The Dangers Of Teaching on Tithing

This originally appeared as a weekly evo at

I got a couple of great questions this week about tithing and giving and wanted to share them here.

Did the Jews really give 10% of their crops, their income to the Lord?
Actually more than that. I hit up a Jewish Rabbi I met online and asked him about the tithe. Here’s what he said:

It’s a bit complicated. The farmer first separates from the yield a portion (a sixtieth, fiftieth, or fortieth at the farmer’s discretion), known as terumah (‘heave offering’ or ‘gift’). This is given to a Kohen (priest) and is treated as sacred food.

A tenth of the remainder of the yield, known as maaser rishon, ‘the first tithe,’ is then separated and given to a Levite. The Levite, in turn, separates a tenth of his tithe and this, known as terumat maaser.

The farmer separates another tenth of the reminder of his yield, known as maser sheni, ‘the second tithe.’ This has to be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there in a spirit of sanctity. If it is too difficult to take the second tithe to Jerusalem, it can be redeemed by substituting for it a sum of money which is then taken to Jerusalem. Every third and sixth year of the cycle culminating in the Sabbatical year, the second tithe is given to the poor and is known as maaser ani, ‘poor man’s tithe.’

The present practice in the State of Israel is to have only a token separation of the tithes. Many observant Jews today do donate a tenth of their annual income to charity.

This was on top of the other sacrifices and offerings during the year. So if my math is right – there is the first “gift” which is completely at the farmer’s discretion. Then there is the first 10%. Then another 10% off the remaining 90%. So we are looking at an over 20% “offering” when it was all said and done. That’s pretty intense.

Why does God need my money?
The short answer is – God doesn’t NEED your money. He WANTS all of you. So actually, it’s much worse than just our money. At some point, everything in our lives gets brought out in front of us and Jesus asks the simple question – “Do you love this more than me?” And He will do this with every single thing in your life. Spouse. Kids. Stuff. Dreams. Jobs. Money. And if you let him, he will move you to a place where eventually you say – “Jesus, you know my heart. I want to love you more than anything.”

Why do pastors always teach on money?
Most pastors can’t stand teaching on money. But… Jesus did and money/greed is the biggest competition for our culture with Jesus.

So I’m only required to give 10%?
This is one of the dangers of teaching on tithing – we take the principle of giving and being generous and make it a legalistic checklist. That’s not God’s heart. If we look at the 10% number and go – “Okay, this is easy and all I have to do to be ‘good’ with God” then we have missed EVERYTHING about why we should give. All of our resources are blessings from God. It’s all His.

For some people, 10% is easy and it isn’t generous or sharing. It doesn’t stretch them. You’ll never get the blessing out of giving that way. For others, 10% is being generous, it will push them to the edge of reliance on Jesus — which is what he wants.

Do you know what people give?
No. None of the ministers on staff know what anybody gives. Our finance team has a rotation of counters that count and record the offering. It’s a different group of people every week. So actually, nobody has a full picture of what anybody gives. The pastoral staff has NO access to giving records at all and will NEVER be given access to giving records.

Does Western Hills use the tithe in selecting leaders?
We are not legalistic about anything at Western Hills. We do have an expectation of our leaders to be involved in Love God, Live Connected, Serve All and financially supporting the mission of Western Hills. What that level of support should be is for each individual and family to wrestle with God about. We teach that the scriptures command generous living and giving, that the standard appears to be 10%. That’s what a vast majority of us practice – at least 10% to the church, some of us give more.

It goes back to what I said earlier – Jesus wants all of us. Not just pieces or parts of our lives – but the WHOLE thing. Money is a part of that equation.

How do I know that the money I give is being used correctly?
First, giving isn’t really about the money being used properly. Giving is making sure our hearts are owned by God and not by greed. It’s about making sure that Jesus gets the last word.

Having said that, Western Hills budget is divided into 4 areas – Administrative, Love God, Live Connected, and Serve All. This year we will spend 25.5% in Administration. 74.5% in Love, Live, and Serve. 13.5% of all money that comes in, goes right back out to support missions. (I’ve been critiqued a bit that some of our Administration expenses actually could be divided into the other areas – like building utilities and maintenance since we use our building for stuff like Upward. They are probably right – we just chose to put the building stuff in Admin.)

One last story — if you are still reading this. This was a quote of a new believer after the message last week.

“I can’t believe God let’s us keep 90%!”

That probably is exactly the right attitude and it made me laugh.


3 thoughts on “The Dangers Of Teaching on Tithing

  1. Grant,

    I’m surprised how much you go on about things that are clearly spelled out in the Bible. However, through your ramblings, it’s usually your opinions versus scripture. You should read Malachi 3:6-12. Is there any confusion about tithing. No, a tithe is defined by 10%. Your offering is above and beyond the 10%. Pretty clear. I agree with you that the spirit of your giving needs to be in the right place for you to receive the blessings that are talked about in Malachi. However, the Bible is clear that your tithe is the first 10%. An offering is above and beyond your tithe. Your spending at Western Hills seems to be heavily leaning toward inward things. I’ve been a deacon and elder at a church now for 20 years. If our general budget goes up by $1.00, our mission budget goes up by $1.00. Our budget is balanced 50% / 50%. If we can justify spending a dollar at the church then we will also spend a dollar on missions. Also, I’m not talking about internal missions. This money leaves the church and is spread around the world. It was written in our church constitution over 30 years ago. It’s kind of like our secular constitution. There are alot of people that think it needs to be changed. However, this was written by alot of wise, God fearing men and stood the test of time over 200 years. We will never change our church constitution. Everybody embraces it. It’s amazing the accountability it gives to internal spending.



    1. Chris,

      Not sure where we disagree – could be my fault for not being clear in my communication. Personally, my family practices the 10% to the church, more than that is offering that we use to support missionaries, student trips, special needs, etc.

      When Paul teaches on giving to the Corinthian church – he actually uses a much “harder” standard that just a tithe:

      2 Corinthians 9:6-7
      6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

      Emphasis on – each of you should give what you have DECIDED to give. In other words – planned, intentional. Generous giving will mean more than just a blanket 10% for some people. That’s my point in all of this.

      As far as the church spending — PRAISE GOD for your church!! That is our goal as a church as well – to have 50|50 budget. Right now – 13.3% goes to what we call “Missions” – mainly international, another 12% goes to what we call “Serve All” ministries – mainly local. So we are sitting on 25% going right out the door. We will get there. Better than what we were, not where we want to be.


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