Dave Ramsey, the very popular personal finance guru who appears frequently on the FoxNews Channel and teaches church members how to manage their finances, seems to advocate that Christians should continue the practice of tithing under all circumstances, even when their finances become tight...and get this....even when facing bankruptcy, or even if they are IN bankruptcy.
First of all, I like Dave Ramsey and he has done much to help people better manage their finances. I take nothing away from him on that. But he gives some very eye-popping advice on tithing that I think Christians should be aware of, especially since Dave makes the rounds in evangelical churches teaching Christians how to manage their money.
Here on the "Ask Dave" portion of his website, the following is asked:
"Janelle in Sacramento wonders if they should cut their tithe in order to help them get out of debt more quickly. Dave explains his spiritual take and that he wouldn’t stop his tithe or reduce it."
OK, so then Dave (or the writer of Dave's response) answers with the following:
"No, I wouldn’t stop my tithe. I wouldn’t reduce it. It’s a tenth. I tithed all the way into bankruptcy court and all the way out. These are a loving Father’s instructions for His kids."
The above is the last paragraph of his answer, I'll deal with the others below. So he is saying that even if times are tough, whatever you do, DON'T REDUCE YOUR TITHE! I find it hard to believe that a credible financial expert would tell people this. There are a myriad of circumstances in which a Christian may need to reduce their charitable giving. People that have made poor choices and amassed serious debt very well may not be able to tithe and care for their families. Not to mention it may be downright immoral for a Christian to fork over 10% of their income to a church when they have creditors who are not getting the money owed to them.
And then he throws in that he has tithed all the way into bankruptcy court and all the way out. This reminds me of Mac Brunson's words that he's never seen a tither go broke. Well, apparently Dave Ramsey did. I wonder how court appointed bankruptcy trustees will take to a Christian who seeks bankruptcy protection from the courts, and the trustee sees that the person is continuing to give thousands of dollars to their church but not paying their creditors. Is that even legal? Is it moral to write checks for 1/10th of your income to your church at the same time stiffing your creditors and going to the government for protection from those creditors?
Now the rest of Dave's response:
"By definition, an evangelical Christian is someone who believes what the Bible says. That’s where we need to go for our answers, not some guy on the radio. However, I can help you with that. I’m not your authority; God’s word would be."
Sounds very good, so far.
"As I’ve studied Scripture, the word 'tithe' literally means tenth. Deuteronomy says to give a tenth of your net increase—a tenth of your income. About 1,200 years of Protestant Christian teaching has been that the tithe goes to the local church because the local church is the New Testament representation of the Old Testament storehouse. The Old Testament storehouse took care of the Levites. The church in your community is supposed to be doing that. That’s an evangelical Christian definition of it.
Here's where the problems start. I think he should have stopped after paragraph 1 - this paragraph proves his thesis of not being an authority on tithing in paragraph 1.
- The "storehouse tithe" concept is not a 1200 year old protestant teaching...in fact, last time I checked we've only had 500 years of "Protestantism" (Martin Luther hung his 95 theses in 1517, so that would be 493 years). But maybe Dave is confusing the tithe with the Catholic indulgences which do stretch back 1000 years or so.
- the "storehouse tithing" doctrine has been taught in American evangelical churches for about 100 years. Its not a 1200 year old, church teaching as Dave says.
- not sure which Deuteronomy reference he is making, but it may very well be the tithe to the poor described in Deut 14:28-29. Only problem is that was a tithe to be given every third year, and was primarily intended for the poor and needy. So this would be 3 1/3%. There were also two other tithes in the Mosaic Law (the Levitical tithe and the festival tithe - bringing the total to 23 1/3% annually, not 10%).
- Dave has one thing right: "The church in your community is supposed to be doing that", referencing caring for the poor. He knows by and large very little of the 8 billion dollars going to Southern Baptist coffers each year make it to the poor and needy, or even to world evangelism.
- I know of no place in the bible where the "local church" is the representation of the "Old Testament storehouse". The New Testament "church" was not a building or a storehouse. It was a collection of believers.
"When does it occur? As I’ve studied it in Scripture, it’s real clear that it’s off the top as it says in Proverbs. That’s before anything else occurs. Having said all of that, there’s enough toxicity in Christianity and misinformation, so let’s back up from that. God loves you whether you give money to the church or not. He doesn’t love you more if you give. We’re not going to get into performance-based legalism. We’re just doing this because we love God and that’s what He’s telling His kid to do. I’m going to follow that."
- reference to Proverbs must be Proverbs 3:9-10, where we are told to bring to the Lord "the firstfruiuts of all thine increase" (KJV) or "the first of all your produce" (NASB)...so yes, we are to bring the first of our crops.
- Kudos to Dave, as he does have it exactly right that God doesn't love us more if we give more.
Finally, I wonder why Dave would be so firm on this, that he would recommend someone to not reduce their giving below 10% under any cirucmstances? I'm assuming that its not a deeply held biblical conviction, as he misses the historical length of Protestantism by about 700 years, and doesn't know the tithe to help the poor in Deuteronomy is only 3 1/3 percent per annum. Is it really out of conviction? Would any serious financial consultant recommend a Christian to tithe even when they are facing financial trouble, even bankruptcy?
Its no secret that a portion of Dave's market for his services is derived from evangelical churches. Probably every WD reader has seen an advertisement at their church to attend a Ramsey seminar or simulcast.
How popular do you think Ramsey would be with the evangelicals, especially of the Southern Baptist ilk, if he were to admit that sometimes a Christian has to reduce their giving in certain life situations, or to admit that to be a generous giver might not mean 10% for some Christians?