Cheerful Giving or Paying the Temple Tax

Cheerful Giving or Paying the Temple Tax

There has always been a deep reservation that I have had about tithing, as if there was something missing from the teachings, something not fully understood by almost everyone.

For years I accepted the teaching that we are to give 10% + so we have given 10% + of my income to my church and I believe that God has blessed us for that.

But recently I discovered something in scripture which I think is hidden in plain sight from those who do not really understand or accept what scripture teaches about church meetings.

2 Corinthians 8, 9 teaches this and Acts 5 displays it.

But first lets look at the go-to verse for tithing in the Old Testament  Malachi 3:8-10, paraphrased from memory: “will a man rob God?, …you have robbed me in your tithes and offerings…bring all the tithes into the store house so that there will be meat in my house.”

Jesus also said when teaching once “we should do the one without neglecting the other”, referring to tithing, again paraphrased from memory.

So I firmly believe that scripture teaches and that Jesus wants his people to be givers of at least 10% of their income, but not out of obligation as some necessary display of loyalty or maturity or as a pre-requisite for more blessings, as it is typically taught.

But a sometimes sacrificial giving out of selfless love.

What I think we have missed and why :

What we miss is that the nature of the ‘house of God’ changed dramatically with Jesus Christ. We miss it because almost no one views church in this way .

Before Jesus All of the “houses of God” were buildings (the tabernacle then the temples) but these symbolized something greater that was yet to come; it symbolized the church which are the gatherings of people in whom God is living by the Holy Spirit.

The Church today is not a place or a building or a series of buildings, it is the gatherings of Christians.

To say it another way, the commands in Malachi 3:10 to tithe still apply but the nature of the “storehouse” has changed in Jesus Christ. It is no longer a temple, the temple building and its rituals symbolized something in the future, a thing that we can have now in gatherings of Christians.

The “storehouse” now is the gathering of Christians, it is one another, we make up the house of God, we are the living stones being built together by Jesus Christ personally.  So now we are taught to bring our tithes to one another as we gather. We are to give to and receive from one another as we have abundance or need.

The church is not a human organization with pecking orders and with organization charts representing lines of authority. The church is the gatherings of the believers.

If this seems crazy, it is explicitly taught in 2 Corinthians 8, 9 please read.

We gather then we bring all to as many as have need at the meeting, some have abundance to supply the lack of others, then at another time the same ones may need help at other times and in other ways.

The purpose of all this is that there be equality among the gatherings of Christians. There must be equality among us. It clearly and specifically teaches that in scripture. Everyone giving up into a human organization of hierarchy ignores inequality.

The money model most churches follow today out of tradition is a hierarchical organization with a dominant clergy at the top who receive tithes and distribute accordingly, with the bulk of the money going to buildings and salaries, not equality among the members.

The majority of the money goes to buildings and salaries, not one another and not equality.  Giving to existing members is almost a non-issue today, but in 2 Corinthians it was normative and commanded.

In 22 years of church attendance I’ve only seen a handful of times where where money was given to existing members who were struggling and there were strings attached, it was not personal it was like a benevolent father giving to a needy child.

Most of the time they stayed poor and the rich members barely spoke with the poor.

The famous verse “God loves a cheerful giver” is often taken entirely out of its specific context. Which is the giving one member to another for equality, and it is used to support tithes up through the organization.

This is the most common example of ‘wrongly dividing scripture’ I’ve seen, done almost in every church meeting when its time to collect money.

heirarchy model of giving

Unequal Hierarchy Model: green arrows represent flow of money, orange arrows represent flow of teaching/ revelation of the Holy Spirit

Another way of saying this is that it is more biblical to give your tithe money check to a struggling brother or sister or family in the church, than it is to cut the check to a church corporation. Unless leadership is distributing to anyone who has need so that there is equality.

God wants equality among his people, this is true in spiritual gifts, referring to us as  human body differing parts yet all parts equal.  But he also wants this equality reflected in our money lives.

equal model of giving

Equal Living Stones make up house of God, green arrows represent flow of money, orange arrows represent flow of teaching/ revelation of the Holy Spirit

This happened in the Jerusalem church, in Acts 5 we see all members sharing everything financially in the Jerusalem church, not because they were forced to but because they willingly wanted to. They would even sell their property and bring the proceeds to be shared.

If this all sounds crazy read again 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 repeatedly.

Don’t’ get me wrong I’m not saying we are sinning, God still blesses his people in the hierarchy model of giving, (he certainly has blessed us) we also saw this blessing not withdrawn when the Israelites were in Babylon BUT God wanted them in Jerusalem building his house/ temple.

He asked them to return but only ~2% of the Israelites left Babylon to build Gods house in Jerusalem (read Nehemiah).

Please share what you think about this!

  • Can you tell me where the 10% comes from? Why 10%? I grew up in the word of faith movement and I thought they made that number up, taken out of context from an Old Testament verse. I don’t go to church anymore but I still love helping people in need.

    • Michelle, the word tithe means a tenth, which is the same as 10%, I think it showed up first between Abraham and Melchizidek (Genesis 14:17-21) I think it was more like a tax as much as it was a religious offering.

      I wish my taxes were only 10%.