WSJ on Tithing

The Wall Street Journal has just published a decent article on the fight against the tithing heresy, and it’s scary how similar my own story is to that of one of the believers in the article:

When he objected to his church’s instructions to tithe, Kirk Cesaretti took it up with the church leaders. In response, he received a letter from the pastor and elders of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, Calif. “At this time, we believe your concerns do not warrant any change in our church policy or positions,” the letter read.

The letter closed with a verse from Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls; as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

Mr. Cesaretti, an engineer in Fortuna, Calif., says he took the letter to mean he was no longer welcome at the church. Hydesville’s senior pastor, Michael Delamarian III, says he believes “the more you give the more you’re going to be blessed.” He says he did not bar Mr. Cesaretti from the church.

There’s a lot of passive-aggressive manipulation happening on the part of these pastors toward the flocks under their care. The article also mentions the practice of pastors making applicants sign a document essentially vowing to tithe. Are there so few people who understand that inclusion in the visible expression of the Body of Christ is not something to be held for ransom? My heart breaks for the people who have turned (or rather, been turned) away from Christ on account of grinning, greedy wolves like this at the pulpit.

So yeah, if you were wondering… the wound‘s still a bit fresh.

34 thoughts on “WSJ on Tithing

  1. Travis
    Praise God the truth finally got published about tithing. The story was mostly mine from the beginning and I got no credit for pushing it for two years. That is O. K. God gets the ultimate credit.

    I am somewhat upset that my name and book was not mentioned. I spent literally hundreds of hours pouring over old e-mails from the past six years to furnish names and information to the Wall Street Journal for this article. The names of all of the key persons interviewed in the article were provided by myself: Robert Barbour, Kirk Cesaretti, James Harnut-Beumler, Andreas Kostenberger, Kevin Rohr and Judy Willingham. Kirk, Kevin and Judy read my book and contacted me so I gave their names to the WSJ. I also told them about SEBTS, Kostenberger and Harnut-Beumler’s book which is far less informative than my own because it is only a history of USA Protestantism and giving.

    The truth has been let out of the closet now. Praise God. Thank you Ms. Suzanne Sataline.

  2. I think as long as we feel the things we are stewards of are ours we will have a difficult time with tithing. Once we come to the realization that God owns everything and that we are allowed to keep a portion for our own use then to give back to God becomes very easy. I am just a layman but I think giving will not make one a Christian but a Christian is compelled to give because of what he believes. I know that has been the case in my personal walk. I can also testify of the blessings my family and I have received since we have become obedient givers.

  3. Jews tithed when the temple was still standing, not now. Christians never tithed, they are the temple AND the priests. “Pastors” who promote Tithing don’t promote circumcission and animal sacrifice, they only wnat the money law left in place from the old law…huh….?

  4. Yeah, the whole tithing thing is scary. I know that I was taught that if I did not tithe that I was under a curse. It took a long time to get all that flushed out of the system. When it comes to gving, we do our best to give directly into people’s lives. We avoid as must as possible the giving to institutions. Since we made the change in focus, we always seem to have enough to give.

  5. The Journal’s article on tithing was right on but I am sorry that they did not give credit to the person that did all the resurch for it. I happen to know that it was all due to the tireless efforts of Russell Kelley PhD. theology. He also is the author of a great book “SHOULD THE CHURCH TEACH TITHING’ I recommend that anyone interested in this subject read it. It is the bible on the subject.

  6. I am one of the people in the WSJ article who was educated on tithing by Dr. Russell Kelly’s book “Should the Church Teach Tithing.” I think that the article would have had more impact if Ms. Sataline had mentioned a way to educate yourself on tithing besides listening to the propaganda of these greedy pastors. Dr. Kelly’s book is scriptural and an easy read. He wrote it in layman’s terms so that it would be easy for everyone to understand.

  7. … Only when the last brick from the last church falls on thel head of the last minister will humanity be free…

  8. Sometimes I share Tom’s skepticism in today’s Priesthood of Men. There is so much heresy in todays churches. Perhaps if we all claim the promise of CEV 2 Cor 10:3-6
    2Cor 10;3-6
    3 We live in this world, but we don’t act like its people 4 or fight our battles with the weapons of this world. Instead, we use God’s power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments 5 and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God. We capture people’s thoughts and make them obey Christ. 6 And when you completely obey him, we will punish anyone who refuses to obey.

  9. Odd! As a Catholic, I was taught that one of the reasons the Protestants left the Church was their objection to the selling of indulgences. Now, it looks like the Protestants are selling indulgences and Catholics are staying away.

  10. Sadly, this is yet another attack on tithing. There are New Testament references on it, and until both leadership and the congregation get under the conviction of the Holy Spirit to obey God, the issue will continue to be a hornet in a henhouse.

    There are church leaders who have abused the practice; and there are church members who don’t give a dime…but want to nag the church about what it does/doesn’t do.

    Put it this way. Either one will tithe to God, or will wind up spending God’s money on the NFL, Greenpeace, or illegal drugs.

    Bottom line? It all belongs to God. If you decide to roll those dice against him and spend it on yourself, do NOT cry when God turns the blessing taps off from heaven.

  11. Mike, you mentioned that there are New Testament references on tithing, but you failed to elaborate on what they are. I do know that Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for tithing even their spices, but neglecting the “weightier matters of the law; justice, mercy and faith” He called them “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” This is how I also see today’s pastors that forcefully mandate tithing and neglect the “weightier matters”. I strongly believe that Jesus was also saying “Woe” to them also.

    So while Jesus did not stop the Pharisees from tithing, he did chastise them for making it more important than the weightier matters. Oh, and speaking of Jesus, He never mandated that His disciples tithe. Paul, an Apostle to the gentiles, never mandated that they tithe, he did encourage them to give as they are able to.

    This is not an attack on tithing, it is an attack on pastors eating the sheep instead of feeding them.

  12. Tithing is not taught in the New Testament,only mentioned.

    Jesus commended the Pharisees for tithing mint, rue, dill, andcumim… all produce of the land. Funny He did not mention money all in His commendation. It is quite obvious they had and used money at that time.

    Paul mentioned Abram’s tithing, but it was not his own property that he tithed of. it was the spoils of war.

    Paul instructed the Jewish counsel that they were not to put the Gentile Church under the yoke of bondage that the Mosaic Law was.

    God is not looking for a tithing heart, but rather a giving heart.

  13. @Mike (#12): Hey man, glad you stopped by. I’d encourage you to read up on the history of tithing in the Church (esp. how it was handled during the first five hundred years after Christ’s resurrection).

    Also, if you read up on my own story… some of us aren’t “tithing” because the “tithe” isn’t being given to God. It’s lining the pockets of the greedy while the poor and suffering are left with nothing.

  14. None of the ‘tithing’ that occurs now has any connection to the definition of tithing contained in the Bible. (other than to mention 10%)
    In a nutshell, there were four tithes:
    1)The Levitical tithe required those who raised crops (not everyone and not all professions – just those who raised crops) to give 10% of that to the Levites. This tithe only occurred 6 years out of the 7 year cycle. It also required those that raised 10 or more animals to give each tenth animal that passed under the rod to the Levites. If a person raised less than 10 animals, they were NOT required to tithe.
    2) From what was given to them, the Levites in turn had to give the very best to the priests.
    3) The festival tithe required that those who raised crops or animals to set aside 10% for the annual festivals. It was for the people to have a party and consume the food joyfully and alcoholic beverages (strong drink) if they wanted.
    4) The Poor tithe occurred only in the 3rd and 6th years of the seven year cycle. This was set aside for the poor.
    All tithes were always food and NEVER money.
    A short written presentation is available at with links to dozens of other books and web sites. Also a FREE 10 part video series is available at

  15. A comprehensive study of tithing codes in Old Testament times reveals a system of incredible complexity and frequent change. History has shown that any dissent on this topic can bring the “wrath of God” upon us by willing and able churchmen. The Gospel breeds generosity wherever it takes root. With Spirit-led or grace giving, the Christian no longer yearns for the laws of Moses to finance the Great Commission. Interestly, there NEVER was a monetary tithe in Old Testament times.

  16. GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT BELONGS TO CAESAR AND TO GOD WHAT BELONGS TO GOD. I STARTED TITHING MANY YEARS AGO AND HAVE NEVER BEEN SORRY. I HAVE HAD PEOPLE GIVE ME MONEY OUT OF THE BLUE WHEN I NEEDED IT. THAT’S NOT THE POINT THOUGH. IF WE CAN’T GIVE AT LEAST 10% TO our church, feed the poor, clothe the naked, on and on ……then we are in a sad state. it won’t get you to heaven but you can feel good about yourself and thank god for your job, food, clothes and everything else he has given you. my motto is this: (not give till it hurts) but give until it feels good. OUR DEAR LORD CANNOT BE OUTDONE IN GENEROSITY. BELIEVE IT.

  17. The Windows of heaven referred to in Malachi are not opening and pouring out money.. they are pouring out rain to produce more crops.

    If you are giving 10% of your income in money form, it is not tithes no matter how many times you call it that. Tithes were produce of land and livestock. They were never money.

    You may have given 10% of your money. But it was just that…10% of your money. It was not tithes.

  18. Do church’s and leaders give financers (church attendees) annual reports to show where all the contributions go and do not go?

  19. A church is a community. After 40+ years in the Episcopal Church, given their current internal destructive nature and placing at risk their continued union with the Anglican Communion, I came to a fundamental theological decision. I am Orthodox. Given this revalation I proceeded to introduce myself to the Dean of the local Orthodox Cathedral where I have been warmly received. That was a little over a year ago. At about the same time I was leaving the Sunday morning service, walking through the narthax and a young Greek, recently relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, came up to me and introduced himself. We had lunch, became good friends. It is my notion that we, the “elders” of the church, should not only welcome youth but, support them in their life goals. I proceeded to put my money where my “notion” was. The first generation Greek’s name is Constantinos, he is 25, wants to set his house in order to one day marry, start a family and live the “good life” within the context of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is profoundly religious. Now, to return to the topic of tithing. Yes, I have given some ceremonial “cash” to the Cathedral in the offering plate … but … I have made an even greater tithing investment in Constantinos. During the past year I have, in sponsoring a a specific Orthodox young man, made an investment that, if I am correct, will significantly out live my annual tithing. The church will never know … but … God will.

  20. I am thankful that the WSJ has tackled this issue. I have seen several items that deal with religion and Christianity in the WSJ. Let’s be thankful that they will even allow such an article.

    Several items in the article were of great interest. Namely, it seems that when the ministerial staff of the church are questioned on their practices, they respond by labeling the person as rebellious. We are in big trouble when our leaders are no longer accountable. The pastoral staff is usually made up of yes-men picked by the pastor who will not question his teachings or authority – even this is not biblical. Alexander Strauch in his book called “Biblical Eldership” advocates that church leadership should consist of several elders who lead the church instead of one Pastor who calls all of the shots.

    Also, since the Pastors in some Charismatic congregations and ministries are living such extravagant lifestyles, is my tithe going to fund his BMW? What I am doing then is financing that Pastor’s extravagant lifestyle instead of helping the poor. My husband is in bondage to the health, wealth, and prosperity lifestyle…and it has hurt him tremendously.

    On the other hand, it’s a sad state in America that most people live beyond their means and spend so much that they cannot give. We are living from paycheck to paycheck and paying for cars and homes we really can’t afford, and then God gets the leftovers.

    Tithing is no different than any other issue….God wants first place in our lives – our hearts, our homes, our finances, relationships, and our government. If he were, we would not have the chaos that we have in this world.

    Even if the passage in Malachi is about food…then why not take 10% of your income, by food, and give it to those in need?

    The underlying issue in all of this may be our selfishness and not God’s Word.


  21. Let me start off by stating that I’ve been a pastor for about 25 years. I think it’s an unjust criticism of pastors when we are characterized as greedy–more onthat in a moment. I personally do not teach tithing, not because it may upset some church folks, but because it does indeed impact the poor more than the middle class and wealthy. I too believe that giving is between an individual (or family) and God. I am saddened when lay leadership in a church and some pastors beat people over the head about tithing while either promising some outrageous claim that God will pour money out on the true givers while withdrawing his love form those who do not.

    I also realize that congregations need to be supported–by the people who attend. A particular congregation doesn’t belong to a pastor–nor do the ministries of the congregation. Many of the comments above lead me to believe that church members who enjoy the benefits of a congregation’s ministries think that someone else beside themselves should carry the financial burden of the ministries that they themselves want and expect.

    As to greedy pastors… Pastors usually make much, much less than their parishoners. Yes, there are some incredibly well-paid pastors–but not many. Most pastors have more education than teachers, for example, yet make far less, have less time off, and have much smaller pensions, and have to work many more years to receive that pension. You speak of ‘grinning, greedy wolves in the pulpit.’ How many parishoners ever consider the financial needs of underpaid clergy yet expect them to be at their beck and call 34/7? Most pastors come out of seminary with over $30,000 in debt incurred for the sole purpose of attaining a degree required by the very church members who then refer to them as ‘grinning, greedy wolves in the pulpit.’ Yeah, I guess that even after 25 years my wounds–and the wounds of my fellow clergy–are still fresh. Wounds, by the way, inflicted by parishoners who see them as greedy for simply wanting to give their families a few of the things that their parishoners enjoy. Are some pastors greedy? Yes-I’ve known a few, a very few. I’ve know many, many more greedy and miserly church members. Maybe the acrimony isn’t all that helpful. I honestly grieve for church members who feel preyed upon by clergy–and I grieve even more for the honest, hardworking clergy who are stereotyped by parishoners.

    As to keeping something is perspective when it comes to the topic of giving… This is of course merely anecdotal, but 25 years of experience have taught me that the people who object to the issue of giving from the pulpit are usually objecting to paying their just share of their congregation’s legitimate expenses. In other words, it is often the selfishness, greed and avarice of some church members, not the selfishness greed and avarice of some pastors that is the real problem. The average parishoner spends far more on entertainment a year, the value of which dissipates within moments, than than in giving to charitable causes. According to a USA Today article back in 2004, PricewaterhouseCoopers says that Americans spent $680 billion on entertainment that year compared with the 300 billion on charitable causes in 2006. Makes you think, I hope,

  22. “…the people who object to the issue of giving from the pulpit are usually objecting to paying their just share of their congregation’s legitimate expenses.”

    Perhaps. Or perhaps the problem lies with clergy confusing “wants” and “needs.”

    For instance, setting aside the building itself, no congregation needs a $5,000,000 parking lot. It’s just more convenient to have one.

    So really, what’s a “legitimate” expense? The pastor’s (and his family’s) food, clothing and shelter? Sure, I’m with you there.

  23. I’ve read some of your blogs, and I know that there are some pastors who are as you describe. There are some who have a hold on a congregation that is unhealthy and more importantly, unbiblical. I have never heard of your former church or of its pastors, so I say this based solely on your experience. If they are as you say, then you were right to leave. Acts 15 describes the events of the Jerusalem Council–a very collaborative meeting. That should in some way or another be our model for leading a church. Church members have a right to know how contributions are used. I would never belong to a church where the leaders refused to discuss how contributions are used.

    So, what constitutes a legitimate expense? That issue SHOULD be openly and collaboratively decided by a groups of elders or deacons or whatever the independent leadership arm of a particular congregation is called. That decision SHOULD be shared openly and fully with the congregation.

    As to a $5 million dollar parking lot… Based on normal costs for such things, that equates to a parking lot that holds over 3,300 cars or about 8,200 average attendance! If it is a multi-story carpark that works out to about 400 spaces or about 1,000 average attendance. Your former church is really building that large a parking lot?

    Again, it’s not simply a matter of clergy alone confusing wants and needs–laity have the money and laity vote with their money. So, if laity are willing to pay for triffles or mere conveniences, it’s because THEY ultimately want it. Therefore they have confused wants and needs.

    Again, if the by-laws of a church allow the pastor to make all the decisions and do not allow members to have any say, then there are far deeper issues than how money is used. That would be a church to flee from as soon as possible.

    Travis, you’re an interesting man. You’re angry–and maybe you should be. But the Scripture clearly teaches that we are not to bear false witness, and painting all pastors (or laity for that matter) with the same paint brush is bearing false witness. So, as Scripture says, be angry but do not sin. Sin lurks, waiting for someone to devour.

    Grace and Peace,

  24. Thank God at least Gary gets it. Its called discipling. There in awaits the blessings of Gods promises. Those who labor in the Word (the clergy) are worthy of double honor. However the current direction of the evangelical “church” and many others are leading people away from God with a tithing heresy. Every prophet including Malachi addressed this issue of the pharisees exhorting themselves above the so called common people. Who was robbing God? The priest and the whole nation but it started with and Malachi was addressing the priest. Again today the cycle repeats its self. The rule is, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” Did anyone notice he said that men would give?

    There is supposed to be equality among God’s people. “Love each other as I have loved you.”

    Jesus please help this demented world.

    Keep it up Gary, God will prevail.

    Thy Kingdom come, Lord. And God, please hurry!

  25. wwjd: That’s the whole point: He doesn’t!

    “I have no need of a bull from your stall, or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” — Psalm 50:9-12

    The problem is that too many elders covet our “silver, gold and clothing” rather than supplying their own needs as the Apostle Paul taught them:

    “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” — Acts 20:33-35

  26. I would say, if a preacher is going to insist that you give 10% of all your earnings, he should also insist on obeying “all” of the “old Covenant” law, and laws of Moses. For starters, this would mean excluding from your diet:

    Cows and pigs or any other animal that chews their cud or has a split hoof. (Don’t even touch their carcasses) Deuteronomy 14:7
    Lobster, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams or any other sea life that does not have scales or fins. Deuteronomy 14:10
    Chicken, turkey, duck, goose, cornish hen, quail, pheasant or anything else with wings! (I’m assuming this includes their eggs also) Deuteronomy 14:19
    This kind of narrows the menu down a bit after we have raced each other to the buffet after Church, doesn’t it?

  27. I couldn’t edit my last post on 9/19/2008, so I wanted to correct or clarify it. Actually Chicken, turkey, duck, goose, cornish hen, quail, pheasant etc.. were clean and Okay to eat. Sorry if I mis informed anyone.

    God Bless


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