Should the Church Teach Tithing?
A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
Charles (Chuck) Swindoll
NOTE: This article is not intended to be a rebuttal of any other doctrine taught by Charles Swindoll and I wish him God’s blessings to the extent he preaches the gospel according to God’s Word in other areas of doctrine.
Contradictory? Yes. LIar? Probably.
Although I have two different confirmations from Chuck Swindoll’s spokesmen that he does not teach tithing, I still get reports that he does indeed teach tithing. The last article on this page is proof that he does teach tithing. I cannot understand why he cannot take a consistent stand either one direction or the other on this.
In response to a free copy of my book to Charles Swindoll I received the following letter.
Dallas Theological Seminary, Office of the President
April 19, 2001
Thank you for sending Dr. Swindoll a copy of your new release, Should the Church Teach Tithing? I know he will enjoy perusing this work. You are to be commended for getting this out to the public. We need good writing on giving now more than ever.
Thanks again for thinking of Dr. Swindoll, Russell. Stay at it.
Paul E Pettit
Asst to the President
Following a report from a good friend that Swindoll was teaching tithing on the radio, I again asked Swindoll and received the following response from his representative.
Insight for Living, October 15, 2007
… Chuck believes that the tithe was part of the Law, not New Testament teaching. The series broadcast an older message that I personally wish they would update. [[This remark is highly suspicious.]]
…We are not under the Law.
The New Testament doesn’t teach tithing or how often we are to gather as a church.
…Under the Law of Moses tithing was an obligation, not an option. It meant paying a precise percentage of one’s goods, produce or income to the Lord. … Merrill Unger helps up sort it all out in his Unger’s Bible Dictionary [Dallas/Moody] and I encourage you to read the entire article.
…The [Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord, Dallas] cautions us about using [Malachi 3:10] to support church giving. … While not requiring a tithe of believers today, the New Testament does speak of God’s blessing on those who give generously to the needs of the church.
The New Testament does not command church members to tithe like Jews in the Old Testament. The people in the early church did not tithe per se but they did give regularly to the work of the ministry following the principle of the tithe. We find several references to special offerings for specific projects (2 Cor 8 & 9) that were given in addition to the early Christian’s normal pattern of giving. So, although they weren’t required to give a specific percent of their income they were giving regularly.
Under the New Covenant giving is a matter of the heart, not percentages. …
Still the answer remains, how much should we give? The answer is this, As much as the Spirit leads. The percentage and frequency of our giving ought to be a personal matter between each person and the Lord. Ten percent may be a good amount for you. Certainly the Lord considered ten percent a fair amount for the Hebrews. But the Lord may lead you to give less or more. …
Church leaders who pressure you to give a certain amount are robbing you of the joy of being a cheerful giver. They are putting you under compulsion and making you feel guilty, which is not the way God wants us to give. As a member of Stonebriar Community Church, where Chuck is the Senior Pastor, I have not heard Church try to manipulate people or use guilt as a motivation. In fact I have not heard him preach on the tithe as a rule for giving. He has taught that giving as the Spirit leads is the way to approach it.
So while Chuck feels we are not obligated to tithe like the Israelites under the law, the principle of systematic giving is a good idea for all Christians. …
I think those who continually preach the tithe are being manipulative. It is the Holy Spirit who directs our living and that includes our giving. They are not the Holy Spirit. We are not under the Law. … I am glad that Chuck preaches grace giving from the heart.
Warmly in Christ
Graham M Lyons, Pastor
Comment: The only thing I would disagree with Swindoll in the preceding letter is the definition of OT tithing as “Under the Law of Moses tithing was an obligation, not an option. It meant paying a precise percentage of one’s goods, produce or income to the Lord.”
The precise biblical definition of tithing is (1) only food, (2) only from inside Israel, (3) only what God has miraculously increased and not from man’s craft and (4) although money was essential for worship, it was never included in any of 16 biblical descriptions of the contents of the tithe covering over 1400 years.
Russell Earl Kelly
Growing Deeper in the Christian Life
Charles Swindoll, pages 354-355
(1) It is in the church … where we learn faithfulness.
(2) It is in the church that we first learn to give and to tithe.
(3) It is in the church that we first learn generosity.
(4) It is in the church that discipleship is carried out.
(5) It is in the church that accountability is modeled.
(6) It is in the church that marriage is upheld and singleness is dignified without your being hustled.
(7) It is in the church of Jesus Christ that we find the doctrinal roots that establish us in our faith.