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[PDF] Beyond Tithes

Beyond Tithes: A Critical Review

Tithing is a practice that has been followed by many Christians for centuries, but is it still relevant and biblical in the contemporary context? This is the question that Stuart Murray, a theologian and church planter, explores in his book Beyond Tithing . Murray challenges the traditional and popular views on tithing and offers alternative perspectives and proposals for Christian stewardship and generosity. In this article, we will summarize and evaluate some of the main arguments and contributions of Murray's book.

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What is tithing?

Tithing is the practice of giving a tenth of one's income or produce to God or the church. The word "tithe" comes from the Old English word teogotha, which means "tenth". The origin of tithing can be traced back to the ancient Near East, where it was a common way of expressing loyalty and gratitude to a king, a deity, or a temple. Tithing was also practiced by some of the patriarchs in the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac. However, tithing was not formally instituted as a law until the time of Moses, when God commanded the Israelites to give a tenth of their crops and livestock to the Levites, who were in charge of the tabernacle and its services (Num 18:21-32). The Levites, in turn, were required to give a tenth of their tithe to the priests (Num 18:26-28). In addition to this regular tithe, there were other tithes that were collected every third year for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners (Deut 14:28-29; 26:12-15). There was also a festival tithe that was used to celebrate the annual feasts in Jerusalem (Deut 14:22-27).

Is tithing Christian?

One of the main questions that Murray asks in his book is whether tithing is Christian or not. He argues that tithing is not Christian for several reasons. First, he claims that tithing is not taught or practiced by Jesus or the apostles in the New Testament. He points out that there are only four references to tithing in the New Testament, and none of them are prescriptive or instructive for Christians. They are either descriptive of Jewish practices (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12) or illustrative of a contrast between law and grace (Heb 7:1-10). Murray contends that Jesus did not endorse tithing as a norm for his followers, but rather challenged the legalistic and hypocritical attitude of the Pharisees who tithed meticulously but neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt 23:23). He also notes that Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had to the temple treasury, not because she gave a tenth, but because she gave sacrificially and generously (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4).

Second, Murray argues that tithing is not Christian because it is incompatible with the new covenant that Jesus established by his death and resurrection. He asserts that tithing was part of the old covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, which was based on law, obligation, and conditionality. However, Jesus fulfilled and abolished the law by his perfect obedience and sacrifice, and inaugurated a new covenant that is based on grace, freedom, and relationship. Murray maintains that under the new covenant, Christians are no longer bound by the letter of the law, but are guided by the Spirit of Christ, who writes God's law on their hearts (Rom 8:1-4; 2 Cor 3:4-18; Heb 8:7-13). He suggests that instead of following a fixed rule or percentage for giving, Christians should follow the principles of stewardship and generosity that are taught in the New Testament, such as giving cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7), giving according to one's ability (Acts 11:29), giving proportionally (1 Cor 16:2), giving sacrificially (2 Cor 8:1-5), giving generously (2 Cor 9:6), giving willingly (2 Cor 8:12), giving with accountability (2 Cor 8:16-24), giving with gratitude (2 Cor 9:11-15), and giving with love (1 John 3:16-18).

What are the alternatives to tithing?

Murray does not only critique tithing, but also proposes some alternatives to tithing that he believes are more biblical and relevant for the contemporary context. He acknowledges that tithing has some benefits, such as providing a clear and simple guideline for giving, ensuring a regular and stable income for the church, and encouraging a sense of discipline and commitment among the givers. However, he also points out some of the costs and problems of tithing, such as creating a legalistic and mechanical approach to giving, discouraging a deeper and more personal relationship with God, ignoring the different circumstances and needs of the givers, imposing a heavy burden on the poor and a light burden on the rich, and limiting the potential and creativity of the church in its mission and ministry.

Therefore, Murray suggests some alternatives to tithing that he thinks are more appropriate and effective for the church today. He proposes that instead of relying on tithes, freewill offerings, and donations as the main sources of church finances, the church should diversify its revenue by engaging in business, social enterprise, or investment. He argues that by doing so, the church can not only sustain itself financially, but also advance the gospel in the marketplace, create employment opportunities, serve the community, and model ethical and responsible stewardship. He also proposes that instead of calculating percentages, the church should explore creative ways of developing communities of justice and generosity that are good news to the poor. He argues that by doing so, the church can not only support its own members who are in need, but also share its resources with other churches and organizations that are working for God's kingdom, challenge the unjust and oppressive structures of society, and demonstrate God's love and compassion to the world.


In conclusion, Murray's book Beyond Tithing is a radical and provocative examination of the contemporary practice of tithing. He challenges the traditional and popular views on tithing and offers alternative perspectives and proposals for Christian stewardship and generosity. His book is well-researched and well-argued, drawing from various sources such as biblical studies, church history, theology, sociology, economics, and case studies. His book is also relevant and practical, addressing some of the real issues and challenges that the church faces today in its mission and ministry. His book is not meant to be a final word on the subject, but rather an invitation to dialogue and reflection. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his arguments and suggestions, one cannot ignore his passion and vision for a church that is faithful to God's call and responsive to God's world.

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