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Book Review

Should we give 10% of our income?

I’ve met some Christian leaders for whom tithing seems a more important requirement than belief in salvation by grace. People get really steamed up about the topic, especially tithing’s supporters.

This book, however, is not pro but con, maintaining that ‘giving 10 percent of your income cannot be defended biblically as a requirement’. It is Tithing After The Cross by David A. Croteau (Energion Publications, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-938434-12-9). There are many books along these lines now, including Stuart Murray’s well-known Beyond Tithing, and this one says nothing radically new. Its advantage is its conciseness and the comprehensive nature of its coverage.

Part of the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues series, the book is subtitled A Refutation of the Top Arguments for Tithing and New Paradigm for Giving. Notice that last bit: this book does not discredit tithing and leave it at that. It draws out the core NT principles on giving (in which tithing plays no part at all) and maintains that, in most cases, giving on the basis of these principles will result in Christians giving more than ten percent.

Rampant tithers will find their key arguments demolished with gracious directness. The book covers OT arguments such as Abraham’s giving war booty to Melchizedek and the much-used ‘bring the tithes into the storehouse’ of Malachi 3:10. It goes on to refute the NT arguments such as Jesus’ alleged example of tithing and the references in Hebrews 7. It even deals with arguments from theology more generally, from historical practice and from experience.

The author is of course right: there really is no solid case for tithing today at all. So give this one a whirl! In spite of the controversial nature of the subject, it is written with warmth as well as exegetical rigour, and with a pastoral heart.

[I read the book in Kindle format, so the numbers are Location, not Page, numbers.]

If you think my purpose in this book is simply to deconstruct tithing or to convince you to give less, you’ll be sorely disappointed. (190)

The definition of the tithe in the Mosaic Law is: giving 10 percent of one’s increase from crops grown in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel. It was consistently connected to the land of Israel and never referred to an increase in capital that was gained apart from the land. (224)

Several preachers have made deals with their congregations: start tithing and if God doesn’t bless you after a certain time period (sometimes three months, sometimes six months), the church will refund the money. This is based upon the offer to “test” God in Malachi 3…  Malachi 3 was written to an audience (the Israelites) that was under the Mosaic Covenant and was therefore subject to the stipulations of that covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 28). The test was not stated in universal terms, but very specific terms. The Israelites were failing to pay the Levitical Tithe, which was required for the support of the Levites since they did not get an inheritance of land in Israel. The promised reward does not de facto carry over for New Covenant believers. (400)

…the Levitical Tithe…the Festival Tithe…the Charity Tithe…there is a “sub-tithe” of the Levitical Tithe in Numbers 18 called the Priestly Tithe and there is a completely different tithe described in Amos 4:4. (230)

The author of Hebrews was not attempting to argue for a continuation of the practice of tithing in this passage [chapter 7]. The issue of the continuation or cessation of tithing is totally irrelevant to the author’s theological purposes in Hebrews. The reference to tithing in Hebrews 7 is illustrative, not prescriptive. (602)

It is never stated that Jesus either did or did not tithe, but the paying of tithes under the Mosaic Law was limited to landowners who had crops and/or cattle. Craftsmen were exempt from paying tithes. (698)

Ministers of the gospel (or, pastors) have not replaced priests. The New Testament envisages the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant priesthood in Christians, not the pastor. Peter refers to Christians as a “holy priesthood” that was to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5, HCSB). (891)

There is no evidence that followers of God gave 10 percent of their income on any kind of consistent basis during any period of church history. (1004)

The reality is that so many [US Christians] have had this issue of going bankrupt while tithing that the federal government has been wrestling with how to adjudicate this situation. (1175)

There are three principles that should drive every aspect of giving, three principles that should inform every category that will be discussed in this chapter, and all three are found in 2 Corinthians 8-9. (1237)

The driving force of giving is the grace of God, our relationship with God, and God’s love for us. The motivations for giving include expressing our thankfulness to God for all he has done, a desire to grow spiritually and be more like his Son, Jesus Christ, the joy of hearing praise from our Heavenly Father, and the knowledge that a future reward awaits us in Christ Jesus. (1406)

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