I’ve finally finished reading Russell Earl Kelley’s book on tithing, “Should the Church teach Tithing?”. It’s an incredibly detailed, in-depth look at every scripture referenced to support tithing, and then every scripture used to promote higher New Testament standards. It’s probably not an easy read for most, it’s taken me 4 months to slug through 274 pages, but it is incredibly worthwhile, and many revelations can be gained from it that don’t relate to tithing or giving. Update: I’ve run into some semantic issues discussing this with people. It’s worth nothing that tithing and giving are NOT synonymous. Tithing is here defined as a required tenth of your income paid regularly to “God” (via paying to a church, or however you tithe). Voluntarily giving of your money is totally different, so the two concepts should be clear in your head before you read my review, or the book itself.
I’ll sum it up for you. The answer is no, the church should definitely not be teaching tithing.
There is no Old Testament/Old Covenant scripture concerning tithing that applies to believers under the New Covenant since Christ’s death and resurrection (completion of the Law). Tithing was in fact the cornerstone of the Mosaic law and temple system, so there is no part of Mosaic tithing left over for Christians. For those who tithe on the example of Abraham giving to Melchizedek, there are chapters in there for you too. The people present and the language used is studied to question who Melchizedek really was. Melchizedek’s reappearance in Hebrews is analyzed also, asking whether Christ is truly the historical Melchizedek, or rather a typical (type of) Melchizedek.
As far as I’m concerned, you can leave out all the complex analysis, and look at the way Christ and the early church lived and the example they left behind. What we know of Jesus indicates he was generous beyond all others, giving sacrificially, even unto death. What we know of Paul indicates that if anyone would know about tithing, its role in the law, and its subsequent role in the church, it would have been him. And yet there’s no record of Jesus, the disciples, or Paul tithing - Mosaic, Abrahamic or otherwise.
Christianity is about relationship with Christ. Relationship doesn’t have room for percentages, binding numbers or accounts. These things are against the very nature of relationship; they are “lawful” in nature. We are no longer under any law, but the “higher law” of love. Consequently, the love of Christ calls us to a higher standard of giving.
Giving that is joyous and cheerful, and comes from a desire to see the needs of others met. Giving that is regular, it continues, from the desire above. Giving that costs us, that is sacrificial, that requires us to live without personal excess.
Russell Kelley sums it up this way in the final chapter of his book:
“A free democratic society will out-give (and out-produce) a forced labor society. The Apostle Paul received neither tithes nor any full-time support. He used his gospel freedom to refuse wages, yet he was perhaps history’s most successful church builder and evangelist. Likewise, the Christian church, with it’s freedom in Christ, will out-give and out-serve Old Covenant Israel… …A Christian does not obey God in order to please him. Instead a Christian obeys God because he has been saved, because his nature is changed, because he is studying to know God’s will, and because he is yielded to the Holy Spirit. Believers who are being transformed into Christ’s likeness by learning sound doctrine want to give as Christ gave. With a burden for lost souls, they respond by giving from a sincere desire and from their best ability. They give their lives, their time and their money.”
2nd Corinthians 8 has this to say (emphasis mine):
11 Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. 12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.