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).
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.
[node:disclaimer body collapsed]