What are some reasons why Christians may reject the binding authority of the mandatory tithe today? Why would they give up the benefits of a system that God has rigged in our favor? Look at the following Scripture:
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10 ESV)
The tithe is mandatory. And yet if we honor God with our wealth he will bless us. Talk about a rigged system: a guaranteed reward for obeying the rules. Gamblers bet their money and lose it in hopes of the mere probability of success. God gives us a surefire plan to attain it, and yet we reject it. Why?
THE SINNER’S PLAYBOOK
Let’s look first at the mindset and motivations of the unregenerate. Unrepentant sinners hate God. Going all the way back to Adam’s sin, the unrepentant sinner wants to exert autonomous rule over his life. He doesn’t want to answer to anyone except himself.
They reject God’s rules. They substitute their own rules instead.
Go to church on Sundays? “I think not, friend.”
Put a stop to sleeping around and hooking up with strangers for one night stands at the bars? “You gotta be crazy!”
Work to serve others? “Only if it’ll make me a very rich man! And perhaps there are ways I can cheat them and squeeze a few more dimes from their wallets while I’m at it.”
Bow your knee to Christ the King? “When hell freezes over.”
Give ten percent of your income to the church? “And give up my fun money for the month? Is this a joke?”
The unregenerate understand something better than Christians do: if they give ten percent to God, they understand that they are submitting themselves to his authority.
The tithe is the Lord’s. We do not have control over that money. It belongs to the church. By paying the tithe we exert legal claim over the remaining 90%.
But an unregenerate man steals that portion from God. He claims the legal right to the entire 100%. He spends God’s 10% on whatever he wants and deprives it from God. In his mind, everything he makes he has earned by the power of his own might. There is no higher power ruling over his life to which he owes a portion of his earnings. But in his heart he knows the truth, as Paul said. (Romans 1:18)
Now, what about Christians?
MILLENNIAL VIEWS SHAPE OUR WORLDVIEW
I think their rejection of the tithe as binding mostly has to do with their outlooks on the millennium. There are three main millennial views: pre-millennial, amillennial, and post-millennial. The descriptions essentially have to do with the timing of Christ’s thousand-year kingdom spoken of in Revelation 20.
The pre-mils believe that Christ will rapture his church (Christians all over the world will vanish in an instant), leave the Jews to suffer a great tribulation at the hands of The Antichrist in which over 2/3 of them will be killed, and then afterwards Christ will come down from Heaven and setup his kingdom. It will be centered in Jerusalem and he will rule there for a literal thousand years.
This is all based on a grossly flawed interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
The amils believe that the thousand year kingdom is a figure of speech and symbolic of the age we’re living in now. And for good reason. In Psalm 50, it’s written that “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” Does that mean that the cattle on the thousand-and-first hill is not God’s? Of course not. They are all God’s: all cattle on every hill.
The amillennialists believe that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and that it is the fate of Christ’s church to suffer inreasing persecution in history. They are pessimistic about the earthly future, in other words. Christians are to be oppressed and beaten and persecuted visibly, all the while they are spreading the Gospel and harvesting souls for the kingdom spiritually.
This was generally Luther’s view, and it’s commonly held today by both Lutherans and Calvinists.
The post-mils contain aspects of both of these two. Unlike the pre-mils, they agree with the amils that the thousand-year reign of Christ is now. There is ample Scriptural support for this, so I’ll just quote a few passages here:
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:32-36 ESV)
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:23-25 ESV)
Scripture tells us that King Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:21-23 ESV)
But unlike the amils, post-millennialists are optimistic about the future. They believe that the Kingdom of God will become increasingly manifest in history as the Gospel is spread “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
NEW HEAVENS, NEW EARTH
In addition, there are prophecies in Isaiah that are as yet unfulfilled:
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth…be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
(Isaiah 65:17-20 ESV)
Focus on that last part: babies will no longer die shortly after birth. Those who die at a hundred years old will be called “young.” Sinners who die at a hundred years old will be known to be cursed.
Since there is still mention of death, this has to come to pass before the second coming because there is no death after Jesus sorts the wheat from the tares and the sheep from the goats.
But if you look around today, not very many people live to be a hundred years old. And when they do, they are certainly considered to be old people, not young people.
Also, people will all generally recognize that sinners who die “young” are under a curse. Again, if you look around today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find Christians who acknowledge that God still brings visible blessings and curses in history at all in response to our obedience or disobedience.
In that sense, at least, that area of Gospel knowledge has yet to cover the earth as “the waters cover the sea.”
Isaiah’s prophecy is pretty clear and straight-forward. In the future we should expect to see much-increased lifespans and a greater moral behavior of society in general. Isaiah alluded to this earlier:
“The fool will no more be called noble,
nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.”
(Isaiah 32:5 ESV)
That seems like a pretty promising and joyful future. Just consider the politicians and public figures who we, today, call honorable and idolize when really they are fools and scoundrels. Fools and scoundrels deserve derision unto, hopefully, repentence, not praise and worship.
This suggests a widespread increase in the social awareness of a population who bases their definitions of “fool” and “scoundrel” on the Bible’s definition instead of honoring what the Bible despises.
This is a hopeful future, indeed. What it points to is a pouring out of God’s blessings in history. And to an extent not yet realized.
Amillennial theologians have a hard time deciphering these verses. From their point of view (amillennialism), they must work very hard to explain them. It’s often easier just to ignore them.
Conversely, pre-millennial theologians have to contend with Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. (Matt. 13:24-30) Jesus is clear: the wheat and the tares grow up together side by side. Finally, on harvest day, they are all gathered together at the same time. The weeds are then burned up, and the wheat is brought into the barn.
He doesn’t say that the wheat will be harvested (raptured) and stored until later, and then new wheat planted among the weeds (tribulation) to grow up alongside a field dominated by weeds, and then a second harvest in which all of the harvest is finally dispositioned.
Post-millennials find comfort and hope in the parable of the mustard seed: a very small seed that is hard to notice at first, but which grows into a tree larger than its surrounding plants. In Ezekiel 17, Ezekiel prophesied about the kingdom of Babylon in a similar way.
Babylon was a physical society on earth. The prophets often spoke about a tree’s branches being the reaches of a particular kingdom, often which are cut off.
So it is reasonable that we should think of the Kingdom of God as a visible kingdom that He planted “that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:23-24 ESV)
Jesus was versed in the Old Testament. Do you think he borrowed the same metaphor only in part when applying it to His kingdom?
THE EFFECTS OF THE MANDATORY TITHE ON THE CHURCH
Consider the effect of requiring a tithe in the church. If the tithe is used to establish voting rights and hierarchy, this will bring order and discipline to the church. The church’s income is likely to grow as more and more members begin to tithe.
Liberal theologians will no more be able to fund their ministries using other peoples’ money.
They aren’t willing to put up their own money to fund their programs. Consider governmental welfare programs. The liberals certainly believe in having them, but not enough to take them private and raise the funds themselves. They prefer using political power to force everyone to fund them — especially those who don’t believe in them.
Besides, the liberal theologians are antinomian anyway. It is against their belief system to preach that God’s laws are still binding.
As liberal preaching and teaching diminishes in a church, conservative, Bible-believing preaching and teaching will take its place. God blesses this kind of preaching and teaching.
Churches will then become more influential as their income increases. The church’s members will become more influential and wealthy in society and culture as their sanctification progresses.
If implemented across the nation, in just a few short years the influence of the Church in all areas of culture will expand, just like leaven hidden in flour.
Just like the bread dough, so will culture rise along with it. People will become more morally sound in general. Those who are not will be condemned. Licentious living will wain from the public’s fascination.
Television producers and writers (if they’re still around) will reverse course from telling stories that praise the hard work ethic of single moms who fall into prostitution to pay their bills, or that offer praise to the progressive ghung-ho of gay partners who adopt babies together in the face of cultural opposition, to more wholesome subjects to match the changing demands of their audience.
All of society will be slowly raised.
REASONS TO REJECT THE MANDATORY TITHE
If you are a pre-millennialist who believes that Jesus will come once things finally get bad enough and rapture you out of this harsh, cruel world, then you don’t necessarily have a personal incentive to see the church succeed in history.
If the church’s influence spreads into culture to start improving the world, then all we’re doing is pro-longing the inevitable. Why would we want to do that?
If you are an amillennialist, you don’t believe that there can be hope for our earthly future. Any attempt by the church to resist the creeping culture of evil all around us is futile. You believe that the church is slowly retreating in history, steadily losing its surrounding territories and cities (its “branches”) to the armies of Satan until it makes its last stand within its fortress walls. And that’s hopeless, too, because the forces of Satan will prevail against the gates of the Church.
So why tithe? What’s the use?
The problem is that Jesus didn’t say the forces of evil would prevail against the church. He said the exact opposite:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. That means hell’s gates are being encroached upon by an ever-expanding church, and they will not be able to hold it back forever. The church will overcome them.
The Kingdom of Satan within history, just like his spiritual kingdom into eternity, is doomed.
Amillennialism and pre-millennialism are often lumped together into a single term: pessimillennialism. Both are pessimistic about the historical future. They contrast with the optimism of post-millennialism, which is the historical eschatalogy (belief about the end-times) that the Puritans held. They came to America to build the kingdom of Heaven on earth. John Calvin was also post-millennial.
The benefits of a hopeful, earthly future sound great. There won’t be a total wipeout of sin and sinners before the second coming, but there will certainly be a vast improvement over what we see today. The blessings of Deuteronomy 28 will be received in abundance.
But there are consequences to this outlook. Those consequences can be summed up in two words: personal responsibility.
You see, if people begin to accept that the law of the mandatory tithe is still binding, they may then start to think that other Old Covenant laws, once thought irrelevant, are still binding as well. They would start to look into this.
They would find their suspicions to be correct.
GOD’S LAW IN SOCIETY
Many modern evangelicals run around in a hurried frenzy, bringing people into the church before the rapture happens. In one sense, that’s very good. But then they neglect the weighter teachings of the Word. Afterall, why teach depth when the end is near? As the author of Hebrews said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12-13 ESV)
Modern evangelical churches, therefore, raise up congregations whose members are mere children in their theological maturity. There’re lots of happy singing and repeated messages of salvation through faith and preaching of the cross. Christ’s work on the cross is certainly crucial. But it’s really just the beginning in our growth and development. It is a dishonor to neglect the remaining body of Scripture.
The Spirit doesn’t pen idle words. If they teach from the Old Testament at all, it’s as if they’re teaching a series of childrens’ stories about Samson or Noah, but without an accompanying understanding of their relation to the overall story of Christ.
For example, they may preach sermons on this Scripture:
To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.
(Psalm 28:1-2 ESV)
And completely neglect that which comes after it:
Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
(Psalm 28:3-4 ESV)
There’s no exegesis of Scripture. There may not even be fire and brimstone from the pulpit anymore. Hell, as a doctrine, becomes minimized. If they don’t read their Bible, some Christians may be left wondering if it even still exists.
They tend to be shallow, in other words.
When it comes to issues of the law, they are completely blind. This makes it a challenge to interpret New Testament Scripture properly, such as the incident of the adulterous woman that the Pharisees brought before Jesus. (John 8:1-11)
Without an understanding of the Old Testament, they have no understanding of God’s law. They also have no understanding of God’s covenant. This leads to antinomianism: life without law. “We’re under grace, not law!” They pour out sermons about God’s love, but without defining it using the Bible’s definition it becomes some vague, mystical idea in our minds. And that’s terrible.
The Old Testament becomes a bit of a curiosity: irrelevant except as a historical book of stories and long lists of geneologies. Of course, that’s assuming the church hasn’t adopted a belief in evolution (which Genesis 1 discredits).
They neglect sermons on the following Scripture:
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10 ESV)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:6)
If you love me, you will ckeep my commandments. (John 14:15)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:2-3 ESV)
If we should still obey God’s law, his commandments, where would we turn in our Bibles to learn what they are? We could start in Exodus, Chapter 20, at the giving of the Ten Commandments.
If we continued reading, we might notice this:
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out…if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25 ESV)
This is a case law, a specific application, of commandment number 6: You shall not murder. Christians speak up and claim that abortion is murder. But why is it that the “pro-life” movement doesn’t seem to be all that effective?
Maybe it’s because it stops at the proclamation: “Abortion is murder!” It fails to follow through.
What is the penalty for murder? “Life for life.” In other words, execution. Christians, to be consistent, must not only call abortion “murder,” as it rightfully is, but they must also call for the death penalty for mothers who commit abortion and for doctors and nurses who assist in the procedure.
But they are paralyzed beyond the proclamation. Why?
GOD IN GOVERNMENT
Because to call for execution of abortionists means passing laws. That means getting involved in politics. That means coming under public scrutiny. That means suffering lots of angry stares, vitriole, ridicule, and everything else.
That means applying the Gospel beyond our comfort zones: church on Sundays and in some areas of our personal lives. This means taking the Gospel into the most dreaded of realms: civil government.
All of a sudden, this opens up a whole world of things to consider: government policy must come under the lens of scrutiny afforded by Biblical morality. We have to start asking questions such as “Is Social Security moral? Is Medicare? Is central banking and inflation? Is public education?”
People love government hand-outs, and Christians have fallen into the trap as well. They have grown dependent on government welfare, whether it be Social Security or tax-funded public education.
Applying Biblical law to life and society would mean a dramatic increase in personal responsibility.
We could no longer justify not caring about economics: “Eh, it’s all Greek to me. Let the smart people figure it out.”
We could no longer justify sending our children into a system of public education that is actually a ritualistic training ground for rival religion: “I’m too busy, my wife’s too busy, we’d have to sacrifice so much of our incomes and lifestyle to homeschool our children. Besides, they’re such a pain to deal with every day.”
This would mean a return to Biblical parenting, Proverbs being the chief handbook, which contains such wisdom as:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
(Proverbs 13:24 ESV)
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
(Proverbs 20:30 ESV)
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
he will give delight to your heart.
(Proverbs 29:17 ESV)
Contrast those verses from Scripture with the beliefs held by the state of Delaware: it has become the first state to make spanking illegal. This is a very clear-cut example of a state actively rebelling against God’s law (the country itself is, too, by allowing abortion after Woe Vs. Wade).
We could no longer morally defend Social Security: “Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.”
Perhaps worst (best) of all, we could no longer lend further credence to a sacrilegious guild of pseudo-science that has heaped up a body of “evidence” for evolution and a galaxy that is billions of years old. This means denouncing this filth in the face of modern humanism.
Oh, the pain that brings! Have you ever tried to correct someone’s understanding of the origins of the universe and humanity on Facebook?
If not, it will give you a taste of a bitter pill that we must, at some point, swallow: the end of the good life. It means going through hell to get to heaven. It means casting off the easy living and reclaiming the “Protestant work ethic.”
It means no longer retreating from culture. It means no longer seeking solace in the gnostic piety of a two-kingdoms approach to the world. It means fulfilling our mandate of dominion (Gen. 1:28). It means picking up our crosses to follow Jesus. (Matthew 16:24) For:
Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 ESV)
This all comes back to greater personal responsibility. This is a heavy load to lift, especially when we’ve become so complacent. We’ve let our theological muscles atrophy. We will have to work hard to get back into shape.
This means personal sacrifice.
Might there be an element of sinful disobedience involved in the acceptance of the varieties of pessimillennialism? Certainly. We are not free from sin in this life, and we’ll never be. As described in the beginning, man is born into this world apart from God. It’s his “nature” to rebel and be disobedient. So, as Christians, if we are not obeying God’s rules, we are being disobedient.
All the financial embarrassments which afflict the church of Christ can be traced back to [the tithe]. We do not declare the supremacy of Christ in this fundamental way. We will lay anything at His feet conceptually — except for our hidden idol. Tithing is one of the few ways to really mortify the idol of consumerism and materialism that genuinely afflicts Christians in the West today. Talk about the Lordship of Jesus, the supremacy of Jesus, without honoring Him with the firstfruits of your labor, is just that, talk. Abraham demonstrated the supremacy of Melchizedek, and he did not do this by asking Melchizedek into his heart. He did not do it by developing a “personal relationship” with Melchizedek.
It’s the Church’s role to train us up to be more obedient. They shouldn’t expect or demand perfection, but they can certainly start by condemning a life of lawlessness. They can train us by establishing order and hierarchies within the Church. They can train us by enforcing the mandatory tithe and excommunicating those who deserve it (Galatians 5:21, 1 Timothy 1:8-11).
If all of this sounds like a lot, that’s okay. They don’t have to tackle it all at once. They can take small steps: they should start by working towards serving the Lord’s Supper weekly. And with wine instead of grape juice.
Some reasons that Christians may not accept the mandatory tithe are that their eschatalogical views don’t allow them to.
Despite the Scriptural evidence and the historical beliefs held by the Church, they don’t have optimistic hope for the future. They may think trying to change the world is futile, or they may think that Christ is coming to rapture his church at any minute.
Accepting the rule of God’s law in our lives is a difficult transition for us to make. It means pious living. It means casual sex is immoral. It means no more tattoos (Lev. 19:28). It means enforcing the tithe. It means enforcing church discipline: excommunication. It means, eventually, political activism. But from the ground up, not the top down.
It means God’s kingdom come. It means praying and acting to bring about “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
It means a dramatic increase in personal responsibility. It means being fruitful, multiplying, and homeschooling our children. It means abandoning our reliance on government subsidies for easy living.
It means returning to free-market economics and ending political earmarks and granting favors to special interest groups. It means serving the customer by delivering on their demands without interference from government.
This doesn’t mean anarchy – no law. It means downsized government by bringing the government under God’s visible rule, into his covenant, just as we do our personal lives, families, and churches.
A day is coming when the humanistic relativism and evolutionism will have thoroughly undermined the legal system. Western law, which has so long been grounded in the Old Testament, will have been eroded. The courts will be jammed full of trivial matters. Justice will no longer be served. The righteous will be condemned, and the guilty will go free.
People are going to start looking for a better system of law. They will lose faith in the worldview of relativism that undergirds modern legal theory. They will look for judges who judge righteously. This means employing righteous standards. This means the only such standard: God’s holy law.
Our modern church should follow the direction Paul called the church at Corinth to take:
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? (1 Corinthians 6:1-4 ESV)
When the Roman Empire collapsed, so did the judicial system. The churches were ready to pick up the slack when the civil system failed. If we learn and practice the law for no other reason in this life, it should be in preparation for our task of judging the angels.
This will bring about a transformation in the world. But it must begin with ourselves as individuals.
It means bringing our hearts into conformity with God’s will for our lives:
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97 ESV)
for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (Psalm 119:47 ESV)
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31 ESV)
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (Romans 7:22 ESV)