Amid debates over whether Christians should tithe to their local church, 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 Early Kelly insists that biblical tithing was never commanded as an eternal moral principle of the New Covenant to the Church. Although he supports freewill-offering, he clearly stated that a mandatory 10 percent is unscriptural.
His statements come as a recent study - "The State of Church Giving Through 2004" - revealed church members giving less of their income. The figure decreased from 3.11 percent in 1968 to 2.56 percent in 2004, which are both well below the 10 percent tithe.
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 national Israel under the Old Covenant. In any case, Kelly stresses the "biblical fact" that the poor did not pay any tithes.
"Circumstances are different from household to household. God understands. Let us not forget the saying 'little is much if God is in it," said Kelly in his book. "The grace principle of 'equality giving' refers to giving as much as one is able. This does not mean that everybody is to give the same percentage."
Kelly references the apostle Paul, indicating that giving to the churches is "voluntary" and that there is no set percentage.
"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 un-ethical to preach out-of-context proof texts about tithing sermons only from Malachi and Genesis 14."
Research among clergy and laity earlier in the year found that while most ministers say Christians are under a biblical mandate to tithe, most people in the pews do not believe the same.
Ellison Research released a study in March that also revealed mixed responses on what the 10 percent should be figured on. Churchgoers were nearly equally split on whether tithe should come from net income or gross income while clergy agreed more on the "gross income."
Both groups were also 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 Barna Group study last year found that most Americans donated money to non-profit organizations but few tithed in 2004. According to the research group, 23 percent of evangelicals gave tithe and only 9 percent of born again adults tithed to churches.
As giving to churches continues on a downward trend, Kelly urges, "We simply request a close re-examination of God's Word concerning tithing."