Forget the fact that most American Christians today choose not to tithe to their local church. One author claims there is mounting opposition to the doctrine of tithing itself -- and he believes his interpretation of the principle backs those who oppose it.
Studies conducted by The Barna Group over the past several years indicate the percentage of regular church attenders who give ten percent or more of their income -- a "tithe" -- to their church is dropping. For example, Barna's surveys since the turn of the century have consistently indicated that percentage to be less than one out of every ten -- and that is among self-proclaimed Christians who describe themselves as "deeply spiritual" or "absolutely committed to the Christian faith."
And unless the situation has changed since reported in 2000 by Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown Financial Ministries), a small minority of givers are footing the majority of churches' financial obligations. That report stated that 80 percent of monies contributed to evangelical churches came from 20 percent of their members, that the remaining 20 percent came from 30 percent of the members -- and that roughly half of the church members gave nothing at all.
Perhaps those who choose not to tithe or to give anything at all simply have decided they cannot afford to do so. Or perhaps, like Dr. Russell Earl Kelly, they believe the tithing principle taught in the Old Testament was never commanded as an eternal moral principle of the New Covenant to the Church. He believes churches are ignoring the context of Malachi 3:10 when they teach mandatory tithing and take money from the disadvantaged who need it for medicine and basic necessities.
According to a report by Religion News Service, Kelly -- author of Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine -- is convinced that biblical tithing only involved food from farmers and herdsmen in Israel who were under the Old Covenant.
The author tells RNS that subject of tithing is being treated "like a taboo" in churches today. "The most bold preachers suddenly run or get angry when asked to discuss tithing," he asserts, adding that "sincere" church members who might question the doctrine are sometimes accused of being trouble-makers. "We simply request a close re-examination of God's Word concerning tithing," he says.
Kelly also contends that if the doctrine put forth in Malachi really applied today, "then millions of poor tithing Christians would have escaped poverty and would have become the wealthiest group of people in the world instead of remaining poor." And because that has not happened, Kelly says it is evidence that the vast majority of poor tithers are never blessed financially just because they tithe. "Neither the Old Covenant blessings nor curses apply to Christians who were never under that covenant," he says.
Kelly's book, according to Religion News Service, is an expansion of his doctoral dissertation and has been downloaded over the Internet more than 10,000 times.
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