(From FotF’s Pastor’s Weekly Briefing)

A Christian author says churches that teach tithing as a mandate is a “growing scandal.” In his new book, Should the Church Teach Tithing?, Russell Earl Kelly insists that tithing was never biblically commanded as a moral principle of the New Covenant to the Church. Although he supports freewill giving, he states that a mandatory 10 percent is unscriptural.

Tithing, as Kelly describes in four ways, is the tenth part of produce or other income, free-will offerings, ten percent of gross income or, on a specific biblical note, an ordinance of the Mosaic Law for the use and benefit of the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. He stresses the “biblical fact” that the poor did not pay any tithes.

“Circumstances are different from household to household. God understands,” wrote Kelly in his book. “The grace principle of ‘equality giving’ refers to giving as much as one is able. That does not mean that everybody is to give the same percentage.” He also recognized, however, that “compulsory giving cannot possibly produce the level of giving which is prompted spontaneously by the Holy Spirit when the gospel is preached with power and authority!”

Kelly goes on to criticize churches for teaching tithing out of context as a biblical mandate. “No Christian is under any curse of the Old Covenant Law! It is simply unethical to preach ‘out-of-context proof texts about tithing’ sermons only from Malachi and Genesis 14.”

Research among clergy and laity found earlier this year that, while most ministers say Christians are under a biblical mandate to tithe, most people in the pews do not believe the same. Congregants are also equally split on whether tithe should be based on net income or gross income. And both ministers and churchgoers are mixed on where tithing should go — whether it’s limited to religious organizations or open to any organization regardless of religious connection or lack thereof.

A recent study, “The State of Church Giving Through 2004,” found that giving by church members has decreased from 3.11 percent in 1968 to 2.56 percent in 2004. Both are well below the 10 percent tithe.

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