Myths About Tithing—Replacing Misconception With Understanding
Tithing is one of the most controversial topics both within and outside the Church. Most of the controversy, however, has to do with misconceptions of what tithing really is. Consider these five myths commonly believed, either consciously or subconsciously.
Myth #1: Tithing is payment for services rendered. Some people “tithe” according to their perceived value of the personal services or benefits they receive from the Church. Like taking a car to the garage to have some work done, they expect to pay for the specific services and benefits they receive personally, not the work done for someone else. And if they are dissatisfied with the quality of service, they may even withhold payment.
Tithing, however, is not to be viewed as paying a bill. It is a spiritual habit that establishes the sovereignty of God over all of life, regardless of perceived value received. As an act of worship and obedience, tithing is not dependent on what is gained in return. Instead, it is a gift of love with no strings attached. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, ESV).
Myth #2: Tithing is an admission fee for attending church. If you go to the movie theatre, you expect to pay an admission fee before you are allowed in. When that mindset is applied to tithing, however, it becomes self-serving instead of God-honouring.
If you profess to be a Christ-follower, then everything you have belongs to God. (Actually, that’s true whether you acknowledge God or not.) It’s not your money; it’s His money. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1, NIV). Considering this, you must use the resources He has entrusted to you in God-honouring ways. Even on weeks when you are sick or out of town, the tithe still belongs to Him, and you should honour Him with it at your earliest opportunity.
The church in turn bears the responsibility to use your gift appropriately to carry on God’s work. Ultimately, it belongs to God, not the church. The church merely stewards it. Through giving, you are able to participate in what God is doing through his church both locally and globally.
Myth #3: Tithing is a membership due. You are entitled to no special privileges just because you tithe. Your giving does not buy you an extra vote at church meetings, nor do you secure reserved seating on Sundays. There are no “membership perks” that you acquire through tithing.
In Acts 8, Simon the Sorcerer attempted to buy the same power as the apostles. Peter rebuked him, saying, “Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God” (Acts 8:20-21, NIV). His money could purchase no special rights or privileges. What mattered was a heart that was right before God.
Myth #4: Tithing is a get-rich-quick investment strategy. You may have been told that if you give to God then he’s going to make you prosper financially. Give him $100; He’ll give you $1000. Give Him $1000; He’ll give you $10,000. This, however, is a misuse of Scripture. Indeed, when this kind of teaching began to emerge in the Early Church, Paul identified its proponents as “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5, ESV).
This “Prosperity Theology” is motivated by greed, not worship. Though gaining wealth is not a sin, the Bible repeatedly warns against becoming a lover of money and being consumed with financial gain. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, ESV).
God does promise blessings for those who tithe, but this in no way obligates Him to make you financially rich. He may choose to do so, or He may bless you in other ways. A quick scan through Scripture and Church history will show that there are plenty of God-honouring people—including Jesus Himself—who were poor and remained poor. As Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58, ESV).
Myth #5: Tithing is a Church-devised system to pay the bills. The Church did not invent the concept of tithing as a way to get your money. Rather, tithing is a practice rooted in the Bible—in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was instituted by God, not by the Church, and is intended for His glory. “Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” (Proverbs 3:9, NLT).
Plus, tithing is for the individual’s benefit, not just the church’s. Giving reinforces the priority of God in your life and paves the way for spiritual growth. It also provides an opportunity to partner with what God is doing.
By peeling away the myths about tithing, you can begin to see it for what it was designed to be. Plus, you can begin to grasp the opportunity and the blessing that it really is.