TO TITHE OR NOT TO TITHE: A Biblical Excursion Into Christian Giving (I)

((This series was originally written as a contribution to a discussion on tithing on a Christian social media group, the Bethel Fellowship Online.) 

Some interesting submissions about tithing were recently made on the Bethel Fellowship Online and I was compelled to pitch in. The tithing debate has been raging lately, for very good reason, and it remains unabated. Truth be told, despite the pious “I have no problems with tithing” stance that some have adopted, we can only ignore the debate at our peril. The subject is critical to our being fully ready for the return of our Lord, which seems increasingly imminent. This is one of the major questions that I have remained publicly silent on, but since the Lord inspired us with the idea of the Bethel Fellowship Online, some of these questions have been creeping up too close for me to ignore.

When the tithing debate came up on this forum this morning and I got to thinking about it, I felt that it would take an entire book to fully address the issue. But we apparently don’t have the luxury of waiting for a book and there are some who would want me to immediately express my thoughts. I am taking a break from urgent work to do this, so pardon my attempt to quickly strike the highlights. Perhaps, if I had just 100 people faithfully paying tithes to me :-), I could “fire my boss” and devote myself to the study and ministry of the Word, which I must confess is actually my calling and what I should be doing. It has been about 15 years since the Lord quickened 1 Timothy 4:13 to me. And right there, discerning folks would immediately identify an important aspect of the “tithing” subject. But be careful, don’t run off with that.

Indeed, the “tithing” issue has become a touchy subject that threatens to introduce new problems for even true ministers, as they may now have to carefully side-step certain important matters of the Church to avoid controversy. For example, when we launched the Bethel Fellowship Online, those of you who paid close attention would note that the expressed purposes included “material requests.” This was absolutely honest, well-intentioned, unselfish, and in perfect accordance with Apostolic teaching. I believed, and do believe, that we are not only to minister the Word to the saints, but also have the responsibility of ministering to the material challenges of the needy among us, however possible. And there again is another important aspect of the “tithing” question that discerning minds would grasp right away. But I saw how some might interpret the “material requests” as an indication of our intention to “monetize” the forum and therefore deleted it from subsequent sharing of the introductory message of the forum. Unfortunately, that meant that we were faced with the danger of ignoring a crucial feature of the true Church.      

Now, I would note that the two major contributors to the present tithing discussion on the Bethel Fellowship Online are not personally acquainted, and therefore may not fully understand each other’s submission, partly for reasons of their modesty. Having said that, I will note that both of them are correct. But if both of them are correct, and yet oppose each other, then both of them must also be wrong. A Contradiction? No. Perhaps, they have just not fully shared their thoughts. Truth is, there are two extremes to the “tithing” debate and we should be wary of both. In addition, the only admissible centerline should be clearly established in the Scriptures, which is what I want to attempt to do. Yes, there is no New Testament (NT) teaching that requires us to “tithe,” as was the case in the Old Testament (OT), but it is unmistakable that we are instructed to “give liberally” in the New Testament. One is a Law that is not negotiable, while the other is a passionate exhortation that no true believer should have problems with. Let’s look at the Scriptures.

(To be continued.)

© David Olagoke Olawoyin

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