The Bible is full of amazing knowledge and life-changing wisdom. It is the most widely read book in the history of the world for a reason. It has been said that it contains Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
Unfortunately, with anything that brings life and joy, there will always be people who try to hijack the beauty within for their own gain. The Bible includes many scriptures that can be twisted to mean something other than what it is supposed to. Just like if I only hear half a joke, I will completely misunderstand the punchline.
There are many candidates for most abused scripture in the Bible taken out of context. Some examples are:
Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things”
Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for you”
Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for good”
Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”
I won’t go into great detail on these scriptures right now because I want to focus on another one that is far more devastating.
It is THE most abused scripture in the Bible
It is used by pastors when the church bank account is starting to look bleak.
It is used to justify an old covenant practice now grossly taken out of context.
It is used as justification by men falsely inserting themselves between man and God to fleece the flock and line their pockets.
If you haven’t guessed it already, it is Malachi 3:9-10 (NKJV)
“You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
For many people, reading this leads to feelings of guilt and torment. This verse has been twisted out of context so much that anyone reading it now sees all servants of God as vindictive and greedy. It is very far from God’s original intent of tithing.
Once you understand the principle of tithing, you will see that it is a beautiful picture of God’s generosity. To get to this understanding, we need to work out what tithing was originally designed for.
The Original Purpose of Tithing
In Deuteronomy 14. God tells the Israelites to set aside a tenth of all that their fields produce. The purpose for this is so that (verse 29):
“The Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied.”
In the above passage, God mentions four types of people. The Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows. All these people needed to rely on others for their food because they could not provide for themselves.
God’s Heart Is for Those That Cannot Provide for Themselves
He wants those with plenty to share with those who have none. His heart is still the same today and doesn’t want anyone to go without.
Today, instead of food, members of a church are strongly encouraged to give 10% of their income to ‘God’s body’. That is fine, but the trouble is what the money is used for.
In most cases, the majority of it is then used to pay the minister’s wages and building costs. There would be very few, if any churches, that evenly split the tithes to go to the paid minister(s), the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows.
Tithes Are Not for Priests Alone!
I can be so certain of this because of what is written in Malachi. Malachi’s letter was a rebuke from God to the priests (Levites) as Malachi 2:1 clearly shows:
And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.
Then in 3:5, God says that he will come near those priests for judgement who:
“Exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien.”
Notice that there were only four groups of people mentioned in Deuteronomy – there is one group missing in Malachi 3. The priests. That is because they are the ones God is rebuking. They were taking food out of the storehouses for themselves alone and neglecting the foreigners, widows and orphans.
It Is No Different Today
Hundreds of priests (now known as pastors, reverends and fathers) around the world grossly misuse this scripture to justify fleecing God’s sheep to provide for themselves. They neglect anyone else in need to build their own kingdom.
Now I’m going to rephrase Malachi 3:9-10 to show you what a typical pastor is truly thinking in his heart when he quotes this verse:
(A modern translation from a corrupt pastor during an offering message)
“You are all sinning
For you don’t consider the things I need to buy
Every single of one you has been disobedient.
Bring ten percent of your wage to this church
So that we can pay my salary and mortgage
Just do it, regardless of how much financial strain you’re under
Says the wolf in sheeps clothing,
If you don’t do this, God won’t bless you
He’s holding back from you unless you put your hand in your pocket
For God loves a compulsive giver.”
What Can We Do?
Knowledge is power. But only if action follows soon after acquiring the knowledge. Here are some possible actions you can take now that you know this.
- Go to the next AGM at your local church. Have a look over the expenditure on the profit and loss statement and especially look at the largest items. If most is going to the pastors and very little is going to orphans, widows and foreigners, ASK WHY. Most churches are registered as charities. If you are giving money to any charity, you would expect them to be prepared to give an account of how they are spending it.
- If you’re not confident enough to go to an AGM, how about booking a meeting with your pastor and ask him his views on tithing? Ask him to show you where tithing is in the Bible and whether it is important to also care for orphans, widows and foreigners.
- If you are not attending a church, think of someone you know of who is struggling. Think about ways you could bless them. Take them a food parcel or something you think they could benefit from.
Let’s not be afraid to confront evil practices when we see them. It’s time to hold pastors to account. If we don’t, who will?
Ngaire Booth says
Try reading Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. This topic is thoroughly discussed in loud and honest tones. Its a ailable from fishpond books .com.nz. You will be well informed about why you no longer need to tithe. You will also be comforted in the matter.
Andrew Stirling says
Yes, I have read that a few years ago and it really opened my eyes. Knowing that tithing is unnecessary is one thing but I’m starting to wonder whether us mature believers should be actively opposing pastors who continue the ungodly practise.
Corban B says
Perhaps tithing is the ‘Archilles heel’ of how the modern church structure holds up.
If the pastor is dependent on tithing members for their source income, they will undoubtedly ensure the cultural-tithing talking points are kept to maintain the tradition, lest the ‘loss’ of income not being able to put bread on their table, or, build a multi-million dollar facility.
Certainly the tithing member, or any member for that matter, how does someone question an accepted ‘Christian’ practice unless a question has been raised? Articles like this of course 😛
Keeping it alive by religion willfully becomes the sin of church leadership, should they knowingly promote something not to be true. Granted, directly supporting a pastor and his family is very different than laundering money through a system so large, there is little to nothing left to feed the pastor’s own family at the end of it. That’s a big clue right there.
It is a nerve so severe, one might consider it fatal to the current system if it is pierced and taken out.
The hope and optimisim here might simply be, getting people get on board with the local expression of the Great Commission. This might mean to re-structure and re-think what a faithful, local church expression looks like.
Andrew Stirling says
Hi Corban. Re-structuring and re-thinking what church is can often be a bridge too far for many pastors. Especially those that derive their living from it. It’s a lot easier for them to preach a message that itches peoples ears. It’s not just their fault because not enough church goers are challenging the system. That needs to change. Jeremiah sums it up well,
“The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?”
James Nimmo says
Hi Andrew absolutely agree there are so many scriptures that are misused ..
Finances and power are the worst incentives also a lot of ignorance.
Got to say the church I attend at present does not have paid pastors. They do collect tithes and offerings .. these are divided into various funds . The Chuch members help fund, overseas missionaries, also kingdom causes ie donating to other churches to help their outreach.. got today a proportion goes to building upkeep but this is clearly made visible .. I wish all churches operated more like this..
Andrew Stirling says
I don’t know of a lot of churches that would do what yours does. Praise God that they have taken a step and I completely agree with you in wishing all churches did this. It’s interesting to see that a lot of churches are having to close down because of the lack of tithes during the lockdown. If this is all it takes for them to collapse then clearly they weren’t built on solid rock in the first place. Maybe it’s time to see if more churches are built on shaky ground by challenging their stance on tithing.
Elizabeth Peters says
So nice to see various conversations going on about this topic.
I haven’t been in a church building for 5 years now. However, I still continue with a wave offering (Tarumah) and what I call “Generous Giving” to support organisations who assist the widow, fatherless, lepers, gospel preaching, rescuing people out of modern day slavery.
Covid 19 has shown us that buildings and programs are not necessary – nor the fabulous bands/musiciens, etc. “House churches” (cell groups/life groups) have flourished and people have learnt the value of the smaller communities in which it is not easy to “dash in and exit quick” rather than build relationships.
We need to trust Holy Spirit to convict people. It is TIME for people to stand up and be responsible, rather than putting their responsibility aside and waiting for the pastor to do this or that. Let’s trust Precious Holy Spirit to bring this revelation to people and for His Amazing Kingdom to thrive from now going forward and for these man made structures and systems to be torn down.