Reply to Tim Guthrie, Eklund Stewardship Ministries, Dec 9, 2009
1. Was the tithe only for Israel?Kelly: God owned everything in the OT also but He never accepted tithes from outside of his holy land of Israel. Since the true biblical tithe was always only food from inside Israel and could only be given by an Israelite under the Old Covenant, then one must conclude that the tithe was only for Israel. Tithes could not be accepted from outside Israel off defiled pagan dust. And tithes could not be accepted from the products of man's hand such as carpentry or tentmaking. The increase was miraculously provided by God through crops and herds.
2. Though much is said in the New Testament about giving and even some mentions of tithing, is it true that after the cross the tithe was to cease?
Kelly: Everything about the tithe ended at Calvary. a) Its covenant ended, b) its temple ended, c) its priesthood ended, d) its Levitical cities ended and its purpose to support those who did not own land ended.
3. Does "grace giving" mean that NO standard of tithing exists?
Kelly: Levitical tithing was pure cold hard law and was expected whether one wanted to tithe or not. If you were a food producer inside Israel, you were expected to tithe. Freewill offerings were always examples of grace giving. According to 2nd Cor 8:12-14 many should give more than ten per cent and many are giving sacrificially even though less than ten per cent. Tithes were never the same as firstfruits according to Deu 26:1-4 and Neh 10:35-38. Firstfruits were very small token offerings. According to First Timothy 5:8 the Christian's first should go to buy essential medicine, food and shelter --not to the church. Church which teach firstfruit tithing are stealing medicine and food from many poor church members who are intimidated and fearful to avoid being cursed.
4. How is it that there is so much confusion over the subject of tithing?
Kelly: Most churches confuse the application of the Old Covenant and the Law. God never commanded anybody other than national Israel to keep the whole law, including the statutes which included tithing. The New Covenant takes that which is eternal and moral from God's character and repeats it in the New Covenant in terms of grace and faith. And tithing was not repeated; neither was the prohibition for ministers not to own property.
5. Why do things like adultery get certain treatment in the OT that tithing does not get?
Kelly: Again, the eternal moral law which was found throughout the commandments, statutes and judgments was re-stated and repeated after Calvary to the Church in terms of grace and faith. The "Thou shalt nots" were replaced by "You will" because of the new creation and indwelling Holy Spirit.
6. Is there a Biblical Standard for those of us alive today in regards to tithing and giving?
Kelly: The entire Old Covenant (not the Old Testament) ended at Calvary according to Hebrews 8:13. New Covenant "tithing" is built on the false assumption that the Law required everybody to BEGIN their level of giving at ten per cent. That is wrong. There never was a minimum STANDARD to use as a guideline unless you were a food producer who lived inside Israel. Since there was no real OT standard, then it is wrong to teach that Christians should BEING at the OT standard. New Covenant giving principles in 2nd Cor 8 and 9 suggest that each should give according to their ability as the Spirit leads. Again, for many this means more than ten per cent while many are giving sacrificially even though less than ten per cent.
7. The danger with a subject like tithing is that often people approach it from a position that they hold or would like to hold and thus they set out to prove their case.
Kelly: You are doing that when you ignore the plain biblical definition of the tithe and use a secular definition. Although money was very common even in Genesis and essential for sanctuary worship, money is never included in 16 texts which describe the contents of the tithe. Your hermeneutic assumes that the Church is still bound to observe the Law which you incorrectly infer means the Ten Commandments (minus the Sabbath) plus tithing. You do not follow a consistent hermeneutic when determining what to bring over from the Old Covenant into the New.
8. Some may even suggest that I could be approaching the subject from a "I believe it" position and thus that I am setting out to do the same. Before anyone jumps to conclusions I simply ask that you follow along and watch and read and pray! You just might be surprised in the whole of the series.
Kelly: I cannot wait. I have already been waiting since January 2001 to enter an extended dialog with any SBC leader about tithing. The truth will set us free.
Russell Earl Kelly to Tim Guthrie