Word and require church leaders and deacons to tithe in order to quality. Spiritual gifts are only found among financially capable tithers. (Timothy, Titus) Actually since financial competency was not a requirement in the Bible then it should not be a qualification in the church.

ERROR #17: The church must teach and practice tithing in order to grow. (Chapters 16-31; Essay #1, 16.) Actually that attitude shows a reluctance to believe and act on far better new covenant principles.

ERROR #18: God declared that church leaders should be full-time. (Chapters 10-12, 16, 22.) Actually OT Levites and priests were not full time and there is no pattern fulfillment. Most Jewish rabbis worked for a living. Paul was a rabbi and encouraged the same among preachers in Acts 20:29-35 and 2 Cor 12:14.

ERROR #19: Tithing has always been taught in the historical church. (Chapters 29, 9, 26, 28; Essay #18.) This is totally false and cannot be verified by a single reputable church historian.

ERROR #20: Baptists have always taught tithing. (4 articles on my web site) As of 2000 the word still does not appear in the SBC Faith and Message. Tithng was not even discussed in the USA until the early 1870s. It is a new doctrine.

ERROR #21: The tithe should be given to the church even before any necessities such as food, medicine and warmth are provided. (Essay #7.) Absolutely not. 1 Tim 5:8.

ERROR #22: Church leaders must only be financially secure tithers and the poor do not qualify for church leadership. The modern Baptist church must not teach James, chapter 2.

James 2:3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”

4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

6 But you have insulted the poor. NIV

ERROR #23: Spiritual gifts of leadership are only given to the financially secure. Do not teach 1st Corinthians 12.

1 Cor 12:7-11

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

8 To one there is given through the Spirit …

9 to another faith by the same Spirit …

10 to another …

11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. NIV