Larry: Hi Russell. I received your email and I’m aware that you have a passion regarding the issue of tithing. You’ve done a lot of reading and research. I pray that your motives are pure and if they are that God rewards your diligence.
Russ: My passion is similar to that of Martin Luther and John Calvin (who agree with me concerning tithing). I believe that the Protestant Reformation is not complete as long as tithing shackles the church with this vestige of the law. I have done a "lot of reading on the subject" and wrote my PHD thesis on tithing. Dr. David Croteau (now at Liberty University) has followed me and done the same thing. His reader, Dr. Craig Blomberg at Denver Seminary and Dr. John MacArthur also agree with me.
Larry: The scriptural support for my statements about giving are documented on the balance of my website, in my books, in my brochures and in my podcasts. I’m not sure why you made your last statement. I don’t ever remember saying that joy was a requirement of tithing (although Paul clearly states that God desires cheerful giving).
Russ: Please give me the Internet addresses of your previous writings and I will certainly read them. I read everything I can on the subject even though I am legally blind.
Larry: I welcome a dialogue, but I won’t let the blog be used as a referendum on tithing because (as I stated) I think it detracts from our seeing God’s purpose in the process.
Russ: I can understand your desire not to let somebody else take over your blog. You are welcome to join our Yahoo Tithing-Study Group and try to convince several hundred of us of your viewpoint. However, nothing detracts from "seeing God's purposes" when the truth is being sought in a Berean fashion. Otherwise great portions of the New Testament would not exist where tradition was met face to face with truth by Jesus, Peter and Paul.
Larry: I don’t see how the argument benefits the body.
Russ: TRUTH benefits the body! The body should be eager to explore both sides of every doctrine and determine for themselves as believer-priests what is right. There is no hierarchy of leadership to make these decisions for us --they should only advise.
Larry: You previously summarized for me some of the biblical support for your opposition to the teaching of tithing.
Russ: I have a 19 point essay, a two hour video of that essay, a 288 page book and almost 175 articles. In almost nine years no church leader has seriously attempted to point out my biblical, hermeneutical or historical errors. Surely, if I am wrong, somebody should be able to point out at least one error. The whole argument begins with an incorrect definition of the word "tithe" from the way it is used in its biblical context.
Larry: I hold the position that God desires our total surrender.
Russ: I do also. New Covenant giving is far superior to Old Covenant giving, not because it is built on law, but because it comes from the heart of the believer who wants to see the kingdom of God advanced. We see this especially in 2nd Corinthians 8 where Paul said that the very poor and very oppressed believers gave above and beyond their ability. Why? Because they loved God and the brethren.
Larry: I view tithing as a step not a destination in the process. One can’t get to 100% without first passing 10%.
Russ: Your viewpoint has absolutely no biblical validity. Contrary to extremely popular sentiment, the Old Covenant only required tithes from food producers who lived inside Israel (and you know that it true). Not even Jesus, Peter or Paul qualified as tithe-payers because their increase as carpenters, fishermen and tentmakers did not come as a miracle from God's hand. Money occurs 44 times before the tithe is mentioned in Leviticus 27 and money was required for sanctuary worship, but money was not a tithe-able item. God was trying to tell us something there.
A poor but gifted believer can get to 100% by faith and the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The heart does not even consider a percentage when giving and neither should the church. There is no such biblical standard of the tithe as the minimum, beginning place, expectation, good place to start or training wheels. That is man-made to create a false guilt complex which is wrong.
Larry: The principle of tithing is introduced in scripture in the giving of the patriarchs before there was “the Law” or a “Jewish” nation. Abraham and Isaac were not Jews.
Russ: What we see in Genesis 14 and 22 is a pagan custom and not a holy tithe from a holy land. If Abraham and Jacob's tithes were so important, why did not Moses use them as an example in the Law? It can be easily demonstrated that all pagan nations of Abraham's time had the tithe along with idolatry, child sacrifice and temple prostitution. The fact that something is very old and very common does not make it also moral and eternal. Your logic is faulty. Also, the Bible does not say that Abraham freely and voluntarily chose to give a tithe from spoils of war to his local priest-king. Such was required in Canaanite culture concerning spoils of war to the local priest-king.
Nothing Abraham did concerning tithing is followed by the church today, so why is he used as an example? (1) only pagan spoils of war, (2) only once recorded, (3) not his own property, (4) kept nothing and (5) gave the 90% to the king of Sodom. Which of these do you teach your flock?
Larry: Jesus sanctioned the practice in Matt 23:23, but when He did so He also stated that the tithe alone was not enough.
Russ: Hermeneutics destroys this argument in the verse itself without even looking at the chapter context (which also destroys it). (1) Jesus was condemning the scribes and Pharisees for making the law of tithing a burden by adding garden herbs, (2) Jesus was discussing "matters of the law" while the law was in full force, (3) Jesus could not have told his Gentiles disciples to tithe because it was illegal and (4) what church literally obeys Jesus here and accepts tithes of garden herbs?
Larry: My message is about much more than a fixation on quantity.
Russ: You are fixed on ten per cent and will not let it go. If you literally obeyed the tithing statute of Numbers 18 (1) you would only allow pastors inside the sanctuary, (2) you would give the tithe to your ushers, deacons, choir, musicians, etc, (3) you would kill anybody who dared to worship God directly, (4) pastors would only receive a tenth of the tenth and (5) pastors would not own or inherit property. The whole thing is a scam and a sham.
Larry: One can tithe and still not please God with their giving. Both Isaiah 1 and Malachi 1 also demonstrate God’s rejection of giving that doesn’t meet a higher standard.
Russ: One can NOT-tithe and still please God. There are tens of thousands of very gifted church members who are shut out from leadership and teaching simply because they are not able to give tithes. They obey Paul in 1st Timothy 5:8 and spend their first-income on medicine, food and essential shelter. Churches today are run by the very crowd which is condemned in James 2 and tithing has been added to the qualifications of elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus. You know I am correct.
Larry: The focus of my message is on that “higher standard” and God’s purposes in the process.
Russ: Yes, but the "higher standard" is not tithing-plus. Why? There never was a universal "standard" in the OT because the tithe only involved food producers inside Israel. I have 16 texts to demonstrate this and you have none to disagree.
Russell Earl Kelly