Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | May 6, 2010

Tithe Doctrine: challenging what’s preached from the pulpit-part IV

This will be the final part to my current series on tithe doctrine. I want to share some personal experience in regards to this subject and end with some final thoughts. I hope you find it helpful for your own walk of faith.

There was a day that I was a scrupulous tither in every regard. In fact, in my 17 years as a believer, I spent the first 12 years completely “sold” on tithing as a New Covenant mandate for believers, based on embracing what was preached from the pulpit. I was more than a scrupulous tither. I was about as legalistic in regards to the tithe as one could be. After all, it was “God’s money” and I wasn’t about to “rob Him.” I was going to ensure my financial blessing by meeting the requirement. If my weekly paycheck was for $1,115.25, then I would write my tithe check out for $111.53 (10% of gross, of course). I was the one shouting “Amen” to the preacher’s message about the need to tithe so as to not be a God robber and to be blessed financially. I was the one questioning why others weren’t giving what God required; after all, if I was doing it, certainly they should, too. I was the one who was blind and indifferent to the plight of the poor, while I continued my quest to “please God” through my tithe obedience. And as much as it shames me to admit it, I do believe there were a few times over those years that I actually borrowed money off my credit card to “be obedient to what God commanded” in this regard. Yep….went into debt so “the devourer would be rebuked for my sake.”  But this wasn’t enough; I also needed to give offerings. I was told that offerings could be given to the church or other ministries outside the church, but the tithe “belonged in the storehouse” which was, of course, my local church. After giving 10% of gross, I barely had anything left to give as an offering. In fact, most of the time, I had nothing left to give! Nonetheless, I would periodically scrape up $20 or so to scatter some offerings elsewhere, fulfilling my Christian duty….

But as time went by, God started to deal with me. It all started when He laid it on my heart to give about $350 to the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews, the money to be used to rescue an elderly person out of Russia and fly them back to their homeland. By faith, I took my highly cherished tithe money to send to this ministry. I had some serious difficulty doing it, but I couldn’t ignore what was being spoken to my heart.

Then there was another time when I was having lunch with a Christian brother who just had knee surgery, was out of work, had no insurance, had no car, and was broke. Really broke. As I was driving him back to his house, I was prompted in my spirit to give him $100. Immediately, there was resistance. I would have to give again from what I set aside for my tithe. I then thought, “Well, I can pay my tithe and still scrape up $20 for my friend,” at which point I became disgusted by my response. I knew what God was telling me to do. I turned around, took the $$$ out of the ATM and gave it to my friend. Praise God for His heart towards the poor.

It was also about this time that the “lights began to go on” in regards to the implications of the New Covenant, and what it meant to live by grace, through faith. By God’s grace, I was seeing things in the Word I never saw before…things that didn’t register before, but they were now. I began to look into and test the things being preached from the pulpit in regards to the tithe, and was astonished at what I found. A sensitivity to the Spirit in regards to giving began to take root. Overall, I was beginning to see the Word through “New Covenant Eyes” and it resulted in a radical shift over time from performance based religion, to learning to live by grace, through faith…..the area of giving included. And I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend, Dr. Stephen Crosby of Stephanos Ministries, for it was about this time that we met, and his teaching ministry has been key in helping me to see and live from a Christ-centered, grace based, New Covenant perspective.

My friends, the reason I am so passionate about this particular subject is because I have experienced first-hand both performance based, self-centered, legalistic giving, and also grace-based, spirit led giving, and I can tell you unequivocally, I will never go back to those early days again. Oh….how I wish I could have all that money back that I blindly put in the offering plate at church all those years. It would be nice to have a second chance to scatter those seeds as God desired. But I was deaf to His voice concerning the matter as I embraced the voice from the pulpit without testing what I was hearing.

After everything I’ve written thus far on the subject, I think “spirit led giving” can be summed up in this: Hear from God, and do what He says……..

If He says to give a financial gift to your brother in Christ, then do what He says. If He says to give to a financially struggling unbeliever as a testimony of His love. then do what He says. If He says to take care of next week’s rent for the single Mom who lives across the street, then do what He says. If He says to gather all your extra money over the next 2 months to give to a missionary, then do what He says. And if He says to give 5%, 10% or 15% to your church, then do what He says.

And if He says to give nothing for a season and to direct your money to paying your debts…then do what He says.

The amount we give is not the issue. Hearing from God and doing what He says is the issue. God’s not keeping score and neither should we.

I know a man who was making 100k yearly and attending church regularly. By his own admission, he wasn’t giving anywhere near 10% to his local church. In this scenario, the typical reaction from church leadership would be quite negative.  By most church standards,  a minimum of 10k yearly should be given to the church when making that amount of income.

Yet this is the same man who recently adopted a child and spent 40k  to do it…….

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress…. (James 1:27)

Who could point the judgmental finger in such a scenario? Only the contemporary Pharisee.

But even in the above scenario, we have to be careful, because again, the issue is not how much one gives, but the issue is hearing from God, and doing what He says. To one man God may say to give more; to another man God may say to give less. So be it. God does not operate by rote; he deals with each one uniquely. Which is one reason why typical tithe doctrine is so shameful. We narrow our giving down to a rote formula for everyone to follow, and in so doing snuff out the life & creativity of the Spirit in this area of our lives.

If believers worldwide were to break free of a “system of giving” and truly discovered their freedom in Christ to give as the Spirit leads, could you imagine the impact on the poor and needy? Could you imagine the incredible testimony for Christ that could come through  spirit-led giving? And the glory that God would receive?

On the flip-side, there would also be an impact on the institutional church. It’s my personal opinion that if believers discovered that they were not required to tithe to their local church, but had the freedom to scatter their seed to other ministries and people, 80% of the church as we know it would come crashing down. This raises a most serious question: “What foundation are our churches built upon? Jesus Christ, or money?”

While many a pastor would proclaim, “If you are not tithing, you are not trusting God….,” it would be far more accurate to say that those who insist on putting people under an obligatory financial yoke as a safety net for themselves, rather than allowing God’s people the freedom to give as the Spirit leads, are actually the ones having the most difficulty trusting God.

“Ministry” should not cost nearly as much as we’ve made it to cost through our own methods of “building more buildings” or “having more events.” Lets get back to a more relational focus. It takes little or no money for me to share the gospel with my neighbor. And when we do give of our resources, may we truly be good stewards, distributing to the needs of others, supporting those in ministry who God leads us to support, and scattering our seed upon ground that will yield a fruitful harvest for Christ.

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Responses

  1. Excellent stuff Harry! “Hear what He says and do it.”
    That is having “an ear to hear … and a heart to understand” (obey).

    The focus of both the old and new covenant…was right relationship and obedience. In the old we worked at having right relationship (righteousness) with God through obedience to the code. In the new covenant we have been given right relationship (righteousness) with God in Christ Jesus, that we might learn to walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit who now indwells us.

    He has always wanted a people with whom He could be comfortable. A people Holy as He is Holy and given to His accomplishing His word and purposes. The new covenant has given us both the relationship (righteousness/holiness) in Jesus, and the power in the Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes walking in his now word/revelation(rhema) to us.

    Blessings.

    Randy

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  2. Well said Harry. I especially like the point you raise about the foundation of our churches. Can’t help but recall a church I attended many years ago. I discovered as winter was ending that a single mom had gone all winter with no heat. The church said they would pay for (or loan her, not sure) half – once she was able to come up with the other half. She couldn’t. I would have gladly forsaken the yummy dough nut holes and coffee provided on Sunday mornings among other things so she could have had heat.

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  3. Harry, your blog is aptly titled! We should have a relationship with God and not observe silly religious and traditional rites! This is brilliant and very well said but will those pro-tithers listen?

    And I wonder why some people have it their heads to become preachers when it is obvious they are not cut out for that kind of lifestyle! The apostles went through their fair share of rough spots for the gospel’s sake. Paul even said he knows how to abound as well as suffer want. But many of today’s preachers want to live like Hollywood stars at every other person’s expense. Why don’t they simply work for these luxuries! Why would they anyway, when the found an easier and more effective way to fleece God’s people – the tithe! What a pity!

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    • Tony, you made some good points. So often, it truly is “all about the money,” and people being “fleeced” is a very good explanation as to the current state of things within the organized church. Keep sharing the truth, my friend.

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  4. I love the personal examples of how God led you out of the systematic way and into being led by His heart, in the moment, to meet real needs that He wanted to meet. It’s exciting to think about how we can trust the only One who knows where the ground has been prepared and ready for seeds, and by sowing seed as He leads, we are taking part in something eternal, fresh from the heart of God.

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    • Exactly! Thanks so much for your feedback, and may God always lead us in every area of life, including how, where and what to give.

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  5. This is great. Your story is very similar to mine. I don’t know why I allowed myself to be so deceived regarding tithing. I put trusting in man before trust in God. I’ve been so depressed for the last year because I’m getting more and more in debt, and my house is falling apart while I give tons of money to churches and organizations because I was afraid if I did not, God would punish me. I thought I felt free last week when I realized I did not have to go to church anymore. I did not realize how even more free I would become because I don’t have to give my obligatory 10%.

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    • Yes, when I read your post today, I couldn’t help but to notice the similarities in our stories. Just keep being led by the Spirit in this area as you are; feelings of guilt and obligation will dissipate as you give outside the box of “tithing,” and a spirit of joy and liberty will take its place. It may take some time, but it will come.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks

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