Posted by: Damon Whitsell | April 10, 2012

Is The Tithe Good News For The Rich And Bad News For The Poor?

SOURCE: In much of the modern church, the tithe has become orthodoxy. It is quite odd, as neither the Gospels nor Paul´s epistles talk about the importance of the tithe. It was part of the Old Testament law that served as a type of income tax. Part of the tithe would go to the temple, part would go to the poor (something similar to a welfare system), and part would go to pay for festivals. It was not in fact 10%, in the end the multiple taxes or tithes were over 20% of one´s income.

The tithe has of course remained popular in the church, selectively taken out of the Torah (while leaving almost everything else) for obvious reasons. Somehow, each church is entitled to 10 percent of everyone´s income. This is great news for mega churches and churches with wealthy members. It is a gold mind waiting to be exploited. They can use that many to build even bigger facilities, give the staff a nice bonus, and if they can, give a little to the poor. Unfortunately, it is the antithesis of the message of Jesus.

The tithe is also good news for the rich. I attended one semester of a Christian college, and I will never forget the introductory freshman teacher I have saying that as a Christian he needs to give his 10 percent, but after that-everything is his. While that might soothe the conscious of the wealthy, it is not what Jesus taught. All of our money is on loan from God and should not be spent in a wasteful or overly luxurious way. The tithe is also bad news for the poor. Can you imagine churches asking their members who are struggling to get by to give 10 percent, especially if that money is going to go towards salaries and buildings that those poor cannot even comprehend? I don´t think there is anything more disturbing than a wealthy TV preacher asking for money from his poor congregants and then using that money lavishly. That kind of exploitation is one of the greatest evils that I can think of.

Should we give? Absolutely- but we should not give a standard 10 percent based on some misplaced guilt and bad theology.  We should give as St. Paul said what we have purposed in our heart to give. For many of us, we should be giving much more than 10 percent. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Should we be giving it the local church? Possibly. If you feel your local church is really using their position to preach good news to the poor and help out the hurting, than by all means give to that church. It is very important for the local church to have their needs met, and those who are being ministered to should try to give back. However, do not for one second feel you are obliged to give to the church if they are using the money in foolish and extravagant ways which go against the teachings of simplicity that Jesus taught.

I love how Frank Viola puts it in his book Pagan Christianity, “Under the Old Testament system, tithing was good news to the poor. However, in our day, mandatory tithing equal oppression to the poor…Conversely, contemporary tithing is good news to the rich. To a high earner, 10 percent is but a paltry sum. Tithing, therefore, appeases the consciences of the prosperous without impacting their lifestyles. Not a few wealthy Christians are deluded into thinking they are ¨obeying God¨ because they throw 10 percent of their income into the offering plate.”



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