Q&R with Greg Albrecht – “Is tithing a requirement?”
My pastor holds a different view than I do on tithing. He teaches that the Bible says in Malachi 3:8-12 that if we don’t tithe (which he stresses is a full ten percent) we are robbing God. He says if we do not tithe at least ten percent we are under a curse and not able to experience the full blessings that God wants to give us. I know from my study of the Scriptures that this teaching is false, for the following reasons:
- 1. This passage in Malachi was directed to the nation of Israel, which at the time was under the Old Covenant.
- 2. If Christians are to tithe the way Israel was instructed, they would need to keep the entire Old Covenant, or none of it at all.
- 3. The New Testament nowhere mentions that we are required to tithe. Instead, it talks about giving from the heart.
- 4. No follower of Christ is under a curse, because Christ became a curse for us when he was crucified – taking our punishment upon himself.
- 5. As followers of Christ, we are not missing out on any blessings. Through Christ, we have all the blessings we could ever have.
Should I write my pastor a letter explaining this? Should I talk to him face-to-face? Should I leave my church because of his unbiblical teachings? I have prayed that God would guide my pastor to teach sound doctrine on this issue, but maybe God expects me to do something about it. I am really confused about what I should do. I would value any advice you might have for me.
In my opinion you have done a superb job in laying out a summary of the Christian case against mandatory ten percent tithing. The idea that Christians are under a curse if they do not subscribe to a part of the old covenant law not only ignores the fact that Jesus became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), but what your pastor is saying is the very opposite of Galatians 3:10 – “all who rely on observing the law are under a curse.”
The idea that unless we do or don’t do something, we will “miss out” on blessings from God is religious legalism, far removed from the freedom in Christ given to us by God’s grace. There are pastors and churches within Christianity that use the word tithe as your pastor does, but they are exceeding their authority, whatever their motive may be, in attempting to impose part of the old covenant upon the people of God. There are other pastors who use the word tithe in a different way than your pastor does – they use it non-specifically and generically to refer to giving without the imposition of a delineated amount or percentage.
But, enough commentary on the subject, which you have analyzed biblically and logically. Some practical points – some of which you raise:
First, on behalf of pastors everywhere: Pastors are always on the front line of fundraising, budget balancing and bill paying for a congregation. It is their job to promote stewardship and responsible, Christ-centered giving. Sometimes pastors allow these pressures to motivate them with less-than-biblical calls for giving. So, in defense of your pastor, he may simply be attempting to keep the lights on, the air conditioning running in the summer and the heater working in the winter. This does not mean the end justifies the means. His message, as you describe it, is not biblically justified.
In fact, pastors actually have an opportunity and a duty to present a more exacting level of giving, as outlined in the New Testament. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood does not limit our giving to dogmatic, ironclad percentages. It may be that some Christians should exceed the old covenant requirement of ten percent because they can. Others are able to give only small amounts because of other priorities. Jesus gives us the freedom and responsibility to choose what amount is appropriate for us. Furthermore, giving under the new covenant involves all of us, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, giving of our time and talents as well as treasures.
Yes, you should discuss this with your pastor. Whether you do so by letter or in person is a judgment call. My guess is that if you begin to communicate your misgivings by letter, you will eventually wind up discussing the topic in person. We are part of the priesthood of all believers and thus have a responsibility to question unbiblical teaching that departs from authentic Christianity. So I believe you have a God-given responsibility to broach this matter, and I am sure you will do so respectfully.
As for leaving your church because of such an issue, there is no reason not to consider taking this step. As Christians, we are part of the body of Christ and we are led by Jesus Christ. Christians are not obligated to remain in a place where substandard, or even worse, an outright error is being taught. Sometimes Christians do stay in their church in spite of a less-than-wholesome spiritual environment, trying to work within for change, and there is nothing wrong with such a practice. However, Christians must also consider their own spiritual health as they exist within a spiritually dysfunctional environment.
For more answers to tough questions, check out our book: