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The Israelites Struggled with Tithing, Too

24 Jan. 2013 Posted by Denis Greene in Overused Phrases

By Russian Icon Painter (Greek and Russian Orthodox Icon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsIn overused phrases, Church Development takes the statements that, for better or worse, are cliché in today’s world and sees if they still have a valid place. Today’s blog covers the statement that the Israelites had to tithe way more than 10%.

Depending on what standard you use, some scholars will argue that the Israelites were required to give multiple tithes far above the 10% standard rate we often hear today. A safe estimate is 23.3%. If you’ve heard this number, you’ve usually heard it in conjunction with a teaching that we have it way easier than they did, so giving 10% should be easy.

There are just a couple of problems: 1) Tithing is not easy for people (as covered in several other blogs: 95-97% of people don’t tithe); and 2) A good chunk of the Israelites didn’t pay that 23.3% number either. 

Do you know how I know this? The answer lies in Nehemiah.

Nehemiah had a great heart for prayer, and when he realized God’s people didn’t live in their city, he set out to change it. After having God make a way for him, he set out to rebuild the walls, as no walls meant no security (it’d be like if you didn’t have a front door to your home). If things were getting taken care of financially, this shouldn’t have happened.

Later, once the walls were up and the people returned, Nehemiah again had to call them to observe the Sabbath and not neglect the house of God with their giving.

All this is to say that if we’re trying to use a standard that people struggled with back then to help promote a standard that people struggle with today, well, at the very least it’s a good fit, but it’s not a great motivator. What I think it should be instead is a way to approach why we also struggle so much with tithing today.  

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Denis Greene is the Founder and President of Church Development.  He is the author of The Stewardship System, Stewardship-Based Capital Campaigns, and How To Ask For Donations as well as numerous articles on stewardship. Denis has helped over 200 churches across the USA raise more than $200,000,000.

A complete list of Church Development’s services (including capital campaign management and consultation, feasibility studies, and year-round stewardship ministry programming) is available here.