Review of The Foundations of Giving, Perspectives on Tithing,
Ken Hemphill and Bobby Eklund
by Russell Earl Kelly
April 22, 2011
“Position Statement: We assert that tithing is the foundational base from which believers can and must be challenged to become grace-givers.” (20)
Reply: This come from the SBC Position Paper which is the required position for all who receive paychecks from the Convention. All SBC members are expected to begin their level of giving at ten per cent.
Although this attempted imposition has been in the SBC since 1895 and, although the SBC Faith and Message did not even insert tithing texts into its stewardship statement until 1963, and although the Faith still does not teach tithing per se, it is the background expectation for all employees.
“We further agree that … the tithe was established prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law.” (20)
Reply: It is without dispute that all nations surrounding Abram practiced tithing to pagan gods. Common sense teaches that this was probably the source of Abram’s and Jacob’s knowledge about tithing. However, when the law arrived, God gave Moses special divine revelation that the “holy” tithe could only come from food within God’s holy land of Israel. Hemphill and Eklund totally ignore this biblical truth and it destroys their entire argument.
“We believe that Jesus assumed the tithe would be practiced by his followers.” (20)
Reply: The statement makes no sense before Calvary. Until Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus’ mission was to preach to fellow Hebrews who had already possessed and practiced tithing since Moses. No new teaching was needed as long as the law was still in full force. While living under the jurisdiction of the Law, Jesus MUST teach the whole law, including tithing, or be a sinner. He could not and did not teach His Jewish disciples to tithe to himself. And he could not and did not teach His Gentile disciples to tithe at all because it would not have been accepted.
“We believe that Paul taught and practiced biblical giving. … These challenges to give beyond the tithe are based on the assumption that a believer under grace would never do less than those who had lived under the Mosaic Law.” (20)
Reply: Again, sixteen texts validate the fact that true biblical holy tithes were always only food from inside God’s holy land. Tithes belonged to the Levites and priests –not to gospel workers. As a Pharisee Paul would certainly know that his trade of tentmaker did not qualify him as a tither, especially from defiled pagan land. Paul would never assume that one could pay a holy tithe from outside God’s holy land –especiall to himself. Even if he did, three tithes would require 20-23% be paid.
“His requirements for His children.” (p21)
Reply: The most fundamental hermeneutic (“To whom was it written? Was it written to me?”) is ignored. Hemphill and Eklund do not “rightly divide the word of truth.” While God clearly said in Exodus 19:5-6 that the Old Covenant law was given specifically to national Israel, they sporadically apply whatever parts of it they like to the Church without any post-Calvary textual evidence.
“The very fact that we have a tithe to bring indicates that God has given material blessings.” (21)
Reply: God said the tithe only belonged to Levites and priests. “We” the (mostly) Gentile church do NOT have a “tithe.” The tithe was always only FOOD from inside God’s holy land specifically legislated to support the Levites and priests who ministered in the sanctuary and had no land ownership rights. The Old Covenant is gone; the Levites are gone; ministers own much property; and the priests and temple now reside within every believer. Hemphill and Eklund do not address any of these tithing laws from Numbers 18.
“The practice of giving encourages the steward to … acknowledge that his stewardship encompasses not only the tithe …” (21)
Reply: This article is full of statements with no scriptural validation. It is “make it up as you go” hermeneutics.
“Craig Blomberg stated …” (20, 22, 35)
Reply: Craig Blomberg does NOT agree with them. In fact he was intimately involved in Dr. David Croteau’s PHD dissertation on tithing when he graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.
“By the time Abram appears in Genesis, the concept of giving a portion back to God as an offering of gratitude is understood and defined as ten per cent.” Gen 14:20. (23)
Reply: Hemphill and Eklund conveniently never refer to Abram and Jacob’s tithe as “holy.” “Giving” is an eternal moral law written nature and in the heart and conscience of every human. “Tithing” –giving ten per cent is not. If God had instructed Abram to give ten per cent of spoils of war, then why did He change it to only ONE per cent as a “statute” in Numbers 31? We must conclude that Abram was following a different definition and that God had not yet revealed the quantity and definition of a “holy” tithe.
“Language describing giving as ‘legalistic’ or an ‘obligation’ is not the principle theme of any biblical discussion of giving.” (23)
Reply: This is coming from those who describe tithing as a“foundational base,” “minimum standard” and “expectation.” Sounds like a “legalistic obligation” to me.
“Nowhere else in Scripture does God encourage His children to put Him to a test.” Mal 3:10 (23)
Reply: The whole law was a test (Deu 28-30). Obey all to be blessed; break one to be cursed. God does not bless murderers, thieves and adulterers who tithe. See Galatians 3:10.
“We cannot overlook the importance of the ‘whole tithe’ which settles the issue of what constitutes the tithe.” Mal 3:10 (24)
Reply: Malachi is 1000 years after Leviticus and the holy tithe is still only food from Israel. In Nehemiah 10:37-38 the people were commanded to bring the tithe to the Levitical cities where the Levites and priests met them. This is because 98% of those who needed the tithe for food lived there and not Jerusalem. (Figure 24 tribes rotating to the Temple one week at a time minus women and younger children.) Even in 2 Chronicles 31:15-19 the tithe was redistributed back to the Levitical cities. Only a small portion was kept in the Temple storehouse. It would make no sense for Levites and priests to travel to the Temple every time they needed to eat.
“Moses had instructed Israel that ‘Every tenth of the land’s produce … and every tenth animal is .. holy to the Lord.’” Lev 27:30, 32 (24)
Reply: This is the ONLY definition of a “holy” tithe which is repeated 16 times. While money was common and essential for sanctuary worship, money was never included in the tithe. Hemphill and Eklund never address this basic consistent definition and greatly err because of it.
“After Israel settled in the land they were to bring the tithe annually to the to the sanctuary and consume a portion of it “before the Lord,” leaving the remainder with the Levites who were, in turn, to share a tithe with the priests.” (24)
Reply: Herein Hemphill and Eklund hide a multitude of errors. They will not admit to the existence of three tithes because they do not want to teach a minimum beginning place of giving at 20-23%. (1) The first whole Levitical tithe was brought to the Levitical cities and a small portion of it was brought to the Temple by the Levites (Neh 10:37-38; Num 18:21-28). (2) A second festival tithe was brought and eaten in the streets of Jerusalem during three annual feasts (Deu 12:6,7; 14:23). (3) A third third-year poor tithe was kept in the cities and homes for the poor (Deu 14:28, 29: 26:12, 13).
“The storehouse clearly refers to God’s house, the place of worship for his children, and the meeting place of the local congregation.” (24)
Reply: (1) This is impossible because the church had no buildings for over 200 years after Calvary and Christianity was not legal for over 300 years. (2) Solomon, who built the temple and would have had the greatest volume of food, built no storerooms for the tithe. This is why Hezekiah was forced to do so after incorrectly telling the people to bring all the tithes to Jerusalem. The Temple was not used for congregational worship until after the exile when a synagogue was built inside it.
“Even in the matter of the tithe being dedicated to aliens, the fatherless and widows every third year, the giving was done through the priests serving in the temple.” (24)
Reply: Wrong. The third-year tithe for the poor was kept in the villages and homes and was not brought to the temple (Deu 14:28, 29: 26:12, 13). Hemphill and Eklund’s hermeneutic is to make things up as they go.
“Are we to seriously believe that God, who by this time had personally instructed His followers in all matters related to giving and to the tithe, suddenly decides the tithe is no longer important, no longer considered holy? There is no such statement in Scripture and no basis for teaching that such a declaration was uttered or intended.” (24-25)
Reply: (1) Jesus’ followers were Old Covenant Hebrews; He never instructed the Church to tithe. (2) The tithe was “holy” because: a) it was food miraculously increased by God and b) it came off His holy land. c) Some reasons for ending the holy tithe are: 1) The covenant in which it was an ordinance ended, 2) the priesthood it was legislated to support ended, 3) the Temple it was legislated to support ended, 4) the holy land and Levitical cities ended and 5) modern preaches own and inherit much land contrary to the tithing ordinance of Number 18.
“Genesis 14 recounts how Abram gave a tithe freely, willingly and worshipfully to Melchizedek.” (25)
Reply: God’s Word says none of this. We are not told WHY and HOW Abram tithed. We are only told THAT he gave a tenth of spoils of war to his local king-priest. It is even more likely (though one cannot be dogmatic about this) that Abram was obeying the well-documented law of the land and had no choice in the matter.
“The Macedonians begged to participate in the offering Paul was gathering for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem.” (2 Cor 8) (25)
Reply: There is no reason to mention this in a discussion of tithing because it demonstrates the spirit of freewill giving. The SBC says that freewill offerings are in addition to the tithe. Therefore its use by Hemphill and Eklund here is suspicious.
“When Jesus observed the love of the poor widow as she sacrificed …” (25)
Reply: Again this demonstrates the spirit of sacrificial freewill giving and should not be associated with tithing which was cold hard law and was expected whether one was joyful or not.
“We learn much later in Scripture how God has a special regard for the firstfruits of the harvest, the firstborn in families, the firstborn of flocks.” (26)
Reply: Again, this has nothing to do with tithing. Firstfruits were very small token offerings taken directly to the Temple and consumed inside it (Deu 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37a). Firstfruits are never the same as tithes. Tithes teachers want believers to equate them and bring tithes to the church before any bills such as medicine and essentials are paid.
“In our studies we have found it fascinating that the tithe of agriculture was used in a family feast celebrating God’s provision and presence.” (Deu 14:26) (26)
Reply: The second holy feast tithe, an additional 10%, was commanded to be eaten in the streets of Jerusalem. Why is this command of the tithing law ignored today? Hemphill and Eklund’s “pick and choose” hermeneutic is very inconsistent.
“(Malachi) The result was that they were suffering under a curse. In other words they had forfeited God’s presence, provision and protection.” (26)
Reply: What is the motive of Hemphill and Eklund for writing this? Are they implying that Christians today who do not tithe are also “suffering under a curse” and have “forfeited God’s presence, provision and protection”? Are they forgetting that the law and the curse ended at Calvary? Are they replacing a New Covenant hermeneutic with an Old Covenant one?
“God assures His blessings on the tither.” (27)
Reply: The Old Covenant ended at Calvary (Heb 8:13). God is not now dealing with the Body of Christ using Old Covenant curses and blessings. God is now operating in the sphere of the New Covenant and does not bless New Covenant believers because of their obedience to or disobedience to conditional Old Covenant promises. Those blessings which Christians receive today are wholly because of compliance with ew Covenant teachings.
“What price tag can we put on the things of God? Some might say that we cannot buy the blessings of God for any price. God says we can have them for a tenth.” (27)
Reply: Christ appropriated all the blessings of God for us on Calvary. This statement by Eklund is childish. The context of Malachi ended at Calvary and has been replaced by New Covenant giving principles found in 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9 which are primarily freewill and sacrificial.
“Partners with God” by Bobby Eklund is 142 pages and only devotes 17 pages to tithing (63-79). “Making Change” by Ken Hemphill is 192 pages and only devotes 17 pages to tithing (97-113). In this book they have used 39 pages (20-44, 84-88, 126-130, 166-169) which is double the output of the other two books combined. (34 plus)
Reply: As Preissler will say in his excursis, Bible schools do not teach tithing. If they did they would be inundated with conclusions such as mine and Dr. David Croteau’s that tithing cannot be supported for the new Covenant church.
“If Abram tithed as a spontaneous response to the goodness of God, then the later codification of the tithe in the Mosaic law would reflect Abram’s response to the gracious activity of God …” (27)
Reply: No, the text must prove that Abram’s spontaneous and immediate response was either freewill or in obedience to a command from God. Neither can be demonstrated from Scripture. The Bible does say WHY Abram tithed. And his “unholy” tithe was not codified in the law as sustenance for Levites and priests. The statute of spoils of war in Numbers 31 lowered the spoils’ tithe from ten per cent to one per cent of the total.
“Abram’s response was both spontaneous and immediate.” (28)
Reply: This proves nothing. Hemphill and Eklund set up false parameters to ensure that Abram met their own parameters. Such is ignoring literal hermeneutics.
“The story seems straightforward. Abram tithed to God as an act of gratitude and worship, acknowledging God alone as the possessor of heaven and earth.” (28)
Reply: A literal hermeneutic does not yield the conclusion that “Abram tithed to God as an act of gratitude and worship.” He could have just as easily tithed to Melchizedek as an act of obedience to the law of the land. While El Elyon was a very common title for God/god “most high,” it was Melchizedek, not Abram, who made the first declaration. Abram later told the King of Sodom that Yahweh was El Elyon whom he served.
“If it can be established that Abram offered a tithe to the one true God prior to the Mosaic law, it would certainly blunt the argument that tithing is a legalism that has no significance under grace.” … “Tithing was commonly practiced long before Moses was born.” (29).
Reply: The fact that “Tithing was commonly practiced long before Moses was born” does not prove that “Abram offered a tithe to the one true God.” It only proves that pagans tithed along with their idolatry, child sacrifices and temple prostitution. The fact that something is very old and very widespread does not make such fact an eternal moral principle.
“Abram was affirming that the God who established a covenant with him is the one true God, the possessor of heaven and earth.” (30)
Reply: In Gen 14:22 Abram told the king of Sodom that the God Melchizedek only knew as El Elyon was Yahweh El Elyon.
“It would be exceedingly strange to think that Moses … would include a story which suggests that Abram offered a sacrifice to a pagan deity.”
Reply: Yes, it would, but the story says absolutely nothing about worship or a sacrifice. The inspiring Holy Spirit omitted those non-existent details conveniently added by Hemphill and Eklund.
“If one can demonstrate that Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek was a voluntary act prior to the Mosaic Law, it does establish that tithing was not simply an issue of legalistic obedience. (30)
Reply: They follow by saying “Rather it was a spontaneous act of celebration and gratitude.” They meet their own conditions by an unvalidated declaration. What kind of hermeneutic is that?
“If Abram tithed to Melchizedek, would it not follow that the Christian would offer tithes to the great high priest who is greater than Melchizedek?” (32)
Reply: As they previously said, it was not “the intention of the author of Hebrews” to teach tithing. Since Melchizedek (one outside the law) replaced Aaron (one inside the law) 7:12 says “it was necessary to change the law” which governed the Aaronic priesthood and allowed it to receive tithes. Were the tithes changed from Aaron to Melchizedek? No. 7:18 says that “the commandment going before” (to take tithes of the people according to the law; 7:5) was “disannulled, abolished) –not shifted to gospel workers.
“The entire context (of Jacob) describes a subdued man who was overwhelmed with the promises of God… In response … Jacob responded with a promise to give God a tenth …” (33)
Reply: While Hemphill and Eklund did not bother researching, Croteau did and proved that Jacob’s demeanor was that of fear in 28:17 and not gratitude. Compare 28:17 with the same Hebrew word in 31:31 and 32:7, 11. Jacob the supplanter and schemer responded out of fear with his famous conditional “if” telling God what to do.
“We have not dealt extensively with the tithe in the Old Testament since there is little disagreement that the principle of tithing is taught there.” (33)
Reply: The truth is precisely the opposite. All tithe discussions eventually end up back with Abram and Genesis 14. the “principle” of “giving ten per cent” was manifested in pagan worship and giving tithes to pagan idols; it was not a holy tithe at all. The “principle” was later greatly enhanced through special revelation when God limited the “holy” tithe to food from inside Israel which He had miraculously increased. This is always the final battleground and Hemphill and Eklund very well know it.
“(Tithing) is a loving and worshipful response to the Creator who owns and provides everything we need and have.” (34)
Reply: Sounds good but it is not biblical. Wile God owned everything in the OT (Ps 24:1), He only accepted “holy” tithes from inside His holy land.
“We found it perplexing that someone who had experienced grace made available through the cross would desire to do less than someone under the Mosaic law. Such, to us, was a disgrace to grace.” (34) (20)
Reply: This is their strongest argument and is inserted and repeated often. Again, it is based on the false assumption that every Hebrew was required to tithe and that every Hebrew began giving at ten per cent. In reality only Hebrews who lived inside Israel and were food producers could qualify as tithers.
“[Quotes Mt 5:17-19] “The law and the prophets is a shorthand way of referring to the entire Old Testament.” (34-35)
Reply: At last something correct to agree upon. The “law” was an unbreakable whole. Either one must keep all of it or reject and replace all of it.
“The teachings of the prophets were fulfilled when what they predicted actually happened. Thus the entire Old Testament (Law and Prophets) pointed forward to what Jesus has now brought into being through his life and teaching.” (quoted Blomberg) (35)
Reply: This logic confuses me because many of the Prophets’ predictions are yet future. I tend to interpret this as the “righteousness of the law” as indicated in Mt 5:20 although much is still open to speculation and this seems to be the direction of Hemphill and Eklund on page 36.
“In each instance cites (Mt 5:20-48) Jesus’ ethical teaching was more demanding than the Old Testament law.” (36)(20)(34)
Reply: Behind this discussion is another effort to prove their main point that NT giving standards are higher than OT giving standards. While this is true, once again tithing was not a beginning standard for Hebrews who were not food producers and who lived outside Israel. Their many efforts fail because they will not address the basic definition of the holy tithe.
“Let your mind’s eye picture one of the haughty Pharisees on his knees counting out his herbs.” Mt 23:23 (39)
Reply: When Jesus said “Ye ought not to have left the other undone,” He was commanding His followers to do the same thing because the scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses seat” as the legitimate interpreters of the law (23:2-3). Yet I know of no church today which obeys Jesus’ direct command. This is “pick and choose” hermeneutics at its best.
“They had been guilty of picking and choosing and thus ignoring these greater issues of inner truth.” (39)
Reply: Hemphill and Eklund do the same thing when they use Matthew 23:23 as a hammer to teach Christian tithing. They do not obey Jesus’ direct command.
“We must however be careful to note that Jesus did not condemn them for the ‘legalism’ of tithing. On the contrary He indicated that ‘These things should have been done without neglecting the others.’ Jesus did not suggest that the Old Testament principle of the tithe should be neglected but rater that it should issue from the heart from whence also should flow justice, mercy and faith.” (39)
Reply: As a Jew Himself living under the full jurisdiction of the Law, Jesus must teach tithing or else be a sinner for opposing the law. While Hemphill and Eklund completely ignore this fact they also disobey Jesus’ direct command by not teaching tithes of garden herbs.
“We can’t ignore the obvious implication Jesus believed that they should have understood and practiced tithing.” (39)
Reply: I can’t understand how Hemphill and Eklund cannot understand that Jesus’ Jewish disciples did not need instruction in tithes because they had heard this since Moses’ time. He was not speaking to the Church. He was yielding to the scribes and Pharisees as the present occupants of Moses’ seat and telling His disciples to tithe garden herbs (23:2-3).
“While tithing is a good place for us to begin the teaching of stewardship, it is inadequate in light of the gift of God’s grace in His son … Why would anyone think that living under grace should grant us permission to do less than man was required to do under the law.” (40)(20)(34)(36)
Reply: Another repetition and the same reply again. (1) Tithing was only the minimum good place to start under the law for food producers who lived inside Israel and (2) if you are going to teach this, then teach 20-23% tithing as the law required for food producers.
“Having been nurtured in Judaism, Paul would have practiced tithing according to Old Testament prescription.” (41)
Reply: Yes. He would have taught that true holy biblical tithes were always only food from inside God’s holy land of Israel. He would have taught Gentiles that tithes could not come from Gentiles or from outside Israel. And he would have reminded the Gentiles of the letter from the Jerusalem church in Acts 15 which did not impose the law on Gentiles.
“[Note that Hemphill and Eklund did not mention 1st Corinthians 9.]”
“Let’s embrace the idea that the tithe is a good biblical place for beginning …” (44)(20, 34, 36, 40)
Reply: One final repetition of their main point with no supporting texts.
“David Croteau’s chapter … reveals a great reluctance to accept tithing as a biblical mandate despite Jesus’ affirmation of the practice in Mt 23:23.” (84)
Reply: Croteau used consistent literal interpretation while you reflect no consistent hermeneutic other than your own opinion and church Position Paper. Jesus’ discussion in Mt 23:23 was that of “matters of the law.” He could not have opposed tithing while under the law without sinning.
“These [NT] convicting principles are left to the reader’s imagination.” (84)
Reply: The “reader’s imagination” is found on pages 81-83 which even include 2 plain charts to imagine are in the book.
“As a whole this view fails to take into account God’s approach in teaching mankind, not just the Israelites …” (84)
Reply: “Holy” biblical tithes were never for all mankind. They could only come from inside God’s holy land of Israel and only from His holy covenant people.
“The Garden of Eden is the beginning place.” (84)
Reply: Of giving? Yes. Of tithing? No. Reserving one tree out of possibly thousands does not constitute tithing –plus they did not offer it to God.
“Failure to see this connection [Eden] results, in our opinion, to the excessive attention to mechanics (some might say legalism) of giving rather than the reasons behind giving in general and the tithe in particular.” (84-85)
Reply: I credit Croteau’s conclusions to his tendency to literally interpret God’s Word. I call your attempts to impose Old Covenant giving principles on the Church “legalism.”
“There is no basis at all to the suppositions and conclusions that Abram tithed only from spoils and not his possessions or that his giving originated in surrounding cultures.” (86)
Reply: Hebrews 7:4 is very strong reason for the first statement and common sense is good reason for the second. Being born and raised in a culture should mean that you often reflect that culture.
“The fact that other cultures practiced some form of tithing, and we certainly do not dispute this, does not dictate the reasons behind Abraham’s voluntary spontaneous tithe.” (86)
Reply: (1) The culture one is born and raised in most definitely should be strongly considered. And (2) God’s Word does not say that Abram’s tithe was “voluntary.”
“As to the unsupported position that “storehouse” in Mal 3:10 refers specifically (and only to) a special room in the temple designated to hold tithes and offerings, the principle is the same.” (87)
Reply: Compare Neh 13:5 with 1 Kings 6:6 for that room. What principle? What texts prove your argument? How can you condemn a literal interpretation when the church had no physical buildings for over 200 years after Calvary?
“In our opinion the intent (of Lev 27) was to describe Judaism as significantly different from other cultures.” (87)
Reply: O.K. but the text gives a “significantly different” dominion of “holy” tithes which you never discuss and which destroys most of your arguments.
“(Concerning Matthew 23:23, Croteau said that) Jesus does not prohibit tithing but he condemns the wrong attitude and motive of those who were tithing under the old covenant. Precisely. … but when Croteau states … the command to tithe was for the scribes and Pharisees who were still under the old covenant,” this statement begs the question ‘When is the requirement under grace ever less than the requirement under the Mosaiclaw?’” (87)(20, 34, 36, 40, 44)
Reply: Croteau was pointing out that Jesus had to teach tithing while still under the law and that he was not teaching His disciples to tithe to Himself. Again we can reply to the oft-repeated favorite line: (1) it is based on the false assumption that everybody in the law began at ten per cent when it only applied to food producers living inside Israel and (2) the minimum should be taught as 20-23 per cent.
“Croteau does his best work in providing a proper motivation for giving.” (88)
Reply: You said on page 84 “These [NT] convicting principles are left to the reader’s imagination.”
“While we must agree to disagree on the ongoing requirement of a tithe (ten per cent) as the beginning point for obedient giving … The natural consequence of loving God is not “to be free from a ten per cent model” but to be free to give generously under the leadership of His Spirit.” (88)
(20, 34, 36, 40, 44, 87)
Reply: This final jab was expected. Now we have heard it so often that it has been ingrained in our minds as truth. Not!
The paradigm of tithing has been around for over 100 years and has failed miserably. It is time for post-Calvary Spirit-blessed New Covenant giving principles: freewill, generous, sacrificial, joyful, not by commandment (or percentage) and motivated by love for God and others. That means more sermons on evangelism and soul-winning and less on tithing. Watch the churches grow – again.