Reply to Sufism and Spiritual Quality
Suf: I don’t believe that the new covenant believer is commanded anywhere in the Bible to give ten percent of his income to God.
Kelly: You define tithe wrong. Biblical tithes were always only food from inside Israel. Although money was common even in Genesis, money was never included in 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers and neither did those who lived outside Israel.
Suf: If, having read this article, you still believe the Bible specifically commands us to tithe, then you should practice and teach it.
Kelly: Nobody can practice tithing today because the definition of only food from inside Israel never changed for over 1500 years from Leviticus to Luke.
Suf: Levitical Tithe: The first was a Levitical tithe in which ten percent of everything earned or grown was required to support the Levites and priests as they served in the tabernacle.
Kelly: You are defining tithe wrong. It was never something earned. The increase was due to a miracle from God from inside Israel.
Suf: This tithe was necessary because the Levites could not earn their own livelihood and work in the tabernacle at the same time. It was used to support the national priestly program. …….
Kelly: This is mostly false. Read Numbers 25 and Joshua 20 and 21. Also study on the 24 courses of Levites and priests. The Levites and priests lived on loaned land and worked as farmers and herdsmen of tithed animals. They also worked trades necessary to building and maintaining the Temple. They only worked in the Temple one week out of 24 per 1 Chronicles 23 to 26.
Suf: When I taught this to my congregation I always assured them that while we believed their interpretation was faulty, if they insisted on giving according to the Mosaic law of tithing they must give not ten, but at least twenty percent—and we would be happy to receive it!
Suf: It is significant that nowhere in the New Testament is the new covenant believer commanded to tithe. As a matter of fact, there is no text in all of Scripture that commands God’s people to give a mere ten percent to God!
Kelly: It is very significant. So do not reintroduce it wearing a mask.
Suf: In light of what I’ve just written, you will probably be surprised to learn that I still believe in using the giving of a tithe as a guideline in leading God’s people into faithful stewardship. When preaching on stewardship in my church I taught that, while the giving of a tithe is not a biblical command, it is a helpful guideline to use in planning our giving. I showed them what the New Testament had to say about generous, sacrificial, and proportionate giving. I then told my people, "I’m convinced that American Christians are so prosperous that if we don’t start by giving a minimum of ten percent of our income to the Lord, we can’t possibly be fulfilling New Testament principles of giving.
Kelly: This conclusion is dishonest and deceitful. It is based on the false assumption that everybody in the Old Covenant began their level of giving at ten per cent. However only food producers who lived inside Israel qualified as tithe-payers. Your reason for ignoring this is evident now. You have taken the tithe out of one hand and passed it behind your back to reintroduce it under a false pretense. Shame on you.
NT giving is indeed freewill, generous, sacrificial, joyful, motivated by love for God and love for lost souls. That means much more than 10% for many. But it means much less than 10% for others which you do not consider. First Timothy 5:8 must be considered. Many very good Christians must give their income first for medicine, food, shelter and other essential. It is wrong to call tithes firstfruits when biblical firstfruits were very small token offerings.
Please stop using the word tithe altogether. You are so close to being correct.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD