Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD





May 6, 2015

In an article titled, Taking care of family comes before tithes, offerings, Ramsey says: “Your first job is to provide for your family and take care of those kinds of responsibilities – which is a very scriptural stance. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll hopefully have the financial ability to move beyond tithes and into offerings, which are completely different concepts. Tithes are first fruits off the top, while offerings are from surplus – meaning that you and your family are doing well financially.”

Note the two underlined statements – they contradict each other!!!! I have other articles posted in which Ramsey clearly says that tithes are to be given FIRST before family essentials.

Rebuttal of Dave Ramsey by Russ Kelly, August 17, 2009 (spell checked 2-15-2010)

Dave’s Advice on Tithing and Giving

http://www.daveramsey.com/etc/cms/giving_5089.htmlc August 17, 2009 [edited]

Ramsey: Giving liberates the soul of the giver.

Kelly: Giving — not tithing. I agree with this basic statement and practice it myself.

Ramsey: You never walk away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution or gift to a friend in need, give away at least some of your money.

Kelly: I disagree. There are tens of thousands who have lived in the ghettos for generations who walk away after tithing with a relief that they have escaped God’s curse one more time. They have faithfully tithed and played the lottery and remain in deep poverty, uneducated and unqualified to hold a job.

Ramsey: Not only does it generate good feelings, but it generates contentment.

Kelly: Tithing does not generate the ability to get and hold a job. Successful tithers are self motivated and would have become successful whether or not they tithed as many atheists and agnostics who do not tithe.

Ramsey: Remember, no one has ever become poor by giving.

Kelly: Go into ghetto neighborhoods and you will find the largest group of tithers in the world. They tithe to escape the curse and make their pastors much better off than themselves.

Ramsey: Is it acceptable to pause tithing in tough financial times?

Kelly: You, Dave Ramsey, do not biblically tithe and neither do your followers. True biblical tithes were always only food from inside Israel. Although money was common even in Genesis and essential for sanctuary worship, money was never included in the 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe.

Ramsey: The Bible does not mention anything about “pausing” tithing.

Kelly: The Bible does not mention anything about tithing for the Church after Calvary under the New Covenant. The Bible does give more than ample reason to abolish (not pause) tithing. See http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id171.html.

Ramsey: Neither does it say that we will go to Hell if we do not tithe.

Kelly: Christians are under the imputed righteousness of Christ. They stand before God as holy, perfect, sinless and just.

Ramsey: The tithe, which is a scriptural mandate …

Kelly: It was only a basic, minimum starting place for food producers who lived inside Israel. It never applied to the vast majority of the population who had been pushed off the farms as owners within 3-4 generations.

Ramsey: So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him?

Kelly: God has never asked any Christian to give 10%. Even Paul could not have tithed because his increase came from pagan lands like ours. NT giving principles after Calvary are: freewill, generous, sacrificial, joyful, not by commandment and motivated by love for God and lost souls. That means more than 10% for many and less for many others who must first buy medicine and essential food and shelter.

Ramsey: Tithing was created for our benefit.

Kelly: There were at least three different OT tithes. The Levitical tithe was cold hard law and was created for the benefit of the Levites and priests which have been replaced by the priesthood of all believers. Why do you not obey the entire tithing statute of Numbers 18?– (1) Tithes to servants of the priests; (2) priests only get 1%; (3) only preachers inside the sanctuary; (4) tithe-recipients must forfeit ownership of land and property and (5) preachers must kill anybody who dares to worship God directly.

Ramsey: It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people.

Kelly: Contrary to tithe-teachers, firstfruits and tithes were never the same thing per Deu 26:1-4 and Neh 10:35-38. Firstfruits were very small token offerings while tithes were only counted after the full harvest of food or every tenth animal which were grown inside God’s holy land of Israel.

Ramsey: Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees, and employers.

Kelly: True, but that doesn’t validate tithing.

Ramsey: God is trying to teach us how to prosper over time.

Kelly: Why does God prosper atheists, agnostics and Muslim Arab sheiks and not prosper most ghetto dwellers who are morely llikely to tithe?

Ramsey: “Many” people have observed that after they stopped tithing, their finances seemed to get worse.

Kelly: How “many” who have faithfully tithed for years have not been blessed with overflowing blessings? How “many” who stopped did not suffer? Discuss both sides of the equation please.

Ramsey: In the Book of Malachi, God promises that if you do not rob Him of your tithing, He will rebuke your devourers and protect you.

Kelly: Malachi was only addressed to Old Covenant Israelites who had just renewed the covenant conditions in Nehemiah 10:29 and Malachi 4:4. The whole law was a test –not merely tithing. Obey ALL to be blessed; break ONE to be cursed. God cannot and does not bless New Covenant believers because of their obedience to one of over 600 commandments of the Old Covenant. That is very very poor hermeneutics (principles of interpretation). Galatians 3:10-13 clearly replaces Malachi 3:10-12 for Hebrews and us Gentiles were never under that law in any manner.

Ramsey: If you cannot live off 90% of your income, then you cannot live off 100%. It does not require a miracle for you to get through the month.

Kelly: Tell that to welfare recipients who are doing without pain pills and food in order to tithe their government checks to their much wealthier church leaders. I have witnessed this.

Ramsey: … if you tithe, do it out of love for God, not guilt.

Kelly: The first whole OT Levitical tithe was cold hard law and must be given whether out of joy or not. You want to keep the one command of tithing from the 600 OT laws and drop the penalty for disobedience. Again, that is poor hermeneutics.

Ramsey: I do not beat people up for not tithing because Jesus certainly did not, but let me encourage you to keep tithing.

Kelly: Jesus Himself as a carpenter did not qualify as a tithe-payer. There are no New Covenant blessings attached to tithing. The post Calvary blessings come from different NT principles. Jesus never addressed tithing outside of “matters of the law” per Mt 23:23. He could not have told his Gentiles disciples to tithe because it was illegal.

I encourage Dave Ramsey to dialog with me on a full scale detailed discussion of tithing.


by Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.,


Note: Dave Ramsey has a lot of very good financial advice in areas other than tithing.  I highly commend him for that. I do not understand why he tells people to pay their basic essential bills first unless they bring up tithihg which he then says comes first.


From Marriage Partnership magazine, Winter 2004, Vol 21, No. 4, page 44, Christianity Today International. This is on the Internet!


Ramsey said, “Twenty-two times in Proverbs alone it says that the tithe is ‘first fruits’ or off the top before you do anything.”


Dave Ramsey IS SERIOUSLY WRONG HERE! Do the research with an exhaustive concordance. Instead of occurring 22 times in Proverbs, the word “firstfruits” occurs ONCE in 3:9. The word “tithe” does not occur at all and the word “first” only occurs in 18:17 in the KJV.


To make the lie even worse Ramsey mistakenly follows the same lie repeated often by tithe-teachers that the “first fruit” is identical with the “tithe.” This is simply not true either! Don’t get angry with me because you have been misled by so-called “experts.” Check it out for yourself!


LEVITICAL FIRST-FRUIT and FIRST-BORN offerings  went directly to the Temple. They were used as daily food only for the PRIESTS whose family-courses spent every 24th week ministering at the Temple.  The items were required to be totally consumed (eaten) only inside the Temple. Nothing could be brought home to feed their wives, children and servants. (ie courses, families.) Neh 10:335-37a.


The FIRST-FRUIT was a very small amount of the first crop harvest and the FIRST-BORN was the small young first offspring of animals. The first-fruit was small enough to fit into a hand-held basket and was affordable to even the poor. It was not a burden on the poor. Deu 26:1-4.


The first basic TITHES were brought, not to the Temple, but directly to the Levitical cities where the priests and their servant-Levite brothers lived with their families when they were not ministering every 24th week at the Temple. The tithe was food which was only required from landowners and herdsmen and must come from inside Israel. Every 24th week the older priests and Levites would stop raising their (tithed) herds and serve at the Temple in rotation. The priests received one tenth of the whole tithe which was given to the Levites. As the priests and Levites went to serve their week at the Temple they brought what they needed as food during that week. While all of the Levites’ food consisted of the tithe, the priests could also eat from the first fruit, first born offerings and other offerings (See Levitical cites; courses; Lev 27:30-34; Neh 10:37b-38.)



Ex 23:19; 34:26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land you shall bring into the house of the LORD thy God.



Lev 23:17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.



Num 18:13 And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be yours; every one that is clean in your house shall eat of it.

Num 18: 5 Every thing that opens the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be yours: nevertheless the firstborn of man shall thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shall thou redeem.

Num 18:17 But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shall not redeem; they are holy: thou shall sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savor unto the LORD.



Num. 18:21-28



Deut 18:3 And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.

Deut 18:4  The firstfruits also of thy grain, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.



Deut 26:1-4, 10 [third year first-fruit] And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God gives thee for an inheritance, and possesses it, and dwells therein;

Deut 26:2 That thou shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shall bring of thy land that the LORD thy God gives thee, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.

Deut 26:3 And thou shall go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD swore unto our fathers for to give us.

Deut 26:4 And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God.

Deut 26:10 And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shall set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:



Chron 31:5 And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the fields; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.



Neh 10:35 And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD:

Neh 10:36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests that minister in the house of our God:

Neh 10:37a And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God;



Neh 10:37b and the tithes of our ground to the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.


In the same article Dave Ramsey said, “There’s one expenditure, however, that should never be sacrificed in order to pay off debts. You may be searching for extra money to throw at credit cards or auto loans for a few months. And then you hear a voice in your head: Suspend tithing for a few months. That’s a big chunk of cash. And after all, won’t you be able to honor God more with your money once you’re debt free?”


From Today’s Christian magazine, January 2006, Christianity Today.com.  This is on the Internet as part of Dave Says.

Q: Should a family tithe when it would put them in the situation of needing a miracle to make it through the rest of the month, or should a family get its debt under control and then tithe?

A: Ted, a tithe is a tenth of your income, which is a biblical mandate that the Christian church has taken to heart (Deut. 26:1-19). But there’s no place in Scripture where it says not tithing will send you to hell.



(1) The big lie is “A tithe is a tenth of your income which is a biblical mandate.”  The truth is that the biblical tithe was only a tenth from what God increased from the herds and farms of His holy land from His Old Covenant Israelites. It never applied to man’s increase from craftsmen and tradesmen. It was never a basic minimum from which everybody began their giving. And there is not a hint of a command to tithe given to the church after the cross because the Holy Spirit inspired better principles of giving under grace.


(2) A second lie: “A biblical mandate that the Christian church has taken to heart.” This is only true within the past 100 years for most churches. Except for state churches most colonists opposed tithing. History records that tithing did not become an enforceable law until AD 777. Even state tithing was only from food until late in the 19th century. Tithing is a relatively new doctrine that has corrupted the church and placed it under legalism.


(3) Ramsey chose Deut. 26:1-19 to prove his point! A) In 26:1-4 the firstfruits (which Ramsey calls a tithe earlier) were small enough to be placed in one hand-held basket. B) In 26:10 the food items were eaten in Jerusalem during the 3 annual feasts; therefore it is not the basic tithe to support the priesthood or any church. C) 26:12-19 are discussing the third year tithe which was kept at home for the poor and was not brought anywhere. D) In 26:13 the Levite who received the whole first tithe was to be considered among the poor because they could not own or inherit land. Therefore Deuteronomy 26 actually proves that Ramsey is wrong since nothing there applies to the church today!

(4) Ramsey wrote “But there’s no place in Scripture where it says not tithing will send you to hell.” Both the blessings and the curses of the Old Covenant ended when Jesus died. Tithing is not a Christian doctrine. Period! Ga. 3:10-13.

Ramsey continued in Today’s Christian magazine:

“The question is, what’s the best thing to do and why does God have us tithe? Is it because He needs our money? No. He tells us to tithe because of what it does inside of us. It keeps us from being so stinking self-centered that we think the world revolves around us. And by being a little less self-centered, we’re better humans. We’re a little more Christ-like when we’re giving. But God doesn’t need your money.”

“Should you tithe on your income if you need a miracle to get through the rest of the month? Honestly, if you can’t live on 90 percent, it’s unlikely that you can live on 100 percent.”

“If you sit down and do a monthly, written budget, you can probably find a way to tithe if it’s important to you. I’m not going to guilt-trip you. Pray and read the Bible and let God speak to you on this. But this point is clear: The Bible doesn’t say wait until you get your debt under control, it says tithe—first fruits off the top before anything else.”

1 Tim 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.


Acts 20:35 I have shown you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.


2 Cor 12:14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up [store up] for the parents, but the parents for the children .


James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.


Dave Ramsey wants us to ignore the Word of God through the Apostle Paul and give to the church even if it means doing without basic necessities of life. Deacons were created in Acts 6:1-6 to provide for the needy in the church and Ramsey has reversed God’s Word. Because of events in life which many of us cannot control such as untimely death and illness many gifted Christians simply cannot afford to tithe or even give offerings. Those should not be made to feel cursed or unwelcome in the church. Paul told the elders of Asia Minor to follow his example and work to help the needy.


Ramsey says “Why does God have us tithe? Is it because He needs our money? No. He tells us to tithe because of what it does inside of us. It keeps us from being so stinking self-centered.”


No texts!  Ramsey answers for God!  It is all about having a warm and fuzzy feeling inside from knowing that you are obeying God!  Still no texts from the financial expert!


Yet there are millions who cannot even give offerings because they have to cut prescription pills in half or even do without because ALL of their money is gone. Many preachers and financial gurus like Ramsey have told them that they are cursed. So why come to church if they are only going to be berated and made to feel insecure.


Ramsey talks about the self-centered.  Yes, they should give more if they can afford it and are  not living sacrificially. “I’m not going to guilt-trip you” he says. Then do not condemn the millions who love God with all their hearts and are ashamed to come to church because of the garbage lies told about tithing.

Ramsey adds, “Pray and read the Bible and let God speak to you on this.” I challenge him to read the entire Bible in context and look at EVERY tithe text.  If he is going to present himself as an expert in this financial area of God’s Word, then he MUST do that in order to “let God speak.”

He concluded, “But this point is clear: The Bible doesn’t say wait until you get your debt under control, it says tithe—first fruits off the top before anything else.” Ramsey ends his discussion with the same great big lie which started it.  Why read your Bibl e if Ramsey has already read it for you and has already concluded FOR you that “this point is clear”!  Again, I say to Mr. Ramsey, the man who works with numbers “first fruit” means “first” and “tithe” means “tenth” –they are NOT the same thing!

In October 2006, from Dave Says, found in Nashville, Tn newspaper.



Should a family tithe when it would leave them needing a  miracle to make it through the rest of the month, or should we get out debt under control and then tithe?



A tithe is a tenth of your income. which is a Christian mandate. But there’s no place in scripture that says not tithing will send you to hell.


… If you can’t live on 90% you probably can’t live on 100%.,,,



(1) Ramsey violates: 1 Tim 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

(2) Ramsey violates: 2 Cor 8:12-14 2 Cor 8:12-14 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
(3) How can you use Malachi 3:8-10 to offer blessings from tithing and ignore the same verses which promise curses for not tithing? That is manipulation of God’s Word.

(4) A Bible tithe is not a “tenth of income.” A Bibl e tithe was a tenth of food increase given to Old Covenant Israel from God’s hand and not man’s hand.

(5) Christians are not under Old Covenant ceremonial ordinances. The New Covenant blessings through the Holy Spirit gives grace giving principles.


Mr. Dave Ramsey, my friends and I would appreciate a rebuttal/reply in order that we may engage in a dialog with you on this important matter of God’s Word.


sc 2-19-2010

Dave Ramsey teaches that giving is a universal moral principle which works whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist or (I suppose) even a Satanist. “Just give,” he says, “just give.” It makes you feel good inside.

If you listen to his radio program you will notice a rather un-moral approach (as opposed to im-moral or a-moral). He will tell un-wed couples who have been living together for many years how to use his principles to get out of debt. They are the same principles he uses for Christians with the same results —except he tells Christian (and now Jewish) couples to give their first 10% to their church or synagogue. This logic makes me wonder if he promises the same blessings on Muslims who give their faithful zakat which too often ends up buying rockets to kill Jews.

What does this teach? Does it teach that Christians do NOT have a priority status for God’s blessings even though they are the ones who did accept the Messiah? Dave Ramsey confuses me.

Russell Earl Kelly, January 18, 2009


Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University week #13


Almost every day callers to “The Dave Ramsey Show” ask Dave, “If I’m still in debt, should I stop giving to my church or charitable organizations?”

For Christians and practicing Jews, this is a slightly more complicated situation because the Bible and the Torah instruct believers to give at least 10% of their income to the church. There are many people who simply want to be able to give whether they attend church or not, but they don’t feel they can afford it while they’re working the debt snowball.


In this situation, Dave offers some very sound and simple advice: give.


While it may be tough during the rice-and-beans, debt-dumping days of Baby Step 2, Dave says that even if it’s not much, don’t worry. It’s not about the amount or what it does for the organization to which you give. It’s about what it does to you, deep down inside.

You’ll be happier, healthier, and you’ll get so much more out of life when you intentionally and regularly give. Plus, continuing to give during the financially dry spells will solidify in you a spirit of generosity that will carry over when you’re cup is overflowing!


Whether you give to your church [Christian] , your synagogue [Jewish], or a charitable organization [atheist-agnostic-Muslim-Buddhist-Satanist], just give. And even if you’re working the debt snowball, just stick to your budget and you’ll be in good shape.

There are three things to do with money: spend, save and give. You have to spend in order to have the things you need to live and should save in order to secure your family’s future. But there’s something special about giving, something about the way it refreshes your heart and helps you see what is most important. No matter the amount or the recipient, just give.


“The bottom line for Dave is that charitable giving in and of itself is equal and has exactly the same deep down results – Is he a Universalist Unitarian?” S. A.