Sunday 10 February 2013

Tithing - from Purse to Persia

As we all know, good Christians tithe.

And really good Christians tithe on their gross.

Which is interesting, in that tithing was prescribed for an agrarian society where they primarily tithed on animals and crops.

Of course, you had to tithe to the Lord's accredited representatives, which meant the priesthood and the temple.

How all this translates across to cheques, automatic bank deductions and non-levitical preachers with their hands stretched out to garner the Lord's increase is a bit of a mystery.

Could somebody please explain to me why Jews today - in the absence of a temple and priesthood - don't tithe?  Oh, hang on, no temple or priesthood... yeah, I get it.

Then, there's also the uncomfortable fact that, even when the temple was standing, Jews in the diaspora didn't tithe.  There was no point.  How were they supposed to get all that perishable produce back to Jerusalem?

Somehow this simple logic seems to have escaped the prosperity preachers who happily get prosperous by laying a non-biblical tithing burden on their credulous flocks.  They, naturally, don't want ten percent of the potatoes in your back yard garden.  They want currency!

I have Ernest L. Martin to thank for first exploding the tithing myth for me.  Martin was a former professor of theology at Ambassador College in Pasadena.  He walked from there in the 1970s, setting up his own ministry and publishing, among other things, an influential rebuttal of tithing as a Christian practice.  A version of his booklet is still available online.

The problem was that Martin was still at heart an apologist with a pre-critical understanding of the Bible.  That was no bad thing when communicating with like-minded folk, like myself, who shared that approach.  But the years have rolled by, and hopefully those of us who were alive and kicking back then have all grown and matured a bit.  The old biblicist assumptions no longer hold sway over many of us.  So, what about the tithing question once we've stripped away the fundamentalist mind set?

All of which is a lead-in to a brilliant posting by Scott Bailey on his Scotteriology blog.  It sets the scene in the province of Yehud in the days Malachi, and of Persian imperial policy.  Here is, dare one say it, "the plain truth" (or part of it) about tithing.


  1. Scott Bailey's blog was a bit esoteric.

    To me, it's simple: Even if someone were to use the Bible as a standard, there's no tithing on wages -- none -- anywhere in the Scripture. The only ones who would be at risk, if we were to go strictly by Old Covenant Law would be those in the Land of Israel, "That the Lord gaveth thee" (more like seized), who had produce from the land and that there was a temple at which to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. No other need apply, or in this case, spend.

    Of course, the Scotteriology blog posits that the Malachi entry was more or less politically motivated by forces that we wouldn't normally consider when reading the book.

    Nevertheless, and in any case, the message was not to rank and file tither -- it was to the priests -- so for the curse to apply for not tithing (and contrariwise the blessing for the priest bringing in the produce to the temple)it would be the temple priest for whom the abundance was to be poured out upon. This would not apply to the gentile nations of the United States and British Commonwealth, which, near as I can determine, are not mentioned anywhere by name anywhere in the Bible.

    The official record is that farmers in the WCG tried out the Seventh Year Land Sabbath and either went broke, had to borrow, lost their land and / or any and all of the above. The reason is that they didn't get the promised double in the sixth year. So there. So that portion of tithing does not work these days.

    Why should we assume that the other portions do?

    And while we are at it, the idea of second tithe is preposterous. There was A tithe. "Second Tithe" and "Third Tithe" is not in Scripture anywhere and you can verify this with your electronic concordance in e-sword for virtually any translation you want. The tithe was to be used to keep the Feast, except in the third year when the fatherless and widow would get it to keep the Feast and everybody else stayed home. Just how any cult could make that work today is beyond my ken.

    Tithing as a "principle" from Scripture is yet another example of proof texting for sake of greed.

    If you consider yourself godly, then, by all means, honor the Lord with your substance, whatever the heck that means, but don't get stuck making demanded payments to godless hucksters whose only god is cold hard cash in coins, paper and electronic form.

    And don't forget to fork over your entire inheritance when you die: Make sure you put it up for such worthy luminaries as Roderick Meredith, so he can benefit from it now and his sons (and brother-in-law) can benefit from it when HE dies (sing along with us all, "It won't be long now...").

    A sucker is born every second now, fortunately, Dr. Phil McGraw has a new book out, "Life Code" that describes just exactly who these people are who want to take your tithe from you and how you can hold fast to what you have (a sample is at The Painful Truth).

    I find stealing from widows, orphans, the poor and the elderly reprehensible, but, you know, you have to fund the illegitimate useless irrelevant religious cults some way, since the ministers and leaders have such great need for someone to given them the benefit of the doubt along with salary and retirement. Besides, integrity has gone by the wayside in favor of charismatic hucksters. A workman may be worthy of his hire, but I just don't personally see many workmen in religion unless it's someone to come fix the church building.

    Get real: The bottom line is, "What can you do for me?"

    The answer for religious leaders is, not much, but our internal wars provide such entertainment, if you don't get too close.

  2. The first mistake a man/woman makes is thinking that some other human knows more about God and the spirit world than he/she does. "The Painful Truth" is nobody KNOWS anything about any gods. However, there is one thing for certain, a god would not need money nor a man to speak for it.

    Besides all that, everything that tithing was for in the Bible is taken care of by local, state and federal taxation. And, I might add, at a whole lot higher price than 10%. So, think of how you are robbing the poor, widows and orphans when you cheat on your taxes but faithfully pay tithes - tithes to preachers that never go to help anybody but themselves and even their so-called charities (if they have any) are only for show and most of the money winds up in their pockets.

  3. Great Graphic!

    Yes, that's the lie we were told. Tithe and you will prosper more than the non-tither. Then we came to church services and watched each other drive in with 20- and 30- year old cars and joked about "church cars" - because after all church members could not afford newer cars. The irony was lost on us. We believed what we were told and we tithed faithfully but deep down we knew church members were poor because of tithing.

  4. Armstrongites believed that the ministry could make administrative decisions regarding the application of the rules expressed in the OT and the NT. Hence, a booth of made of branches in the OT period became a hotel in Tucson at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1990. The tithing policy in the WCG was changed by Joe Tkach, Sr. but nobody ever said that HWA was wrong. My guess is that there was a belief that HWA had a right to make an administrative decision regarding the application of the tithing law. The rest of the history of that error is well known to us.

    What I find odd is that many Protestants will condemn Armstrongites for carrying forward OT laws into the NT creating a heretical religion. But the protestants will dip back into the OT themselves to find a basis for modern day tithing. Money screams.

    -- Neo

    1. Not only that, but the commentaries insist that ancient Israel had a two tithe tithing system: One for the priesthood and temple and the other to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

      People in Christian religions should then DEMAND! that if they have to pay a tithe, then the church should have to provide a Feast of Tabernacles, because if you take one part of the Old Covenant to further your cause, you have to take the other associated parts of it -- not that modern xtianity would much care to have 20% of their income gone to involve themselves in their church mind you, but fair is fair, so either be ready to demand money your parishioners are absolutely never going to be willing to pay, or just shut up about it and hope for the best. It's called putting new wine in old wine bottles, and folks, the tithing wine has turned to vinegar.

      None of this is even remotely as compelling as Roderick Meredith and David Pack initiative, Fasting for Dollars. This is over the top even for them. Could they be more offensive? And for what? Who gets the most Canadian TV stations? Absolutely disgusting.

  5. "A version of [Martin's] booklet is still available online." Gavin, can you give us a link, please?

    1. Try

    2. Or