Before 1870 tithing was not even discussed in Protestant churches in the USA. After a Baptist history of over 300 years without tithing texts (1649-1963), the Southern Baptist Convention first introduced tithing references in The Faith and Message in 1963 (Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.).
In addition, from 1844 to 1859, Sabbatarian Adventists had no plan for regular giving, but relied on freewill donations from interested hearers. “In April of 1858, James White (Ellen White’s Husband) described the tiny pool of preaching brethren as “sunken down under poverty, with broken-down health and discouragement.” Something must be done soon to sustain the cause financially or the Advent Movement would come to a screeching halt” he said.
Historical church giving plans
In February of 1859, a committee of three men in Battle Creek proposed a Systematic Benevolence Plan based on 1 Corinthians: males from 18 to 60 years of age to give 5-25 cents weekly.” That did not work, so they came up with the Sister Betsy Plan. Church officers would come to the houses of members and sympathizers to collect money on Sundays. One thing though, those plans never mentioned Malachi 3, nor sacrificial giving, curses for unfaithful giving, nor blessings for giving.
In the 1860s and 1870s, the Adventist’s Systematic Benevolence Plan [became], based on the tithing principle, a system where full-time workers were urged to give a tithe or ten percent of their annual increase to the cause. James White estimated that one’s increase represented about ten percent of the annual growth of one’s assets, but in reality, the S.B. Plan amounted to only one percent. So, he was searching for a more lucrative money-making scheme, not sound biblical teaching. In 1932, for the first time, tithing entered the roster of “Fundamental Beliefs (https://spectrummagazine.org/).
Once that was established the fear-factor set-in. It was then the church began holding biblical guns to people’s heads. It was then they set fear in your heart. It was at that point pastors threaten membership for not tithing. It is supposed to be a free-will gift, but Adventist pastors have told me that the church will deduct their tithes before those ministers even see their paychecks. I have witnessed pastors threatening church officers with removal from office for not tithing.
The fear factor:
That is how the fear factor emerged in the Adventist churches Just as in the SBC. They always start with this ominous statement from Malachi 3: will a man rob God?
Malachi 3:8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.” But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. Chapter 9 says, “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.”
That is how those religious organizations began to hold a gun to the heads of members, compelling them to pay. It is one thing if it were a physical gun, but when God is the stickup weapon, that is a hold other story.
In order to force obedience to the tithing doctrine, pastors will paint God as that Ivan-the-Terrible Czar who is waiting to ruin our lives as soon as we miss one payment. They say, God gives food and he can stop giving. God gives blessings but he can also curse. God can take your Job. He can withhold healing from your child. He can decide not to protect you in an accident. He can change your good fortune to misfortune. Your prosperity is dependent on tithing. When these brimstones descend from church pulpits as the results of unfaithfulness, those who believe in the church has little choice but to fall in line and pay their tithes.
Tithe for Jews, not for Christians
But who are the robbers addressed in Malachi 3?
Verse 6: “I the Lord do not change. So, you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Verse 7, “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. This is the same chapter with the curses and robbers.
Also, Numbers 18:24 says, for the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore, I have said concerning them, ‘They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.’” Clearly, when one reads the whole chapter of Malachi 3, and Numbers 18, they realize that that system was designed for Israel as a theocrasy – A nation designed by God and operated religiously. So, the robbers referred to here are not Christians.
Jesus’ teacher on tithes
In recent weeks, Creflo Dollar, a mega church pastor, recanted the Malachi 3 tithing doctrine that has earned him millions. In the wake of that reversal, Creflo was chastised by scores of other pastors for that retraction. And many cited Matthew 23 as supporting scripture for tithing in The Christian Church. However, as you will see, that scripture references the Jewish Law and officials who were participants in the hierarchy of the Jewish religion order. Not to mention, that conversation transpired before Jesus’ death. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus is speaking to the pharisees and says this, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin 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.” Again, notice Jesus is referencing the law. He is also speaking to leaders of the Jews. When Jesus referenced tithing, it was always in the context of the Jewish practice of the law. I challenge any pastor to show me where Jesus taught his disciples to tithe.
So, how are Christians to support the church?
“So, the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.” —Acts 11:29.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” —Romans 12:13
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.” —Romans 15:25–26
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. – Acts 4:32-35.
Not one place is tithing mentioned in the early church, much less tithing for the purpose of prosperity. Why don’t churches use that method? For one thing it takes power from those denominations; for another, it requires a repented heart. Conversion is at the heart of church movement. When people are converted, when they know Jesus for themselves no giving is too big. Peter baptized thousands in one day with the method they had. People were fed and satisfied. People loved more.
With conversion, no fear is required, no lies need to be told, no false hopes of property needed. No proverbial gun-to-head required.