Rebuttal of Tom Brown Ministries on Tithing
TOM BROWN MINISTRIES
Brown: Tithing began before the law was introduced.
Kelly: The fact that tithing existed before the law proves nothing. Idolatry, child sacrifice and temple prostitution also existed before the law in all lands of Abraham's day, including Canaan. The fact that something is very old and very common does not make it an eternal moral principle.
Brown: The Law simply regulated the tithe.
Kelly: No. The tithe of Abraham and Jacob had its definition from pagan Babylon and was not the same thing as a holy tithe of ONLY FOOD from a holy land miraculously increased by Yahweh and returned to Yahweh. The two definitions are very different.
Brown: Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, 400 years before the time of Moses and the Law,
Kelly: Why? The Bible does not say that Abraham did it voluntarily. There is just as much biblical evidence from Genesis 14:21 that he gave in obedience to common Canaanite tradition to his local priest-king, or as a passage tax.
Brown: … and according to Romans 4:12 we are to walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham. If tithing was good for him, it should be good for us, too.
Kelly: This stretches the facts. Was it "good" for Abraham to lie about his wife? He was given much wealth because of that lie in Genesis 12. Abraham was NOT enriched because of his tithe in Genesis 14. Only that which Abraham did by faith is an example for Christians and the Bible does not say that he tithed by faith or voluntarily.
Brown: We give tithes like Abraham gave them—not by the Law but by faith.
Kelly: No, we do not give tithes like Abraham. Nothing Abraham did concerning tithes is followed by you or the Church today. (1) Only pagan spoils of war, (2) not his own property, (3) he kept nothing, (4) he gave the 90% to the king of Sodom (?Satan?). Jacob probably left his tithe for the poor at stone altars.
Brown: And beside that, if the people of God paid ten percent before the Law, and ten percent under the Law, shouldn't we, who live by grace, be doing any less when we have a better covenant (Heb 7:22).
Kelly: This is the greatest lie of tithe-teachers. It builds upon a false assumption to reach an even more false conclusion. It falsely assumes that everybody in the OT was required to begin their level of giving at ten percent of income. In reality only the food producers inside Israel qualified as tithe-payers. The vast majority in Israel were pushed off the land within three-four generations because of double-to-the-firstborn inheritance laws. Craftsmen (Jesus), tradesmen (Paul) and fishermen (Peter) had nothing to tithe even if they stayed inside Israel.
Brown: There is a passage in Hebrews, which deals with this issue directly. It is Hebrews 7:8: In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.
Melchizedek received Abraham’s tithe. The Hebrew writer shows that Melchizedek is a prefigure of Christ. We can conclude that just as Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek we give a tithe to Christ who is declared to be living.
Kelly: Why don't tithe-teachers ever go beyond 7:10? Notice that Hebrews 7 does not contain a command to the Church to tithe. It merely uses tithing as a vehicle to demonstrate that Jesus' priesthood is superior to and replaced the Levitical priesthood.
You like the "first occurrence" rule. Try this one. Hebrews 7:5 is the "first occurrence" of the words "commandment," "tithes" and "law" in Hebrews. Verse 5 says that the priests have a "commandment to take tithes according to the law." Verse 12 says that it was "necessary to change the law." What law? --the law of tithing from verse 5! And how was that "law of tithing" from verse 5 "changed"? According to verse 18 the "commandment (of tithing) going before" from verse 5 was "disannulled" because of the better New Covenant in 7:19. How much clearer can something be?
Brown: Some people think this is a new issue. It is as old as the second century when more and more Gentiles were being converted.
Kelly: Wrong. Since tithes were always only food from inside Israel, it was never even considered by Gentiles or Jews outside Israel.
Brown: The early Jewish believers had no problem with tithing since they had done it under the Law and gave it to the priests. They simply gave their tithe to the elders of the church and did by love.
Kelly: Biblically and historically wrong. According to Acts 21:20 the Jewish Christians in Judea were still paying tithes to the Temple system and not the church. History reveals that this Jerusalem church apostatized and became the legalistic Ebionites and Ekiasites who rejected Paul and Gentile Christians in favor of strict law adherence.
Brown: However, as the church became less Jewish this issue came up to the church fathers.
Kelly: Wrong. The very earliest church fathers from the first and second century all dismissed tithing as a purely Jewish custom. See Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Around AD 250 Cyprian tried unsuccessfully to teach a type of tithing among extreme ascetics and failed. Even then his tithe was shared equally among all church members.
Brown: They answered the question of tithing with Matthew 23:23:
Kelly: Wrong. You are inventing your own version of early church history. Church leaders prided themselves for being the poorest of the poor. Extreme asceticism -- being poor was holy to them. The monasteries were built on Jesus' words from Luke 18:22 "sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Check this out in about a dozen of the best seminary textbooks on church history.
Brown: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Notice Jesus said, "You should have practiced the latter (justice, mercy and faithfulness), without neglecting the former (tithing)."
Kelly: Why did you omit "matters of the law" in your bolded quotation? Appears dishonest. The context of Mt 23:23 is "matters of the law" before Calvary. Jesus was rebuking tithe-teaching scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. See Mt 23:2-4 for context.
Brown: The fathers argued, and rightful so, that Jesus' word ends the discussion.
Kelly: Not so. The earliest church fathers wholeheartedly rejected tithing as a purely Jewish tradition to support the Temple and the Aaronic priesthood. The earliest fathers emphasized the priesthood of every believer (which do not tithe to themselves). Only after becoming a legal state religion after AD 325 did Chrysostum and Augustine argue UNSUCCESSFULLY for tithing to support the state church. Read your own history books.
Brown: Since Jesus said not to neglect the former—being tithing—then no believer should neglect tithing. I wholeheartedly agree!
Kelly: The tithing statute-ordinance is Numbers 18. According to Galatians 4:4-5 Jesus was a Jew under the jurisdiction of the law and, as such, perfectly obeyed all of the law in order to live a sinless life and redeem those Hebrews who were under the law.
Since you "wholeheartedly agree" that Christians should "not neglect tithing" as Jesus taught in Matthew 23:23, then why do you not obey everything that the law taught about tithing from Matt 23:23 and Numbers 18? (1) tithe garden herbs, (2) only tithe food from inside Israel, (3) only allow preachers inside the sanctuary, (4) kill anybody who dares to worship God as a believer-priest and (5) forfeit property ownership. If you own property, are you not guilty of breaking the same tithing law you profess to defend?
Brown: Some argue that Jesus' words are not applicable to us today, because Jesus was under the Law and spoke to those under the Law. Their theory goes something like this: Jesus was giving an instruction to the Jews so His words are not binding to us.
Kelly: The WOF principle-hermeneutic that "Jesus' word ends the discussion" is woefully inadequate. For example, Jesus commanded those Jews whom he healed to show themselves to the priests, but he did not command the Gentiles whom he healed to do the same thing. Jesus' words must be understood in the context of the covenant involved and to whom he was speaking. Failure to do so causes confusion and error.
Baker: The problem with this interpretation is that these teachers are bringing Christ down to the level of a Jewish prophet or Teacher of the Law.
Kelly: This is a build-up to saying "Do not challenge God's WOF preachers. 2 Tim 2:15 says "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." It is clear that "rightly dividing the word of truth" demands one look at the context, covenant and audience of each word of Scripture. Jesus did not say the same things to both Jews and Gentiles because there were two different covenants involved.
Brown: Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, so this means every word that comes out of His mouth is eternal.
Kelly: Gibberish. Every word in the Bible is eternally inscribed, including the erroneous arguments of those who oppose the Gospel. When Jesus said to the woman at the well, "I thirst," it meant that he was thirsty. The WOF turns every word into some magic witchcraft potion of Galatians 3:1.
Brown: He cannot say anything without it being “spiritual law” and everlasting.
Kelly: More WOF nonsense. Does this mean that modern Jews who are healed must show themselves to the Jewish priests at the Jewish Temple? Does this mean that churches must collect tithes of garden herbs? Does this mean that fishermen must only throw their nets over the RIGHT side of the boat? Was there a spiritual law involved when Jesus said that he had no pillow to lay his head? This is WOF gibberish to avoid honest study.
Brown: Jesus emphasizes this point by saying, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt 24:35).
Kelly: The last I looked, the Bible is still with us today in Greek, Hebrew, English and other translations. The authority is in the context of the words -- not the words themselves.
Brown: These supposed Bible teachers are making the words of Jesus pass away—obsolete and out of date.
Kelly: No, we ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom to understand them in the context of the audience, covenant and evident meaning. On the other hand, you have taken the word "tithe" out of context. In 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe, it is never money. And, yes, money was very common even in Genesis and "money" occurs 44 times before "tithe" occurs in Leviticus 27 -- but tithes were never money for over 1500 years from Leviticus to Luke.
Brown: Besides, these same teachers pick and choose which teachings of Christ in the gospels they believe is applicable to us.
Kelly: What is your hermeneutic? Ours is this: Nothing in the Old Covenant law applies to New Covenant Christians except that which is repeated to the Church AFTER Calvary in terms of the New Covenant." Again, what is your consistent hermeneutic? You are the one who is "picking and choosing."
Brown: I notice that even these teachers agree that most of Christ’ teachings are for us; however, because they are predisposed against tithing, they have had to come up with an excuse for not obeying the clear word of Christ in Mathew 23:23.
Kelly: You speak and write as if the New Covenant began with Matthew 1:1 instead of at Calvary when Jesus died and cried "It is finished." The New Covenant was sealed at Calvary when the blood of the New Covenant was shed. Much of what Jesus taught was in the context of the Old Covenant. That which Jesus spoke for the Church is clearly found AGAIN in the pages of God's Word AFTER Calvary. Again, do not criticize us if you cannot even state your own operational hermeneutic.
Brown: As a believer, you have to show who your Lord is! Is it the teachers who tell you tithing is not New Testament and who tell you that Jesus' word on the subject is out of date; or is it Jesus who clearly told us not to neglect tithing?
Kelly: Is the LORD behind the filthy rich preachers who fleece millions like Paul predicted in Acts 20:29-35 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Over 1000 years before Calvary, David prophesied that the Aaronic priesthood would someday be replaced with a priesthood after the ORDER of a king-priest, Melchizedek in Ps 110:4. Follow the sequence: (1) In Hebrews 7:5 we find the first occurrence of "commandment," "tithes" and "law." Priests are commanded to take tithes according to the law. (2) In 7:12 there is a "necessary change of the law" of tithing from 7:5. What is that change? (3) In 7:18 the "commandment going before" of tithing from 7:5 was "disannulled" because of the better (new) covenant of 7:19. The tithing law was NOT CHANGED to the Church. Rather it was DISANNULLED.
Brown: No modern teacher has the right to tell you to disobey Jesus instruction on tithing. Period!
Kelly: No modern teacher has the right to tell you to obey every single word Jesus taught and ignore the context of the covenant and audience of those words. That is spiritual WOF voodoo.
Brown: Even if the only passages in the New Testament was Jesus word, then that would be sufficient,
Kelly: Really? There is much in your church which is not found in the Gospels.
Brown: however, I want to present other New Testament passages on the subject. Let’s look at Paul’s teaching on giving.
Kelly: The assumption of "other New Testament passages" is false. Again, concerning obedience to the Law, Matthew 23:23 is in the context of pre-Calvary Old Testament teaching addressed primarily to Jews.
Brown: Paul also uses the pattern of tithing under the law in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 and says,
13 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
Paul argues that just as the priests got their food from the tithes of the people, so the preachers should live the same way.
Kelly: The passage quoted is self-defeating. Compare Numbers 18. (1) 1 Cor 9:13 includes ALL forms of sustenance for the Levites and priests ---not merely tithing. (2) The food could only come from inside Israel. (3) The sustenance includes firstborn animals, and firstfruits of all agricultural produces from inside Israel. (4) It includes portions of sin and trespass sacrificial animals. (5) It includes gifts and vow offerings. And (6) it was only given to those who were not allowed to own or inherit property.
If the "even so, just as, in the same way" phrase which begins 9:14 ONLY refers to 9:13, then the Church is being commanded to copy EXACTLY all forms of sustenance included in 9:13 --which is totally absurd.
If the "even so, just as, in the same manner" of 9:14 includes 9:7 to 9:13, then we see a principle being taught. "Each occupation or vocation has its own different forms of sustenance. (1) Soldiers receive war booty. (2) Grape-growers drink the wine. (3) Herdsmen drink the milk. (4) Grinders eat the meal they grind. (5) Temple workers are sustained by law-principles. And (6) gospel workers are sustained by gospel principles of grace and faith. Context, context, context.
Brown: This passage clearly shows the mentality of the apostle and his understanding of carrying over the concept of tithing into the church.
Kelly: Wrong. As a first century rabbi Paul considered it a sin to be paid for teaching the Word of God (see Alfred Edersheim and others). Paul boasted that he was self-supporting in 9:12, 15-19. Paul was not guilty of his own rule in 9:14. Paul urged church elders to follow his example of self-support in Acts 20:29-35. None of this makes sense if Paul commanded gospel workers to be fully supported by tithes.
Brown: The passage often used to contradict this is 2 Corinthians 9:7:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The argument goes something like this: "Each believer has a right to decide for himself what to give and should not be told what percentage he should contribute."
Kelly: Too harsh. Each believer who is a new creation in Christ should also have new desires to see souls saved. That means that they will give to the best of their ability, even sacrificially. The equality principle of 2nd Corinthians 8:12-14 means that many should give more (than 10%) but many are giving sacrificially (even though less than 10%).
Brown: The problem with this argument is that the above passage is not dealing with giving to support the church, but rather giving to the poor.
Kelly: There are no New Covenant post-Calvary texts which command that gospel workers must be full time.
Brown: Under the Law, giving to the poor was a freewill offering. The Law commanded freewill offerings as well as tithes:
But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (Deut 12:5-6)
Kelly: You contradict yourself. Was it a 3rd tithe or was it a freewill offering? Do you teach that tithes should really be 23 1/3rd%? Why not? What gives you the right to only teach one tithe of 10%. The passage discussed BOTH the third tithe AND freewill offerings.
Brown: It is quite inconsistent for people to appeal to freewill offerings yet claim that tithing has been abolished. Both tithing and freewill offerings were incorporated in the Law as the above passage shows, but they preceded the Law, thus they both should be practiced.
Kelly: This is terrible reasoning. The same can be said of multiple marriages, Saturday Sabbath, circumcision, unclean foods and animal sacrifices. You do not have a consistent hermeneutic. The Old Covenant law was only given to national Israel per Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 27:34; Malachi 4:4 and many more texts.
Brown: The burden of proof is placed on those who teach that tithing has been abolished. If so, where in the New Testament does it clearly say that tithing has been abolished?
Kelly: ANSWER: From http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id171.html
Where in the Bible Were Tithes Abolished?
1. WHO #1: The Levitical servants to the priests who received the first whole tithe have been abolished. See Numbers 18:21-24. Modern equivalents to the Levites are unpaid ushers, deacons, choir, musicians, etc.
2. WHO #2: OT priests who received a tenth of the tithe (only 1 per cent) have been abolished. See Num 18:25-28 and Neh 10:38.
3. WHAT: The definition of tithes as only food miraculously increased by God from inside His holy land of Israel has been abolished and replaced with the false unbiblical definition of income. See Leviticus 27:30-34 and 14 other texts which describe the contents of the tithe. Yet money was common in Genesis.
4. WHERE: The destination of the OT tithes first to the Levitical cities some to the Temple has been abolished. See Neh 10:37b and Mal 3:10.
5. WHEN: The time to tithe has been abolished. The Levitical tithe was paid yearly in the Levitical cities. The second festival tithe was eaten at the three festivals. The third poor tithe was kept in the home every third year. Tithes totaled 23 1/3 per cent.
6. WHY #1: The covenant which prescribed them was abolished per Heb 8:8-13; Gal 4:21-26' 2 Cor 3:6-10.
7. WHY #2: The "commandment" for Levites and priests to collect tithes was "annulled" per Hebrews 7:5, 12, 18.
8. WHY #3: The law which condemned believers has been rendered of no effect when the believer died in Christ per Romans 7:4. No law can tell a dead person what to do.
9. HOW #1: Jesus abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances per Eph 2:13. Tithing was an ordinance per Num 18.
10. HOW $2: Jesus blotted out the handwriting of ordinances, per Col 2:14. Tithing was an ordinance per Num 18.
11. HOW #3: The Temple which tithes supported was abolished in AD 70. God's temple is now within each believer per 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19-20.
12. HOW #4: The priesthood which was supported by tithes was abolished in AD 70. God's priesthood is now within every believer per 1st Peter 2:9-10.
13. HOW #5: The blessings and curses of tithing as part of the whole law have been abolished per Galatians 3:10-13.
Would you continue to send money to a church after
1. The building is destroyed?
2. The preacher has been defrocked?
3. The workers have found other jobs?
4. The members have all left?
5. The land has been inhabited by non religious people?
6. The purpose for the church no longer exists?
7. You have died?
Now that I have produced your "burden of proof" it is only decent for you to reply to each point or recant.
Brown: One last thing, notice the resemblance of the language Paul uses in the first passage in Galatians and compare it with the Old Testament passage about tithing:
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. (Gal 6:6)
And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. (Deut 26:11-12)
Galatians 6 is dealing with giving to the teacher of the gospel and he uses the same language about the Levites receiving the tithe of the people and he calls it "all good things." This is pretty good internal evidence that the early church tithed to the ministers of the gospel, although, I admit it is not explicit evidence.
Kelly: It is Word of Faith voodoo which totally ignores the context. Paul had previously said in Galatians 3:1-5 that adding works of law back to the gospel is witchcraft. In 3:10 he wrote that one must "continue in all things in the law" in order to be blessed for keeping the law. That means that one cannot expect God to bless under the New Covenant because of obedience to the Old Covenant law of tithing while breaking many of the other 600+ commandments. The whole law was a test --not merely tithing. Obey all to be blessed; break one to be cursed. In Galatians 3:19 "the law was added until the seed should come" and "vanished" at Calvary (Heb 8:13). Gal 3:25 "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
(1) I can provide 16 texts which describe the contents of the biblical tithe as only food from inside Israel. Where are your texts to the contrary?
(2) I can provide many texts which say that the Old Covenant law was only given to national Israel and not the Church or Gentiles. Where are your texts to the contrary?
(3) I can provide Numbers 18 which is the statute of tithing from the law. Why do you not obey anything in this statute? Why do you not give the first whole tithe to your ushers, deacons, choir, musicians, etc? Why do you not forfeit property ownership? Are you not asking for the tithe under the false pretense that only you are a legitimate New Covenant priest?
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD