In this post I want to present what the New Testament says about Christian giving according to MacArthur, and then in the next post will share what MacArthur has to say about the "storehouse tithing" doctrine. MacArthur preached a sermon series "A Biblical Model for Giving" upon which this information is based.
Note that I am using his sermons on this topic, and not his writings in books or reference materials. The information shared here is what MacArthur has stood in his pulpit and TAUGHT HIS CONGREGATION from the Bible. He was not afraid to be honest with his congregation about what Christian giving IS and what it is NOT. Just a side note about MacArthur - he has been pastor of Grace Community Church since 1969, and has had some health challenges this year. Totally unrelated to this topic, if you want to hear a preacher pour his heart out in gratitude to and love for his congregation, listen to or read this sermon from 9/13/09 upon his return from a few months away during his recuperation.
From the third sermon in the Biblical Giving series, MacArthur explains the following characteristics of Christian giving from 2 Cor 8 and 1 Cor 16: it is instituted by God's grace, it transcends difficult circumstances, is done with joy, not hindered by poverty; it is liberal, proportionate, sacrificial, and voluntary.
I think any Christian would agree that scripture clearly teaches those principles of New Testament giving. But MacArthur makes a few points under the "proportionate" and "voluntary" characteristics that are especially relevant to the matter of storehouse tithing; and also about "sacrificial" that we'll look at later.
Proportionate Giving (1 Cor 16:2)
Says MacArthur: "They gave whatever they were capable of giving. God doesn't expect you to charge giving on your credit card and go further into debt. God expects you to give out of what you have. We aren't supposed to give a fixed amount, that's not what the Macedonians did, that's not, as we shall see in a few moments, what God asks of us, or a fixed percent. We're not supposed to worry on whether it's set against the gross or the net, those questions are not germane to the discussion of Christian giving. The issue is you give as you are capable of giving. And they did that."
MacArthur rejects a discussion of a fixed percent - its not even relevant to the discussion. The preachers who answer the question of whether a Christian should tithe on their gross or net income by saying "do you want to be blessed on the gross or the net" - its not even a matter to be considered.
Voluntary Giving (2 Cor 8:3)
Says MacArthur: "It says at the end of verse 3, "They gave of their own accord." They gave literally of their own volition. They gave of their own will. They gave out of their own initiative. They were self-motivated and spontaneous. This was their choice. In fact, the term here is very interesting, authairetos in the Greek which is the word used, "they gave of their own accord," literally means one who chooses his own course of action. They chose to do this. They weren't coerced. They weren't manipulated. They weren't intimidated into this. They weren't bribed into it. They weren't sort of coddled into it. They weren't brought into it by some promise of something or some trickery or some gimmick. There was no manipulation. There was no coercion. It was out of their own hearts."
I would classify some of the hard-core storehouse tithing tactics used by preachers as coersion, trickery, and gimmicks to get people to fork over 10% of their money when perhaps they shouldn't - and perhaps allows those who should give MORE than 10% to stop there and feel spiritually superior when maybe they should give more.
Consider Brunson's following statement on tithing delivered in a sermon on stewardship in 2008 (click here for the audio clip):
"Congregation, I say this as an act of leadership, and not as anything else. I give my tithe to this church. Anybody who says otherwise of giving a tithe to the church is doing the work of Satan....I live by a standard that my father took the word of God when I was a boy and taught me and he says 'You give God the first tenth'. And you say 'Pastor, but wait a minute, Pastor, I cannot tithe' - that's probably why you're in the situation you're in. And you say 'But give us some leeway here, tell us surely we can do it with 3%, let us just start somewhere'. You know what God's word says in Malachi? 'You're robbing me of tithes'. So you want your pastor to stand up here and say "OK, give 3 percent, rob God a little less than you've been doing.' Is that what you want me to say? I can't tell you that. I can tell you as a personal testimony of my life and our marriage, that God...gets...the tenth...first. And it comes to my local storehouse, the church I'm a member of."
Well, I sure don't think MacArthur is "doing the work of Satan". This is typical "storehouse tithing" nonsense, made worse when considering it comes from a very wealthy megachurch pastor, living in a million dollar home, traveling the world, that has accepted a six-figure gift from a member of his congregation, and then misuses OT scripture to accuse his people of "robbing God" if they don't meet the magic 10% threshold.
In the next post, we'll look at what MacArthur says about this 10% threshold taught by the storehouse tithers. As MacArthur says:
"And that leads us to the issue of why do Christians today think they need to give ten percent? Where does that come from? And I want to answer that. It comes basically from a misunderstanding of the Old Testament. And I feel obligated to make that misunderstanding clear to you and then set it right."
Amen. A preacher not afraid to teach the truth from scripture about Christian giving. That will be discussed next...