Russell Kelly Rebuts Ken Wytsma on Tithing, Aug 1, 2014
Ken Wytsma, a Rebuttal of His Sermon on Tithing
By Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
Ken: 15% of what Jesus said was about money.
Russ: Only 2 texts involved tithing and one was repeated in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 18:42. Jesus’ teaching on tithing was before Calvary and was in the context of “matters of the law” (Mt 23:23). Jesus never commanded His Gentle disciples to tithe; such would have been unlawful.
Ken: Martin Luther taught that one’s pocketbook must be converted.
Russ: Luther opposed tithing. See his sermon of 1525 on my web site, www.tithing-russkelly.com (articles).
Ken: Point #1: The first portion of what we get belongs to God.
Russ: Wytsma’s fundamental error is his wrong definition of tithes as the first of our increase.
(1) True HOLY biblical tithes (as the word is used by Moses, Malachi and Jesus) were always only food from inside God’s HOLY land which God had miraculously increased. Although money was common even in Genesis, money is never a tithed item in 16 texts which describe the “holy” tithe. Tithes could not come from a) what man produced, b) non-Hebrews such as Gentiles or c) outside of HOLY Israel.
(2) Firstfruits (1st) and tithes (10th) are never the same in Scripture. The tithe could only be figured after the full crop had been harvested or the entire herd increase had been counted.
Ken: Quotes Leviticus 27:30-33.
Russ: (1) These texts teach a) the tithe is only the 10th and not the first, b) only food and c) included the defective clean animals (27:33).
(2) 27:34 is not quoted. It limits the book of Leviticus to Old Covenant Israel under the Law.
(3) It is wrong to simply define “tithe” as the “tenth.” The context is the “HOLY tithe” as the words are used by Moses, Malachi and Jesus. We would never refer to a specific war as simply “war.”
(4) Wytsma and tithe-teachers ignore the most fundamental of all hermeneutics: “To whom was the text addressed?” It was only addressed to Old Covenant Israel before Calvary.
Ken: Again quotes Leviticus 27:30-33 pointing out that God said “the tithe is mine.”
Russ: (1) The tithe of the law was not a universal law for every Hebrew. It only applied to Hebrews living inside the HOLY land of Israel and only to those who earned their livelihood as either farmers or herdsmen in food supply.
(2) The phrases “holy to the LORD” and “most holy to the LORD” are very common in the book of Leviticus. Yet, the Christian Church correctly discards the vast majority of things “holy” and “most holy” as ending when the law ended. Since the “holy tithe” did not precede the Law, it also ended when the law ended. Compare the sequence between Hebrews 7:5, 12, 18.
Ken: Quotes Exodus 23:19 and Deuteronomy 26:1-2 to prove that the tithe was a first fruit.
Russ: The texts prove the opposite from what Wytsma claims.
(1) Exod 23:19 commands Israel to bring “the first of the firstfruits” to the temple. That amounts to only a few grapes, apples, olives or even a handful of barley and wheat. Such is very different from the tithe.
(2) Deut 26:1-2 (better 26:1-4) limits the first fruit to that which would fit into a small hand basket. This is hardly a tithe of the full harvest! In Nehemiah 10:35-37a the first fruit went to the priests who were ministering at the temple (about 4% of the total) while 10:37b-38) commands the full tithe to be brought to the Levitical cities (where 96% of the priests and Levites were most of the tme).
Ken: (Cuts open a cantaloupe) The seeds represent the tithe; nobody eats the seeds; they are holy to God.
Russ: The illustration makes no sense. The whole fruit, including the seeds, was brought either as a first fruit offering or as a tithe.
Ken: “Don’t put the tithe last; God said put the tithe first!”
Russ: No texts! Nowhere did God say to put the tithe first! The word means “tenth,” not “first.” Only being food, it could only be reckoned AFTER the whole count had been completed. The modern church places words into God’s mouth to make sure it gets the first 10% of one’s total income regardless of whether medical bills, food, shelter and essentials are met! This is a modern scandal which must stop!!!
Ken: Point #2: “Money is one of the ways we stay connected to God.” Good stewardship brings spiritual blessings.
Russ: This does not authorize post-Calvary gospel workers to bring tithing into the New Covenant church There must be a CONSISTENT principle for bringing pre-Calvary teachings into the post-Calvary church. The fundamental dispensational hermeneutic is: “That part of the Old Covenant which applies to the New Covenant must be repeated after Calvary to the Church in terms of grace and faith.”
Ken: Quotes Acts 20:35 which is a saying of Jesus “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Russ: Read the context of Acts 20:35 in verses 29-34! Paul was reminding church elders that he had not been paid money, food or clothing while in Ephesus for 3 years. Paul was urging church elders to follow his example, get a regular job, and give to the needy in the assembly rather than expecting the assembly to support himself and his associates.
Ken: Quotes Malachi 3:6-10. “Malachi speaks to our culture.”
Russ: No. Malachi speaks to Old Covenant Israel under over 600 commands of the Law. Malachi does not speak to the Church or Gentiles. Malachi is addressed to Israel (1:1) and then specifically to its dishonest thieving priests (1:6; 2:1) who had stolen the tithe (1:13, 14; 3:8-10; Neh 13:5). Beginning in 1:6 the “you” of Malachi refers to the priests. Nehemiah 13:5-10 is probably the context. The priests had emptied the storeroom of its tithes (13:5) and the Levites, who then had nothing to eat, returned to their fields in their Levitical cities. Nehemiah does not say that the priests had nothing to eat (Neh 13:6-10).
Ken: Malachi 3:6-10 teaches that Israel was not bringing the firstfruits to the temple.
Russ: Wrong. a) Firstfruits are not mentioned in Malachi. b) Every priest in the nation was involved in stealing the tithes from the Levites (Neh 13:5). See my website and book for an extended discussion of Malachi 3 and Nehemiah 10 and 13.
Ken: God “repeatedly in Scripture” tells His people to “test Him.”
Russ: Wrong. Most tithe-teachers correctly state that Malachi 3:10 is the only text which specifically uses the word “test” in this manner. However, in reality, each and every one of the over-600 commands was a test of obedience. Compare Deuteronomy 28-30 and especially Galatians 3:10. It is hermeneutically wrong to teach that tithing was a test while other more important commands were not. God never did promise to bless tithe-payers who sinned in other areas of the Law. The only way one could be blessed from tithing was to keep all of the law (Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10).
Ken: Tithing was not part of the Law because tithing preceded the Law.
Russ: Again, there is a great difference between the words “tithe” and “holy tithe” as used by Moses, Malachi and Jesus. Sixteen (16) Law texts describe the contents of the “holy tithe” as only food from inside God’s HOLY land of Israel which only God had miraculously increased by His hand.
Ken: “Abraham’s tithe preceded the Law (Gen 14:20).”
Russ: Yes, but Abram’s tithe was not the holy tithe produced by God. The Bible does not say that Abram (not yet Abraham) tithed pagan spoils of war because a) God commanded it or b) because he freely chose to do so. There is a high probability that Abram tithed pagan spoils of war to this local king-priests because long-standing Arab tradition demanded such! Jacob’s tithe also came from pagan sources in Haran of Syria, an outpost of the early Babylonian Empire. Neither Abram’s nor Jacob’s tithes met the biblical definition of a “holy tithe” and neither would have been accepted by Moses, Malachi or Jesus as a “holy tithe.”
Ken: Quotes Proverb 3:9.
Russ: This is a classic and common often-abused Scripture used to attempt to make “first fruit” equal “tithe.” Proverb 3:9 is not a discussion of tithing. In fact, it should be pointed out that, in the Old Testament, even “first fruit” refers to “food” only from inside God’s holy land. Tithes could not come from defiled unclean Gentiles or defiled unclean Gentile land.
Ken: The “principle” of tithing is that “the first portion is God’s.”
Russ: Wrong. That was the “principle” only for food from inside holy Israel. It never applied to those to earned their livelihood as non-food producers and those outside God’s holy land. It is amazing that no texts are given to validate Wytsma’s assertions.
Ken: An objection is that tithes were not for preachers per Numbers 18.
Russ: If Wytsma would read all of Numbers 18 (the literal wording of the ordinance including tithing) he would discover that the first full Old Covenant tithe did not go to the priests, but to their Levite servants who did not minister the blood (Numb 18:21-24; Neh 10:37a). The ministers (preachers) only received a tenth of the tenth (1%) per Numb 18:25-28; Neh 10:38). Also, in the New Covenant a) all believers are priests and b) tithing is not taught as the means of support for gospel workers.
Ken: First Timothy 5:18 teaches that church elders (preachers) are due “double honor” which means twice as much salary as is normal.
Russ: a) The context of First Timothy 5:1-17 is that of DISCIPLINE and not salary. When one seeks to discipline a church leader, one must exert “double honor” in caution.
- b) If Paul were teaching tithing, he should have clearly stated that the pastor should receive a “double tithe.”
- c) First Timothy 5:1 is ignored in the “double salary” explanation. “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.”
- d) First Timothy 5:19-20 is also ignored in the “double salary” explanation. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
Ken: The law of gleaning (the corners of a field and that which is dropped) constitutes a tithe of the last 10%.
Russ: Wrong. a) The law of gleaning was in addition to the 3rd 3rd-year tithe for the poor; it did not replace it; it occurred every year! Wytsma should know this simple fact.
- b) Where does Wytsma go with this idea? He does not suggest a second tithe be given to the poor. And he ignores the real 2ndyearly tithe which was eaten during the holy festivals.
Ken: The widow’s mite was a tithe.
Russ: Wrong. The widow’s mite was clearly a freewill sacrificial offering. Alfred Edersheim proves that the temple had no tithe-receptacle (because tithes were taken directly to the Levitical cities (Neh 10:37-38). The widow placed her contribution into the container for the poor and probably received more than what she placed within upon existing the temple from the same container.
I invite Ken Wytsma to a public dialog on tithing. It is past time for this remnant of the Law to be removed from Christian churches. It is time for Christians to teach post-Calvary New Covenant stewardship principles from post-Calvary New Covenant texts.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
316 Aonia Rd
Washington, Ga 30673