Rebuttal of Jack Heyford on Tithing by Russell Earl Kelly
February 22, 2011
[Reply and dialog will be welcome.]
Heyford: The Tithe..."We should be preaching and teaching on tithing, but we must first understand what Jesus said about it."
Kelly: We should only teach what the New Covenant after Calvary teaches about tithing. Christians have always only been under the New Covenant.
Heyford: LIAR: fear of assertively preaching the promise and blessing of tithing; LIAR: doubt regarding its applicability to the New Testament believer.
Kelly: Fear and doubt are only LIARS if the doctrine is a sound post-Calvary New Covenant doctrine for the Church.
Heyford: Yes, it's a covenant!
Kelly: Typical of Heyford and other Word-of-Faith teachers, he never explains what he means by saying that tithing is a covenant. In fact, the tithing statute of Numbers 18 is clearly part of a covenant – the Old Covenant which God only commanded national Israel under Moses (Ex 19:5-6).
Heyford: God's Word clearly reveals tithing as a God-ordered financial discipline, with wonderful promises attached and underwritten with a covenant of promise by Father God Himself.
Kelly: Tithing was always only a financial commandment for O.T. Hebrews who lived inside God’s holy land of Israel. True holy biblical tithes were always only food from God’s holy land which he had miraculously increased. Tithes could not come from what man increased, from Gentiles or from outside Israel. Period. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers and nobody qualifies today.
Heyford: In Malachi 3: 8-12, the prophet makes bold in the name of the Lord, saying in no uncertain terms that to not tithe is to play the role of a thief stealing from God!
Kelly: In Malachi 1:6 and 2:1 the prophet said in no uncertain terms that he was speaking to the dishonest priests of Old Covenant Israel. The prophet correctly limited the tithe to food per Leviticus 27:30-34. The people knew that the whole law was a test: obey all to be blessed; disobey one to be cursed. A Hebrew could not be blessed for tithing while, at the same time, breaking other parts of the law.
Heyford: Looking at the elements of the covenant, God's target in the tithe unfolds.
Kelly: In Nehemiah 10:29 Malachi’s audience entered into a COVENANT-curse and made vows to obey the entire Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, or else bring a curse upon themselves. That is the context.
Heyford: God intends the tithe to be an overflowing with grace, tenderness and a benevolence that calls every Bible believer to embrace the habit of tithing—and to add offerings as well.
Kelly: Heyford gives no Bible texts to validate this statement. The Old Covenant Law, including tithing, was a barrier to exclude Gentiles who were not permitted to bring tithes to the Levites.
Heyford: Some say: "Tithing's only in the Old Testament!"
Kelly: There is not a single post-Calvary text where God commands the Church to tithe – and Heyford gives no text.
Heyford: This idea mistakenly verbalizes the biblically unexegetable notion that tithing is "only required by the law" and is therefore not incumbent upon New Testament believers.
Kelly: Tithe-teachers will not debate and present their sound and consistent hermeneutics (principles of interpretation). They boldly make statements but will not defend them in an honest extended dialog.
Heyford: Of course a half-truth (the problem with most errors) is that tithing isn't incumbent upon us—not for our salvation or for our hope of heaven's fullness and eternal riches!
Kelly: What is the “half-truth” here? Heyford does not explain his statement. Is it “half-true” that tithing is not essential for salvation? Is it “half-true” that tithing is not required for our hope of heaven’s fullness and eternal riches”? What half of these statements are true?
Heyford: However, the practical promises within God's proffered covenant of the tithe cannot be expected apart from the faith and the will to participate in the terms of the covenant.
Kelly: Again, I ask “What covenant?” According to Deut 27:26 and Gal 3:10 the “terms” of the Old Covenant were “obey all to be blessed; break one to be cursed.” According to Numbers 18, the “terms” for tithe-recipients is that (1) they must be from the tribe of Levi, (2) cannot own or inherit property in Israel and (3) must kill anybody attempting to enter the sanctuary. Why are these covenant terms of the tithing statute not still applied to tithe-recipients?
Heyford: My pastoral call to "tithes and offerings" is not a revocation of the believer's liberty—"into law and out of grace."
Kelly: it certainly is. It places New Covenant believers under the “annulled” Old Covenant for financial blessings (Heb 7:5, 12, 18). It creates the condition Paul called “witchcraft” by adding law back to grace and adds Paul’s personal curse to believers for failing to believe the gospel he preached (Gal 3:1; 1:7-8).
Heyford: Nor is it any more a regression to legalism than it is a veiled effort at helping fund the church's programs.
Kelly: You have no precedent. (1) O.T. tithes could only support O.T. Levites and priests; today all believers are N.T. priests. (2) O.T. tithes could not be used for Temple expenses and (3) O.T. tithes were never used for mission projects; there is no biblical precedent to use tithes for missionaries.
Heyford: I issue this biblical call because I want a congregation that is burst from the bonds of fear, and into the abundance of God's grace-filled promises of economic adequacy and spiritual liberty.
Kelly: The blessings and curses of tithing are not “grace filled”; they are cold hard law and the word “grace” does not occur in tithing texts. Threatening poor believers who cannot pay for medicine, food and shelter with an Old Covenant CURSE places bonds of fear on them. For Paul in his prison cell, “economic adequacy” was the bare minimum to survive.
Heyford: Yes, it's in the New Covenant!
Kelly: Read on. Heyford does not know the difference between what man calls the New Testament and the New Covanant.
Heyford: Not only is the truth of the tithe in both testaments, but the New Testament approaches tithing as being timeless and as always being offered by grace, not law!
Kelly: Texts please.
Heyford: Never make the mistake of failing to remember that all God's blessings and covenants are always a gift of His grace, always initiated in His love and always sustained by His mercy.
Kelly: Never make the mistake of failing to remember that not all God’s covenants were for the Gentiles and the Church. The entire Old Covenant with tithing was only for national Israel (Ex 19:5-6) and had a beginning and an end (Gal 3:19).
Heyford: Jesus Himself addressed the issue of tithing.
Kelly: It is grossly dishonest to say that Jesus taught tithing for the Gentiles or Church from Matthew 23:23. Jesus was born, lived and died while the Law was still in full force (Gal 4:4). He did not receive tithes because it was illegal and sin. He could not teach His Jewish or Gentile disciples to tithe to him because it would have been sin to do so. He could not even teach His Gentile disciples to tithe to the Temple system because they would not have been accepted.
Heyford: Both Matthew and Luke record an occasion when, confronting that tough breed of religionists—the Pharisees—He strikes out at their habit of ritually attending to the letter of Old Testament law, yet entirely avoiding its deep, honor-with-your-heart spiritual demands.
Kelly: Correct. The context was the Old Covenant Law and not a command for the New Covenant Church. Since the Pharisees “sat in Moses seat” Jesus even approved of their minor additions to the law of garden spices.
Heyford: "'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone'" (Matt. 23:23, NKJV; see also Luke 11:42).
Kelly: Jesus would never have said to the Church “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law.”
Heyford: Now look closely with me so we make no mistake about what is and what isn't said.
Kelly: Yes. Please do so very carefully.
Heyford: People deserve to be shown that the "woe" Jesus announces on the religious fakery of these hypocrites was not for their tithing, but for their neglect of faith's "weightier matters."
Kelly: Wow! Did you catch that dancing trick pitch? Immediately after saying “Now look closely with me so we make no mistake about what is and what isn't said” – Heyford CHANGES “law” in Matthew 23:23 to “faith”!!! He places “law” into his magician’s hat and pulls out “faith.”
Heyford: In pressing His point, He doesn't condemn their fidelity in tithing (indeed, they were even weighing out the tithe of the tiniest of spices—mint and cummin!)
Kelly: First, as mentioned previously, Jesus was not in a position to condemn their fidelity to tithing because the law was still in full force (Gal 4:4) and such would have been SIN. Second, do you, Mr. Heyford, obey Jesus command here and collect tithes of garden spices? Is there not hypocrisy in your obedience to Jesus’ command here?
Heyford: Here's God's chance to clear the decks. If tithing was unimportant to the Savior—now to become meaningless under the new order—He could have said, "Take care of justice and mercy, and quit bothering with tithing—mint, cummin or anything else!"
Kelly: No. No. No. Here was NOT “God’s chance to clear the decks” because this event occurred before Calvary. Jesus never told anybody to stop obeying any part of the Law with its over 600 commands.
Heyford: But rather, our Savior, whose habit is to say, "You have heard it said, but I say unto you," does nothing to dismiss the concept of tithing. Instead He reinforces it, saying, "These you ought to have done" (a clear reference to their tithing) "and not to leave the others undone" (referencing their shallow attitudes and manifest heartlessness regarding justice and mercy).
Kelly: First, if Jesus had taught the people to stop tithing before Calvary, the Levites, priests and high priests would have accused and arrested him for that charge – and they did not! Second, under the tithing law, only food producers living inside Israel qualified; under grace all believers everywhere can give sacrificially in following Jesus’ example. The Holy Spirit has replaced tithing with better principles.
Heyford: Also note how, as Jesus touches on tithing, He employs the word ought—a powerfully significant word usage of "the moral imperative," thereby acknowledging tithing as "something that ought to be." With His "ought," Jesus is essentially declaring the practice of tithing as a precept that "should not to be violated," making tithing a practice transcending the Old or New covenants, and as instead being a part of God's intended natural order for humankind.
Kelly: Texts please. Jack Heyford does not have the authority to simply declare something moral. Something is not automatically moral just because is it very old and very common. All pagan societies surrounding Canaan in Abram’s day practiced tithing alongside idolatry, worship of the heavens, child sacrifice and temple prostitution. The natural order of nature and conscience tells us to “give” but not “how much.”
Heyford: Actually, the Savior's authorization of the practice "ought" to be enough for anyone, and for that reason I want to abbreviate from here (though I've elaborated more fully in my book The Key to Everything).
Kelly: All my material is free and online. Please do the same and enter into extended dialog with me on this subject for the good of the Body of Christ.
Heyford: But let me leave you with these brief notes regarding Abraham, whose model is given in the New Testament as a key to living in vital faith.
Kelly: Only that which the Holy Spirit uses as Abraham’s faith for the Church should be listed and we are nowhere told WHY Abram tithed. The evidence from Genesis 14:21 suggests the influence of the pagan law of the land at work with the 90% (and so also the 10%). Abraham did many things of which he is NOT a model for Christians. If Abraham’s tithing were a “model,” then why is not also his giving the 90% to the king of Sodom a “model”?
Heyford: A trail of verses develop irrefutable evidence that "tithing is for New Testament believers too." Beginning with Romans 4:12, which calls us to walk "in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham" walked,
Kelly: Again, this means “only his steps of faith.” Not all Abraham’s steps were influenced by faith.
Heyford: we trace to Hebrews 11:1, when that path is described as one living in a faith that: sees the invisible; lives in covenant promises (Heb. 11:13); practices a pattern of worship that includes tithing (Gen. 14:20).
Kelly: Abram tithed pagan spoils of war in Genesis 14 while he was yet an uncircumcised Gentile. We are not told that Abram tithed as an act of worship or in obedience to God. His model was to keep nothing and return the 90% to the king of Sodom. And his tithes would have been rejected as un-holy under the law and un-fit to support Levites.
Heyford: There's more, but for now, allow me to rest the case. Tithing may have begun in the Old Testament, but its spirit, truth and practice proceed unto today. God's Word underscores it as ours to believe, to rejoice in, to worship with and to be rewarded by!
Kelly: When you become a Hebrew under the Old Covenant and have a Levitical priesthood to support because it cannot own land inside Israel, then you can tithe food miraculously increased by God from His holy land of Israel.
Heyford: So, let me urge any fellow shepherd who might be intimidated by any traditionalist who denies the biblical basis of this blessed privilege of choosing faith's practices in our finances:
Kelly: Traditionalist? The Encyclopedia Brittanica and most History of the Christian Church seminary textbooks chronicle that tithing did not become a law in the Catholic Church for over 700 years after Calvary. The only churches in the USA which taught tithing prior to the 1870s were state churches. Tithing did not become widespread in the USA until after the 1890s.
One final magic hat trick of changing “law” into “faith.” I am waiting for you to sell your property and live as a tithe-recipient at the feasts along with the widows, fatherless and poor.
Heyford: The harvest season surrounds us right now, and I'm reminded again of God's laws of sowing and reaping. And I can't imagine bowing to any system that argues against sowing on His terms.
Kelly: Read about the harvest seasons and festivals in God’s Word. The tithe fed the poor which always included the poor Levites.
Heyford: "Brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He consecrated for us..." Hebrews 10:19-20
Kelly: Hebrews 10:19-20 describes all believers as high priests entering the Presence of God. Old Covenant priests did not tithe to themselves or to anybody else; instead they brought freewill vow offerings per Malachi 1:6-14 and Numbers 18:25-28.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD