For 27 years, I adamantly believed that tithing is required of the New Testament church. I felt I had no basis on which to expect God to provide for me if I did not tithe. We were urged in my church to excel in the gift of giving. I want very much to do this, but it resulted in giving beyond my faith. I now believe that excellence in giving is not measured by how much we give, but by how accurately we hear God, how soon we obey Him, and how cheerfully and trustingly we do so.
I went through a lot of years of living hand–to–mouth. I was given a car, which was a splendid miracle, but for three years it stood idle because I couldn't afford insurance. While it was parked, vandals smashed some of the windows. I also worked for an employer who cheated me out of thousands of dollars because I didn't know what I was entitled to, and I was too distracted with family problems to find the emotional energy to investigate right away when I was tipped off that I was supposed to get statutory holiday pay.
Yet, in all these troubles there was great mercy. God helped me through them and He lightened the yoke of the Law that was upon me. In 1997, I was copying out Malachi 3:10–11 to encourage my faith. God stopped me and asked, "What does that say?" I replied, "It says that if I give You tithes and offerings, You will pour me out a blessing that I cannot contain." He said, "No, it doesn't. Read it again." So I did and God gave me revelation that blew me away.
Malachi 3:10 –11 does not say that God will bless us with more than we can contain only if we give Him tithes and offerings, though many pastors make it say that. It only mentions tithes as the requirement to obtain that reward. God says that He knows our frame is only dust (Psalm 103:13). As a father who pities his children, God pities those who reverence Him. In essence, He says to Old Testament Israelites in Malachi 3:10–11 "You owe me both tithes and offerings, but I know how depraved human nature is. To encourage you to obey and trust me, if you will take steps toward me and do the best you can, I will bless you. I will bless you so much that you won't be able to contain it. Just give me the tithe for now, if that's the best you can do. My grace will make up the difference. Then when the blessings pour in, you can give offerings as well." Whoa! This is in the Old Testament, folks! I marvelled at the mercy that God extended while the Law was still in effect.
As a child, my parents' shortcomings distorted my perception of God. I thought He sharply disapproved of me. I expected Him to club me if I made a wrong move. I grew up thinking that it amused Him to make me dance frantically to a tune that I could not possibly keep up with. This revelation in Malachi helped towards unravelling my snarled concept of God's character. God wasn't standing over me scowling, as He watched where I was falling short of His perfection.
Tithing and giving offerings did not seem to be working for me to the extent that God had promised. I had been wondering, "Where, oh where am I missing it?" I was frustrated, but there was no point in getting mad at God. He is perfect, so the fault had to be mine. I desperately searched my heart for hidden sin, trying to plug the gaps where satan was getting into my life to rob me. God gave me more rest with this revelation about His mercy.
I have heard over and over that God does not bless the tithe. I've heard it preached that tithing only opens the windows of Heaven, but it's the offerings that bring the blessings down. I confronted the pastor who preached this. He denied saying it, though when I asked a friend if she remembered him saying this, she said she did. Not only that, after denying that he had preached this, that pastor said it again from the pulpit. This interpretation is not in keeping with the way that God uses parables.
Yehoshua used illustrations that people could relate to. If we can picture a window above us, and blessings pressing behind the glass, once the glass is removed, wouldn't those blessings fall down on us? Do they defy gravity? Are they like balloons filled with helium? Do we have to throw up a grappling hook to snag them (give an offering) and keep loading the line with weights (more offerings) until we can drag those blessings down? It is a lie of the devil that basically says that God is full of hot air, to interpret this Scripture that way.
After God opened my eyes, I resolved to just pay tithes until my debts were paid off. It bothered me that my testimony as a Christian was being compromised by those debts being carried so long and that my bills were not paid on time. I was finally able to get my car insured.
The yoke of the Law that was upon me was now seriously cracked, but I still dragged it around. I vigorously defended tithing to friends who do not believe that God requires it in the New Covenant. They presented their reasonings and convictions and their observations of other people's experiences, but I need more than just someone else's experiences and convictions as a foundation for my life. I need Scripture. My friends were not strong enough in the Word to convince me that tithing is obsolete.
Deliverance was on the way, but first I went through a very trying time of financial stress. My situation was desperate. Okay, I wasn't living on the streets and eating out of garbage cans, but I was a long way from where I wanted to be financially. My bank account was overdrawn and I did not have enough money to cover my upcoming car insurance payments. In ten days, I had to come up with money for storage rental and rent for a room I occupied in a friend's home. My gas needle was almost on empty. I was waiting to hear from a restaurant where I had applied for a job. The hostess said that she had put a good word in for me, but I had not yet received a call for an interview. My unwed daughter was pregnant and she was depending on me to be able to help her after her baby was born.
My crisis came to a head that Sunday morning. I started my day cheerfully, as usual, but I began to feel restless in my spirit while I was getting ready for church. I felt I needed to hash my financial predicament out with God, so I began to journal. I pondered how I had been doing a lab on Malachi 3 for more than twelve years, yet I still had a lot of empty barrels and barns. Not only that, but I had been scraping the bottom of the barrel for quite some time. How much longer was God going to drag this out? Time after time, I felt like my faith was being stretched on a rack and I was about to snap. If ever I needed God to come through for me, it was now.
I didn't think that I could take it any more. I had been in financial crisis so many times already. I had even slept in my car out of necessity. One of those times, back in 1992, I had to wait four days before I could get into a basement suite in New Westminster that I had newly rented. I didn't have enough money to put gas in my car so that I could drive to friends' homes on the other side of the Fraser River; they would have put me up for a few nights. I had already stayed with several while trying to do commission sales, but I hated taking charity, so I decided to find a quiet place to park in a nice neighbourhood in New Westminster, until I could move into that shabby, little, basement, bachelor suite.
However, the Queens Park neighbourhood was too well lit and I would have no privacy. Desperate to get some sleep and feeling discouraged, I drove about looking for a refuge. As I was turning a corner, I cried out to the Lord, "Please, show me a place!" I looked up and immediately my eyes saw that on the signpost of the next street was written "Townsend Place". My surname! I did not know that there was a street with my name on it.
I still felt deeply depressed over my situation, but it helped to have God confirm that He was looking out for me. There was no streetlight on the corner pole. The spot beneath was quiet, dark, and private, but what a great relief it was to get into my suite four days later where I could stretch out, even if it was on the floor because I had no furniture.
Yes, God saw me through a lot of difficult times, and He used them to teach me some powerful lessons. The other occasion that I slept in my car was when I didn't get enough money from EI to pay rent because my former employer reported my earnings incorrectly. Again, I stayed with a friend. I lived there three months and then God gave me a powerful dream wherein He flew me in His hands like I was a small child, and as I laughed, bombs fell on a gigantic easy chair, as well as other targets. The easy chair represented my "comfort zone". It was such a fun dream. Then God dropped a bomb on me! He told me to camp out in my car instead of staying with friends. He had some things He wanted to teach me through being a nomad.
The first night of my "camping trip" was on my birthday. I attended a revival meeting that evening. A minister gave a word of knowledge that satan has tried to put me down over and over. That sure is true; my life has been quite a saga. He said that God has given me bouyancy and I just keep popping back up. He added that I was "doing the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way". I laughed to myself as I thought, "You wouldn't think so, if you knew what I was doing!" It was encouraging to get this confirmation.
I learned a lot of things during that time that helped me write The Moses Memoirs, as well as insights about other Biblical characters. It also helped my self–esteem to see how much I had changed from the person I had been when I was married and put up with my husband's drinking because I depended on him financially. A man I knew who had a good job and property was interested in marrying me and would have given me a home, if I had pretended that I was attracted to him. I feel very good that I didn't compromise on what God has put in my heart about waiting for a true love. It was also thrilling to discover that, though I stayed in my car for five weeks this time, I was far more cheerful about it than when it had been only four days. Still, it was not an experience I was eager to repeat. I prefer to live in a house.
Facing homelessness again on this particular Sunday, I knew that I was at the end of my rope. I doubted that my friend would kick me out if I couldn't come up with the rent, but it wasn't fair to put her in that position. She had financial challenges of her own. But if she did, what would I do? Without insurance, I wasn't allowed to park my car on the street. There wasn't hardly any gas in it to move it someplace else. What would happen to my stuff if I couldn't pay the rent on my storage? I couldn't sell my belongings except at a great loss. My mind whirled with worry. I felt so helpless.
My anxiety escalated as I thought of my children. I had not done as much for my son as I had wanted to on his birthday three weeks previously. I promised I'd do something better for him after I got working again, since it's a special milestone to turn nineteen and be officially an adult, according to Canadian law. Also, my darling girl was expecting a baby in November. God was providing for her, but I wanted to participate in helping her, too. If I couldn't do anything tangible for my children, I wondered what point there was in living any longer. It's torture to want to help, but to not be able to. I had plenty of friends in need whom I longed to help, but it's worse when a person can't do anything for their own kids. "Take me Home, Lord." I did my Elijah thing and wrote in my journal, "Just take me Home, now! There is no point in living, if You're not going to help me!"
I couldn't say that tithing didn't work. It just didn't work for me. There was something wrong with me. My faith just wasn't connecting up with Heaven's supplies. The track did not reach far enough and the train couldn't get through to me, no matter how often I prayed, "Lord, help my unbelief!"
By then, I had a headache. I was crying. I avoided my friend. I didn't want her to see me. How could I explain what was wrong? I couldn't figure it out myself and I sure didn't want to whine and blame God, or kick myself around either. My friend probably would have called our pastor because, if she had tried to talk to me that day, I would have cried and cried and cried. I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown due to the tithe issue and the control issues that are involved in it, though I didn't realize it until later.
"I can't go to church today, Lord." I said. "I just can't. The best I can do is to write out some Scriptures on prosperity and tape them to my walls to encourage my faith." I laid down for a nap to ease the pain in my head. Just before I woke up, I heard Yehoshua say brightly within my spirit, "Well, if that's the best you can do, then you had better do it!"
I woke up and dragged myself around my room collecting pen, paper, and tape. Then I remembered a Bible study on tithing that a friend had given me. She obtained it on the Internet and very timidly offered it for my opinion. (By doing so, she saved my sanity.) I wasn't enthusiastic about reading it, but I took it to be polite. I figured I'd get around to reading the Bible study eventually. I'm sure that God put the thought in my head that there might be some good prosperity Scriptures in it, because normally it wasn't something that I would have thought would be all that helpful, especially since it was against tithing.
I began to read the Bible study. Pretty soon, I got excited! The study made sense. It was Scriptural and in context, though it had been written by a man who was an elder in the Worldwide Church of God. Truth is Truth no matter where it is found. Even New Agers have some Truth, though they don't have The Truth, and what they do have, can't save their souls. Truth sometimes comes from unlikely places. As Nathaniel said when Philip told him that he had found the Messiah, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" That was possibly the last place in Israel that anyone expected a true man of God to come from. Gary Pifer had something worth listening to, regardless of where he might be in error on other things. By the time I finished reading the study, the tithing yoke was shattered. I was free at last!
Gary Pifer's first point was that tithing cannot be proved from the story of Cain and Abel. I never imagined it could be. It surprises me that anyone would presume it does.
Mr. Pifer next dealt with the story of Abraham's tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek. He notes that ministers have only assumed that tithing was Abraham's lifelong practice. He points out that the Bible does not say this. It simply tells us that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek out of gratitude for his victory in the battle that he had just fought. Abraham took none of the spoils for his own use, so he was not tithing his "increase". Hebrews 7 only mentions this one incident of tithing in Abraham's life. It does not say he tithed at any other time.
God never asked for a tenth of the spoils of war. Mr. Pifer notes that in Numbers 31:25 – 30, after Israel's battle with the Midianites, God required only 2% of the congregation's spoil to be given to the Levites and 0.2% of the warriors' spoil to be given to the priests. Spoil increased Israel's wealth, but how much of it was to be given as offerings varied. Sometimes God demanded that all the spoil be devoted to Him, as in the case of Jericho's fall.
Gary Pifer cites the case of Jacob's vow to tithe if God guided, protected, and provided for him. It was conditional (Genesis 28:20 – 22). In the preceding verses, God promised Jacob that He would give the land of Canaan to his descendants and bring him back safely to his birthplace. Jacob promised that the Lord would be his God if He did the latter, and that he would tithe when God made good on the former. He did not receive the land in his lifetime, but he kept his promise by proxy through his descendants when they received the land.
There is no record or indication that the Israelites tithed prior to that time, though some ministers teach that tithing is a universal law. I've heard them say that the tithe is our rent for taking up space in this planet. That's creepy. What does that statement say about God? He has fashioned us so that we require air, water, and food that can be obtained only on one planet in this solar system. We are held hostage to this planet by our physical needs and by lack of spacecraft that can take us to any other planet that is compatible to support human life, if such a place exists. Then big bully God comes along and tells us that we have to pay 10% of everything we have or we will be evicted? Nice landlord.
What would we think of someone who forced a group of people to take a boat trip with him and threatened to throw them overboard in the middle of the ocean, if they didn't fork over 10% of everything they owned, and make a freewill offering in addition to that? And be cheerful about it, too? God didn't lay that trip on Adam and Eve. When they lived in Eden, they had everything they needed, when they needed it, without being required to pay any kind of tithe, or to make offerings of anything, except thanksgiving and praise.
Prior to the giving of the Law, in Joseph's day, Egypt's produce was taxed. Twenty percent was required to be to be stored in readiness for the coming famine. The tax continued after the famine because the people sold their land to Pharaoh for grain. Nothing is said there about tithing to God.
Nor was tithing required when the children of Israel gathered manna. The priests and Levites gathered their own manna. No instructions were given about tithing the spoil that was taken from the Egyptians and the Amalekites.
Yes, spoil was taken from the Amalekites, too. One of the reasons that God let the Amalekites attack the Hebrews was because the Israelites needed camping equipment and more weapons. It goes to show that when God lets anything attack us, He has something very good in mind for us. Those Amalekite bullies had no idea that they were about to unwittingly become a blessing to Israel. I am reminded of the old hymn that says:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy and shall break,
With blessings on your head.
Tithing was not instituted until Israel entered the land of Canaan and took it for their inheritance. Until then, the Tabernacle was supported by offerings, and there was so much excess that the Israelites left behind a rich treasure of what had been offered, but not used, at the base of Mt. Sinai which, incidentally, is in Saudi Arabia as the Bible tells us; not in the Sinai Desert as is commonly believed. It is presently called "Jabal al Lawz" and is the site of an Arab military installation that probably has nuclear missiles aimed at Israel. There is a link to a Vanity Fair article about it on my MOSES MEMOIRS introductory page. The information is on page 9 of the article. How's that for a prophetic sign of what the Law threatens to do, if we put ourselves under it instead of embracing God's grace?
In his study on tithing, Mr. Pifer points out that only livestock and produce were tithed; not manufactured goods. This is because it was the land and the people that were holy. The people were tithed by setting apart the tribe of Levi for service to the Lord, in lieu of all of Israel's firstborn. The Levites were not given land in Israel, except for their suburbs. Their inheritance was to receive the tithe from the other tribes. They tithed in turn to the priests who used the tithe for their support and the service of the temple and to minister to the poor. The tithes were their wages for their service.
Gary Pifer also shows that tithing was not the first tenth of all the increase. Leviticus 27:32 says that it was the tenth animal that passed under the rod. It did not have to be the best. The tithing of the flock was by random selection. Whatever happened to pass under the rod after nine animals preceded it was holy to the Lord, whether it was a prize–winner or a runt. Also, if a person had only nineteen animals, the tithe was one. If there were only nine animals, no tithe was required. There was no instruction to estimate the value of the flock and tithe after that manner.
Tithing was required only of the Jewish nation to support the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood prior to the fulfillment of Yehoshua's ministry on earth. After that was done, there was no further need for sacrifices to be made for sin, nor for the order that handled that work. When a job has been eliminated, wages are no longer received.
Hebrews 7 has often been quoted as the foundation for tithing in the New Testament church. The point Hebrews 7 makes is that the old order has been repealed. Abraham is brought into it to demonstrate the precedence that the order of Melchizedek takes over the Levitical and Aaronic priesthoods. It confirms that Yehoshua holds a greater authority than the former priesthoods, though He came out of the tribe of Judah. Moses did not appoint anyone as a priest from that tribe. The Levites, however, gave homage to Melchizedek (of whose order Yehoshua is High Priest) by proxy through their ancestor Abraham.
Verse 8 notes that men receive tithes "here" meaning at the time the book of Hebrews was written, which was about 55 A.D. The Levites were still carrying on their ministry because they had rejected the Messiah. Received tithes "there" refers to a historical incident where a Priest/King, who was the eternal Son of God in human form before He came to us as Yehoshua of Nazareth, received them of Abraham who gave them as an offering.
Paul would have been irritated if he had known how Hebrews 7 was going to be used to put a yoke on the Church with pastors telling people "If you don't tithe, you're cursed with a curse!" We have his record of how he came down hard on the Galatians for paying attention to people who wanted to impose the Law on them. He tells us in Galatians 3:13 –14 that Yehoshua has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us, which is received by faith – not by tithing.
It isn't God who has been cursing the people. The pastors have been doing it by loading guilt onto people and by holding resentment in their hearts toward people when the offerings don't bring in enough to pay the bills. The enemy rides on these negative vibrations with glee like a surfer on a wave to afflict those to whom the ill will is directed.
We need, with all sincerity of heart, to bless pastors even when they teach error and resent those who disagree with them. This will put a shield around us that the enemy cannot penetrate. It will send conviction back their way, for the goodness of God leads to repentance. We have to remember that nobody can curse what God has determined to bless, not even godly men and women whose words carry a lot of power; therefore we need not fear their words or their actions of disapproval. Leaders who have control issues that they haven't yet addressed cannot keep us from obtaining our inheritance or from being a blessing, for promotion does not come from men; it comes from the Lord. At His appointed time, God will give us what we need to do His will, whether anyone else thinks that we are entitled to it or not, as well as our heart's desires as we delight ourselves in Him.
God does not require people to be perfect and to know everything in order to have authority. Yehoshua submitted to Joseph and Mary, though He had far more knowledge and insight than either of them. He reproved them for being dense, but He did not launch into His ministry at that time, though He impressed a lot of people with what He already knew at only twelve–years–old. He set the example for us of having dignity while being under submission. We don't have to let ministers lay a trip on us that they must know more than us about every type of spiritual matter because they have a higher position in the Church. One pastor ranted at me, "Are you telling me, Lanny, that all those pastors are wrong and you're right?" I thought about that statement and replied to him in a letter, "Yes, in this case, they are wrong and I am right."
Where in the Bible does it say that we are to check our brain at the door of the church when we become Christians and let pastors do all our thinking for us? To get us to receive Him as our Saviour, Yehoshua invited us to "Come now and reason together; though your sins be scarlet, they shall be white as snow …" Using our power to reason was good enough to see our need for salvation, but there is no further use for it afterwards?
I believe that we have a responsibility to submit to proper spiritual authority, but when the person in authority is headed for a cliff on an issue, we should not follow them there. Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." Where is what they are teaching and doing going to lead? This tithing thing is an important issue. Teaching that tithing is mandatory for the New Testament church is heresy and it leads to bondage. A lot of ministers who teach it have valid revelation on other things, though, and we ought to follow all the good things that they teach.
The Book of Malachi has been used to lay guilt trips on people about tithing and giving offerings. Controlling spirits are involved, for the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we are not to give under compulsion. Telling people that they are cursed if they don't tithe obviously is compulsion. The tithe doctrine is motivated by a Philistine spirit that exacts tribute from the people of God and it is an unclean thing in God's eyes, but there is coming a day when it will be booted out of the Church (Zechariah 14:21).
The tithe doctrine is not one of the major doctrines that a church has to be absolutely correct in. It is a heresy, but not a damnable heresy. There are plenty of saints who died believing that tithing was required of them, but it didn't cause them to lose their salvation; just some of their liberty in the Anointed Lord Yehoshua while they were on the Earth. For many people, they believe it is a matter of honour to tithe, and as long as they believe that, they ought to do it.
I'm glad I did not know sooner that Scripture does not support tithing as a requirement for the New Testament church. I might have left my church ahead of God's timing. I might have missed out on a lot of other teaching and ministry that was truly excellent. There are wonderful people whom I would not have had the opportunity to become friends with. My pastors were a great blessing to me in many ways, regardless of the things that I disagreed with.
However much we need to honour our pastors and submit to their authority, we need to recognize where they exceed their authority. They have no right to demand financial support from people or manipulate them with guilt trips. They are entitled to receive offerings and the Bible says those who teach well are worthy of double honour. Ministers who insist that tithing is mandatory, though, are preaching "another gospel". Is such preaching deserving of double honour?
The Bible isn't saying that it is mandatory for us to pay double wages to excellent teachers and pastors. That would be legalism. It is saying that if they are rewarded in this matter, nobody should gripe about it, as they are worthy of the extra consideration.
One aspect of ruling well is not reverting to manipulation to get things done, and another is where the pastors humbly serve the people rather than lord over them. It isn't all about who is the most organized and has the most outreach programs happening, especially when a pastor is trying to build their own kingdom rather than God's.
Some jealously guard their converts from being impressed with other ministries – not for their converts' safety, but so that only they can harness their converts' energies and gain their offerings. If the results of our ministry build God's Kingdom, then it should be rejoiced over, even if our converts join someone else's field of endeavour. If someone gives to another ministry that they learned about through our ministry, we should rejoice over that, too. It all builds the Kingdom of God. If God wants us to continue in our ministry, He will supply the means to keep it going. He is not limited in His resources.
We need to study what constituted a minister worthy of double honour in the early Church, rather than judge such a thing by North American standards; generally speaking, North American Christianity is rather shallow. Pastors in North America rarely ever preach sermons on Hell, and a good many other topics that aren't politically correct, though urgently needing to be addressed.
Paul spoke of not abusing his power in the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:18 ). He had to preach the Gospel. It was not just a job to him. He certainly did not do it for prestige, as he was misunderstood and despised by many people in his day, including church people. His commitment to preach the Good News ran so deep that God's Word was as fire in his bones. He had to preach to get relief. He cared so much that people would receive what he had to say to them that he preferred to do it at his own expense whenever he could, so that nobody could say that he was in the ministry to take advantage of people. He had such deep gratitude for salvation that he felt compelled to share it with others. If he could do so without availing himself of his legitimate right to receive an offering, he considered it a bonus.
Gary Pifer astutely points out that Paul received only offerings. He never dared ask for tithes. If he had, it would have incensed the Jews even more than they were already with his ministry, for Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin. He had no legitimate right to demand tithes of people.
I've heard it said in various meetings that we can't expect the Word to be fruitful in our lives, if we don't pay tithes and give in the offering. I've heard it said that God won't put "spiritual food" in the house if people don't tithe. God surely would not withhold revelation from a minister simply because their congregation does not tithe. Why would He punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty? Would a righteous person withhold God's truths from their congregation because they don't tithe?
People have been urged to bring an offering when they come to the altar to receive a healing. Perhaps the minister who said this did not intend to imply that we need to pay God to heal us, but it made me hesitate to go forward during a call for ministry, as I did not want to put anything in the offering. I did not let it influence me to give. I went to the guest minister at the end of the service for prayer and he had no objection to praying for me.
I also heard a minister say that he heard a prophecy spoken over a couple about wonderful ways that God was going to bless them, and he wondered how it was ever going to happen, because he knew for a fact that they didn't tithe. He should have taken another look at the matter of tithing and considered that, perhaps, he was in the wrong, rather than them.
Contrary to his notions of what is required before God will bless a person, there are many people who don't tithe whom God blesses in big ways. I knew a lady who was so blessed that some people in her church gave her a hard time because they were jealous, so she stopped telling people in her church about good things that happened to her. She also kept it quiet that she didn't believe that tithing is mandatory and that she did not always tithe.
Naaman the Syrian did not tithe, but he was the only person in Elisha's day who was healed of leprosy. He brought an offering worth millions of dollars with him, but Elisha refused to receive any of it. God wanted to coax Naaman into turning to Him because of the character demonstrated by the prophet and the generosity of his God.
2 Corinthians 9:7 says that we are to give as we purpose in our heart, not grudgingly or of necessity. It grieves me when I hear radio ministers say that they depend on the financial support of their listeners to keep their program on the air in our area. What are they doing that for? They tell us that we are supposed to look to God to supply our needs and not to man, yet they are okay with looking to us to supply their needs. Then if the money doesn't come in to keep their ministry going, they gripe about the shortcomings of the people.
By trying to manipulate people into giving, ministers are not setting a good example of trusting God. Manipulation is carnal. It is from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If we are not joyful when we give, it might mean that we're stingy, but maybe it means that we caved in to pressure to be a people–pleaser.
We certainly will answer for people's blood on our hands if we were supposed to give, but we disobeyed God. However, if God has determined to keep a ministry going, He doesn't need donations from Christians, though He gives us the privilege of participating in that ministry and sharing its rewards. I heard a Messianic Jew tell how a wealthy, unconverted Jew made a donation to his ministry, thanking him for the work he was doing when he heard him preaching and prophesying on the street. God is not limited in the ways that He can provide.
Yehoshua did not sell tickets to His meetings. He didn't charge anyone for their healing. In Matthew 10:7– 8, He said, "Preach, saying the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give." This is a word for ministers as to how they are supposed to minister. To just release it and look to God to meet their needs, instead of getting bitter towards people for not putting more in the offerings, or for putting their money into someone else's ministry, or for not giving at all.
Often the story of Elijah and the widow of Zaraphath is brought up to justify taking tithes and offerings from poor people, and also to encourage Christians that God will meet their needs, if they tithe and give offerings when ministers demand them. An important fact that manipulative preachers neglect is that Elijah gave that widow a specific word that she would not run out of food while the famine lasted, and it involved a tremendous miracle. I have yet to hear anyone give a word of knowledge like that, and see such results when they are urging welfare mothers and pensioners to part with money that they need for rent and groceries.
Though it is a despicable thing to pressure the poor into giving money by telling them that they will be cursed if they don't, we need to be careful to not judge people who do that. We have enough to contend with in dealing with our own hearts about the love of money without trying to figure out other people's motives for what they do. I have heard some really awesome men and women preachers who believe that tithing is compulsory. I think that they don't know any better. They are people of integrity who believe it is a matter of honour to tithe and, therefore, practice it and urge others to do it, as well.
Though the Book of Malachi has been used to flog and fleece the New Testament sheep, it actually was addressed to the Israelites living in the land of Israel and zeroes in on the priests and Levites, taking them to task about their rotten attitude towards their ministry. God asks in Malachi 1:10 who would minister for Him, if they didn't get paid to do it. He said that He was disgusted with the mercenary attitude of the priests. Verse 12 reproves ministers for grumbling when it looks like they are getting small return for their service. It appears that verse 13 refers to presenting teaching that is defiled (taught with wrong motives), teaching that is lame (not fully supported by Scripture), or sick (outright contrary to the Word of God). Verse 14 speaks of big trouble in store for those who know the truth, who not only don't preach it, but who preach things that they know are contrary to the truth.
There was a prophetic sign that occurred in a church that I attended. The pastor borrowed an antique sword to use as a visual aid. When he slammed the sword down on the pulpit, much to his shock, the sword broke in two places and the Plexiglas pulpit had a chunk taken out of it. I thought, "Ha! I guess that blows that point." I forget what the point was that he was trying to make.
I said nothing about it until a couple weeks later when the music director mentioned it. I then remarked that it couldn't have been of the Lord because it didn't work out. She protested emphatically, "Oh no! It was! When I mentioned it to a friend who operates in prophetic signs, she fell backwards under the power of God." Neither she nor her friend seemed to know what the sign meant, though.
I was convinced then that it was of God because of my respect for that woman's anointing, so I pondered what it could mean. Then it became apparent to me that it relates to cleansing the altar. God is going to reveal flaws in certain teachings that have been around for a long time and look like the Sword of the Spirit, but all swords are not "The Sword". The phoney ones lack power and cannot hold up indefinitely.
The cracked pulpit refers to making clear the motives of preachers as to why they teach these false doctrines. Both the deception and the deceiver are going to be broken, but like the pulpit in that church, the ministers can be mended. They just won't look like they have it all together as much as they did before.
If we are honest about our faults, we can avoid some painful chastening. This is something that God is going to do in the whole Church, not just in that one, and we all have to take heed to Malachi 3:2 that says, "But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap."
If pastors really believe that tithing is mandatory, then why do many of them eat bacon, lobster, crab, shrimp, and ham? Why do they travel long distances on Saturday or mow their lawns that day? Why don't they keep a big pile of rocks handy and have us throw them at people who are known to be having sex outside of the marriage covenant? Why don't they forbid women to come to church when they are having their monthly cycle? Why don't they insist on circumcising all the males who want to join the church? That sure would discourage male membership! I've heard pastors scoff about people who pick and choose from the Bible only what they want to believe, like eating at a smorgasbord, but that is what they are doing when they push tithing and ignore the other ordinances of the Law.
How did tithing manage to slip by the Cross? When Yehoshua gave up His life on the cross, He said, "It is finished!" To confirm this, the veil of the Holy of Holies was rent from the top to the bottom, indicating that by the hand of God, Heaven is now open to all who receive Yehoshua as their Saviour.
Ministers need to stop putting this burden on the Church that people who don't tithe are cursed. Isaiah 52:1– 3 says "Awake, awake; put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust: arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose yourself from the bands of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For the Lord says, You have sold yourselves for nothing: and you shall be redeemed without money."
Hallelujah! It is not tithing that sets us free from curses. It is the victory of the Cross that has done so. Oh the precious Blood of Yehoshua! What a shabby thing it is to suppose that tithing is what still engages God to rebuke the devourer, now that our Saviour has come.
Under the New Covenant, we are required only to give offerings as God leads. The Blood of Yehoshua ensures that we will reap good returns from the good things that we sow, when we appropriate our inheritance by faith, regardless of what hindrances satan tries to set in the way of us doing that.
I attend churches that preach tithing because I don't know of any that don't subscribe to this doctrine, but I usually avoid the ones that really push it and take about twenty minutes of valuable time to take up the offering. It has been a wilderness experience in some ways to challenge the status quo. I go to church because I need to be under the good kind of authority that pastors can exert, to hear the good things that they sometimes teach, and to have fellowship with other Christians, as well as opportunity to share what God has given me for the Body of Christ. The shadow that the tithe doctrine casts, however, makes me feel like I am walking on a tightrope, instead of dancing in a meadow of relationships, which is what the Church ought to be to those who are washed in the Blood of the Lamb.
Am I sorry that God opened my eyes to the errors of tithing, though I have had a very lonely journey since then? Not at all! I rejoice that I am free to know Yehoshua more as He really and truly is! My view of Him used to be so distorted. I saw this in a dream where I walked with Him as He held my hand. I could see only His shadow and it looked like that of a monster, but the love and comfort coming through the hand that held mine left me in no doubt of His wonderful character. I knew I could walk through anything, as long as He was holding my hand.
When I awoke, I asked the Lord why His shadow had looked so weird. He replied that it was because my perception of Him had been twisted by false representation of Him. He assured me that as I continued to get to know Him better, the shadow would conform to His divine nature more.
It was such a relief when God told me that I was free of the "experiment" in Malachi 3:10 –11. He said, "Honey, that lab was never meant for you. It was meant for the priests and Levites and the Israelites of the Old Testament." After reading Gary Pifer's Bible study, I no longer had to fear that God would be angry with me if I did not tithe. My chains fell off with a thundering crash.
It has been a relief to no longer feel under any obligation to give up a tenth of my income during times when my total income for a month has been under $700.00, and at times when the only money I received for several months was an occasional GST refund. Just knowing that I didn't have to tithe went a long way towards relieving my stress about finances. When money was scarce, God gave me favour with my landlords so that my rent was deferred until I could afford to pay it, and He moved on the heart of a friend who brought me food.
I didn't ask her to do that. I was astonished when she showed up at my place and gave me bags and bags of food. When I expressed my amazement, she scowled and asked, "Well, didn't you pray for this?" Actually, I didn't. I still had some flour and few other oddments of food. I hadn't thought of praying, yet, though there wasn't anything in the house that was actually healthy to eat. But my grandson had asked me the week before how I would feed him if he came to live with me, as I didn't have a job at that time. I had told him that I wished he and his Mom lived with me. I replied, "God would supply." He wailed, "But what if He only gives you food that has milk in it?" He has a milk allergy. He was worried that God did not love him enough to look after him. I said tenderly, "Don't worry, Connor. God would give me food that you can eat." And then my friend showed up with all that food and Connor was visiting me that weekend. She gave me a lot of fruit and vegetables, and a few days later, out of the blue, another friend gave me a bag of treats for Connor when he visited me. He was getting used to provision by then and happily walked about with a jar of peanut butter tucked under his arm, from which he snacked on with a spoon.
Also at that time, though I did not tithe, Connor whined about not having a bike to ride when he visited me. I rolled my eyes to Heaven with a sigh and prayed to God that He would enable me to get my grandson a bike. Shortly after that, Connor found a loonie when we were walking down a back alley. A week later, I spotted a couple of toonies that had dropped out of someone's pocket when they leaned on a railing. I lowered Connor down to get them and they joined his dollar in his piggie bank. Then I told him I would take him to some garage sales, but he wasn't allowed to buy junk.
While we were trawling the sales, he saw a rickety, little bicycle that he tried out for size. A lady noticed him and told us where there was a better bike for sale. Yahoo! It cost only ten dollars and Connor paid for half of it with the money he found. Some of the men on our street own classic cars and are good mechanics. A couple of them fixed the chain that fell off on the way home, and other neighbours adjusted the seat for him when they noticed it was not the right height. I think the neighbours got a kick out of how much Connor, who was five at the time, enjoyed his new bike. He was soon riding it without the training wheels, singing his head off, "Waves of glory, waves of grace. Everywhere I look, I see Your face!"
God did not provide money for me to put into offerings, but He provided things I needed. I am glad that I didn't feel obliged to tithe on all my increase, because even if I estimated the value of the things I was given, I had no money to pay the tithe. Oh sure, give a tenth of the food my friend brought me? It was good food, but not absolutely fresh, and most people would have turned their noses up, if I had offered it to them. As for those who were so desperately poor that they would have appreciated it, how would have I gotten it to them? I had no bus fare to go down to Hastings Street. The tithe doctrine is a burden that Yehoshua did not give us to bear. He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
It is really hard for people who have barely enough money to cover their rent on a bachelor suite and buy groceries, and who generally shop in thrift stores and have to take the bus to get around (if they have money for tickets), to sympathize with the needs of pastors who have a car to drive, a house to live in, and who think nothing of paying several hundred dollars for a brand new suit, or who approve of other people in Christian ministry buying them over–priced presents.
There is nothing wrong with a pastor having quality things given to him or her by people who have earned their money through employment outside of the ministry, or if they have managed to get those things at bargain rates. There is nothing wrong with pastors spending their money in regular retail stores, but there is something wrong when they expect people who have a very low income, and need to live frugally, to help support their more extravagant lifestyle. The poor among the brethren would find it easier to bear their lot and be content, if their leaders would stop trying to whittle away at the little that they have.
When Elijah asked the widow of Zaraphath for a little cake of bread, he was a refugee who had nothing to eat, no place to live, and nothing to sell in exchange for food except the sweaty, ragged clothes on his back. Nothing has ever been said about this in any sermon that I ever heard about the widow of Zaraphath when ministers have used Elijah as an example to justify asking money from the poor.
In the New Testament, we read of how the Macedonians gave out of their deep poverty, but Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8:4 that the Macedonians had to urge the apostles with much entreaty to take their offering, which demonstrates that the apostles had a proper sense of shame about receiving an offering from such poor people, and they weren't even receiving the offering for themselves, but rather for needy saints in Jerusalem.
It has also been pointed out that, though a wealthy person's tithe would be a lot more than what is demanded from the poor, a wealthy person can afford to give 10% of their income much more easily than a poor person. If a person receives ten million dollars a month, they still have nine million dollars to live on after they have paid a tithe of one million. If a poor person has an income of $500.00 a month, $50.00 is a lot of money to them.
They probably pay board and room, rather than have the luxury of a bachelor suite. They have to buy toiletries and laundry soap to keep themselves smelling and looking okay, pay a monthly charge to keep a bank account open, and reserve money for bus fare.
Medical care is paid for in Canada when the income is that low, but dental isn't covered. A poor person who isn't on disability or welfare never has the money to get the tartar cleaned from his teeth, and Heaven help him if he gets a painful cavity; most people in his church can take regular dental care for granted. The tithe tyrants would say that God will meet that poor person's needs, if they will be obedient to tithe, but the poor, little guy is faced with a huge temptation to cave into anxiety, and often does fret about lack of money.
His worry isn't about whether he can afford to put gas in his car (he doesn't have a car), but about where he will find a safe place to sleep, if he ends up on the streets when his landlord runs out of patience with him not paying all of his rent on time, because he feels obligated to tithe AND give offerings before he pays his bills. He has been taught that he can't expect to get out of debt or break out of the barely–getting–by rut, if he doesn't pay tithes and give offerings.
Pastors might say that the poor are in that condition because they lack faith, and if they trusted God more to bless their tithes and offerings, they wouldn't be racked by anxiety. Pastors who would say that risk coming across as callous, as if all that matters to them is that they get their needs and desires met, regardless of the cost and worry it inflicts on others to meet their expectations. It is important that when people give offerings, it is something that they want to do, rather than something that has been extorted from them.
Only 7½ months after I quit tithing, over $10,000.00 of debt that had been hanging over me for eight years was cleared away, and at a time when I was either out of a job or getting very few hours at work. Money came in from unexpected sources and some of my debts were forgiven. The amount that I didn't have to pay was about equal to what I had not been able to recover from my former employer, which was God's way of seeing to it that I didn't lose anything from having worked in that restaurant.
Financial difficulty necessitated moving in with my daughter and grandson for a while, helping with housekeeping and babysitting, but this in itself was the fulfillment of one of my heart's desires. It was a really vital time for me to be with them, as my daughter was only 17 when she had her first baby, and it helped her that she did not have to bear the whole responsibility of looking after him herself. She nursed Connor for a year and then handed him over to me to look after during the night. I'd stagger half–asleep into the kitchen every three or four hours to get him a bottle. He had such a piercing screech when he wanted something; we couldn't just let him cry and get used to not getting a bottle of formula at night. The landlords might have kicked Heather out, if they couldn't get a decent night's sleep.
Though my work situation was difficult and finances very tight, God worked it for my good, enabling me to get computer training and then to take a Business Management and E–Commerce program at a community college. That was a huge miracle. It came right after I released someone from my expectations of them and told the Lord I would look to Him instead. I had only a few coins in my wallet, not enough to even buy a stamp, and I was three months behind on my rent. My landlords liked me and had been very patient when I was out of work, but they had to keep up with their mortgage. They said I would have to find another place to live, if I couldn't come up with some money in a few days. I had no money, so I couldn't even look for another place to rent. I had no car to go pick up boxes to start packing. My back was against the wall, but God is a very present help in trouble.
I had been attending a job club. My job counsellor suddenly did an about face and said I ought to apply for a grant. I protested, "But you said I don't need any more education." That had been two years before when I had been out of a job and had first come to her for advice, after someone tipped me off that she was a really good job counsellor. She brushed my protest off with a smile and a wave of her hand. She said I qualified for a grant, told me how to go about applying for one, and said I ought to take management training. I sensed that this was of the Lord and that I needed to get on it right away. I made two more appointments to see her before I left her office, knowing that by then I could have the information I needed.
Two weeks later, my application was ready, which was very quick. My job counsellor cautioned me that it would take at least two weeks before anyone at Service Canada would even look at it, and the bare minimum I could expect to hear from them was three weeks, but it would probably take six weeks. I asked my friends to pray that God would expedite my application. THREE DAYS after it was submitted, it was approved. Orientation meetings were held every few weeks, but one came up the very next day. I found out when the cheques would be issued and how much they would be, then went directly afterwards to the college where I wanted to take the courses. The admissions officer at the college I applied to was astounded when I showed up so soon after having made inquiries about what program to take, and was sitting in front of her writing out post–dated cheques. For a whole year, my tuition, school supplies, and living expenses were paid while I focussed on jamming as much information into my head as would go in and obtaining straight A's. Glory to God! He made a way where there seemed to be no way!
Now what about our poor pastors who need to support their families and pay the bills for the church's facilities and programs? They are going to have to do what they have been telling us to do. Trust God!
Copyright ©2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on September 4, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.