Book Review - Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views

Image of Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views
by
B&H Academic 2011
Paperback 208

Is there any doubt that the work of God would benefit if every Christians gave 10% of their income to their local church? Can you imagine how much the offerings would increase next Sunday? What it would do for the work of worldwide evangelism? What about staff salaries? How many buildings could be paid off more quickly? Isn’t it nice to dream? 

In light of all the good it would do, then should not believers tithe? Perhaps they should, but must they? Is the tithe a requirement for New Testament Christians? That is the question dealt with in Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views. As editor, David Croteau has brought together four different perspectives on this important yet divisive issue. He also contributes one of the viewpoints. Each contributor was to specifically interact with the tithing passages that pertain to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Melchizedek and Jesus.

The four perspectives

The titles chosen for each view do a very good job of not spilling the beans, so I am not even going to list them. Instead, I will call them like I see them. The first view is the belief that storehouse tithing is for today. The second view is that you don’t have to tithe. The third view is maybe you do maybe you don’t. The fourth view is yes you absolutely positively have to tithe. After each chapter (viewpoint) the other contributors were given opportunity to respond.

We will begin with the final two viewpoints. Reggie Kidd of Reformed Theological Seminary represents the third view, which he would refer to as “tithing in the New Covenant.” This segment was by far the most frustrating. His answer to the question as to whether Christians ought to tithe is yes and no. “As I have no doubt just made evident, I am reluctant to give specific answers to questions about tithing that many perceive to be vital, such as whether the tithe is a starting point or baseline. I don’t think such questions are vital. I think they trivialize something tremendous. I don’t think the Bible is a rule book for tithing” (p. 117). Yet he does believe tithing is a good starting place. He believes it is up to you and the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, there is no question as to what the fourth contributor believes. Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist, is unequivocal. “The tithe is a payment of 10 percent of net income, after deductions for capital expenditures. It is paid in the new covenant era to the judicial equivalent of an old covenant priest: the local congregation” (p. 140). The tithe “is a payment from church members to the church for their membership in the kingdom of priests” (p 156). Not to tithe is to rob God. He does add if “your local church is not worthy of your tithe, transfer your membership. Until then, pay your tithe to it” (p. 156).

To tithe or not to tithe?

Many of the readers will find themselves somewhere between the first two viewpoints.  Ken Hemphill and Bobby Eklund (Southern Baptists) combine to give the first perspective, that tithing is for today. They conclude this based upon their understanding that tithing predated the Mosaic Law, especially in the experience of Abraham and Jacob, that Hebrews 7 teaches it, and that Jesus approved it. They believe that the Old Testament “storehouse” refers to the New Testament Church. “Thus the concept of the tithe is still normative for New Testament believers, but it should not be practiced grudgingly as an act of legalism” (p. 42). This reviewer found their arguments to be unconvincing. They draw explicit arguments from things that aren’t implicit in the texts.

David Croteau supplies the second perspective. Being the author of the book You mean I Don’t Have to Tithe? pretty much betrays his viewpoint. I believe he engages the texts more accurately. Referring to the Abraham and Jacob passages he notes the “biblical interpretation principle holds true here: description does not equal prescription” (p. 81). He also is willing to discuss what I believe to be the elephant in the room (or should I say storehouse), which is just how unclear the Old Testament tithe is. Is it 10, 20 or 23.3 percent? He believes it was the latter. However it is a moot point. “Each of the three main tithes has been fulfilled in the New Testament. The Levitical tithe, the festival tithe, and the charity tithe are no longer binding of Christians because there are fulfilled” (p. 80). Besides, what is the correlation between the fruit of the land or livestock and monetary income? He provides a very a helpful alternative to the tithing model on page 83 (table 8) to help someone determine their giving amount. He especially warns, “Affluent Christians giving 10 percent should not think that they have fulfilled the giving requirements of Scripture” (p. 83).

Evaluation

I have always found this “differing perspectives” format beneficial. I especially appreciate the brief rebuttals after each argument is presented. The flaw in this book however is that the editor is one of the contributors and this bias shows in the introductory material and the appendix.

Regardless of which side of the tithing debate you fall, this book will be helpful to understand the opposing positions.

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[node:bio/greg-wilson body]

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There are 4 Comments

Bob Hayton's picture

Great review, Greg. This walks us through the book well. Sounds like an interesting read.

I wonder if any of the authors talk about how the tithe functioned in some respects like a tax, sponsoring a social service for the poor in the community. With the religious system married to the state (in a theocracy), wouldn't the best equivalent to the tithe be Uncle Sam's cut from our paychecks?

Of course, "storehouse tithing" is near and dear to the hearts of many....  I just fear it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Thanks again for the review!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Joel Tetreau's picture

I preached on NT giving earlier this year. I'm interested in seeing the views. I'm really wanting to know how the guy defends the "maybe you do and maybe you don't view." Nothing like elucidating ambiguity - Wowzers!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Dave Gilbert's picture

We are to give as each man is prospered and persuaded by God, and distribute to the necessity of the saints. There is no compulsion in the New Testament to give 10% of anything, as we are under grace and tithing is obviously Old Testament Law. Since the Law was fulfilled by Christ and we are now under grace, the focus of that giving has changed from the support of the temple to support of the "temple" not made with hands...;)

 

Also, it is my firm opinion that if churches would keep things to a minimum, money that is taken in would go where it's needed most: The poor and needy saints within the local body. IMO, fancy buildings are a leftover from the Catholic Church, with the doctrine of the Nicolaitaines prevailing almost everywhere a visible church is found. There are a few, however, who at least try to follow the original New testament structure, but I rarely hear of them these days.

 

Dave.

MShep2's picture

Quote:
On the other hand, there is no question as to what the fourth contributor believes. Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist, is unequivocal. “The tithe is a payment of 10 percent of net income, after deductions for capital expenditures. It is paid in the new covenant era to the judicial equivalent of an old covenant priest: the local congregation” (p. 140).

In many churches it is accepted as a truism that Christians should tithe 10% of their net income - and they usually make sure their members understand they must calculate the 10% BEFORE taxes. However, in the Old Testament, the tithe is sometimes taken on everything, and other times on the increase. Some selected verses:

Lev 27:30 ‘And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S. It is holy to the LORD. [could refer to either]

Lev 27:32 ‘And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. [they are to tithe of their entire herd and/or flock]

Num 18:26 “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. [Levites are to tithe of the entire tithe given them]

De 14:22* “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. [tithe is of the increase]

Deut 14:23 “And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. [not clear if this is a tithe of increase or of everything - however, the tithe here is eaten, not given]

Deut 14:28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. [tithe is of all that is produced]

Deut 26:12-13 “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year--the year of tithing--and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. [tithe is of the increase, and given to the Levites AND to the poor]

2 Chron 31:5* As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. [tithe is "of the firstfruits" - but since they did not know how much their total harvest would be, this could not be a simple calculation of 10%]

Matt 23:23* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. [scribes and Pharisees seemed to be tithing from their gardens by simply counting the plants and then giving 10%]

It seems the teaching on "tithing" in many churches has been handled in a reductionist way to prove a point, rather than teach what the Bible really says. 

MS
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Luke 17:10

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