- A society whose leaders make themselves rich and powerful by stealing from the rest of the people.
- A government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed (Webster.com).
- A corrupt governmental human body made up of thieves, additionally sullied by nepotism and croneyism (Urban Dictionary).
- A ruler uses political power to steal his or her country’s resources (Dictionary.com).
- A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption (FreeDictionary.com)
With these definitions, you can’t make a definitive declaration that the church has become a complete kleptocratic institution, but once you extrapolate that ancient Israel practiced tithing only from resources derived from agricultural products and herds and flocks, it appears that monetary tithing as practiced in a democracy inside the church resembles a secular practice outside of the Bible. The foundational pillars of kleptocracy is rule and power over the people. We know the Hebrew term for tithe is masser. The term is defined as tenth part, not ten percent. Based on context, exegesis and the cultural/historical underpinnings of Israel, and the land, language and literature of the Hebrew people, and the Jewish historian Josephus to include Leviticus 27:30-33, all tithing in Israel came from edible products (livestock, grain, crops).
In each of these entities, kleptocracy, democracy, aristocracy, plutocracy, autocracy and theocracy, the idea is rule and power. Today, it’s not hard to see that history proves–in some cases–that wherever the government goes, so goes the church. The church is an institutional organizational structure with a hierarchical leadership. In one sense, the church could be an autocracy because of government by one ruler pastor. This is where the senior pastor rules and has all the power of decision-making. In another sense, the church could be described as an aristocracy because the tithing doctrines pushed from the pulpit has made many pastors filthy rich as they built mega church ministry empires. So how does a church become a kleptocracy? All one has to do is open their ears and listen to the dialogue of what happens to people who don’t pay their ten percent to the church. Some pastors say believers won’t go to heaven if they don’t tithe. Some pastors say congregational members who do not tithe will be cursed by God. Other pastors promote positive financial tithing messages by telling parishioners God will reign down blessings they won’t have room to receive if they simply pay God ten percent. More often, the curse messages about tithing strikes fear into the hearts of congregants. Just as soon as their car breaks down, a child gets sick, a major financial problem occurs or some other calamity arises, it is immediately associated with God punishing them for not paying the tithe.
In any of these “ocracies” it is the structure that robbing the people and in the institutional church, it is the structure that robs the congregation by draining their resources using scripture out of context, which leaves some members in poverty or broke and not able to take care of their families. The theocracy of Israel and its tithing system never took from the poor but gave to them through a set of tithing laws. The church becomes a kleptocracy because they changed God’s tithing laws from livestock and crops and who the recipients were to money to support a sustainable financial system where money is redirected to unauthorized receivers and none of this is covered in the Bible. The Bible never instructs anyone in Israel to pay money as a tithe to the Levites or priests and the rebuttal argument that most pastors like to use is that although Israel did not have a money or banking system, their tithe was their form of money. They wordsmith the tithing scriptures using isegesis to substantiate their position. However, I blow up that argument in one of my previous blogs, Show Me the tithe and the Money in Kleptomaniac: Who’s Really Robbing God Anyway? Most churches run like a corporation, but the New Testament ecclesia is not did not operate on based on vertical leadership, where one man ruled but was set up based on horizontal leadership based on the dictates of the book of Acts. Church leadership that claims scriptures give them the power and authority to lay claim the to the financial resources of congregational members income in perpetuity are kleptomaniacs who really rob God’s people of the truth about tithing. More and more disingenuous tithing methods are created everyday to ensure the cash flow doesn’t decrease in the church. Teachings like grace tithing, first fruits tithing or tithing in general is what connects believers to God are making the rounds on the church circuit. It appears the rule of kleptocracy in maintaining a mandatory monetary tithe in the church is not subsiding. But as long as authentic theologians speak up about the kleptomaniacs who are really robbing God’s people of tithes, we will see the truth set people free so they can become true authentic givers based on New Testament instructions instead of Old Testament tithe laws that were nailed to the cross.
History often tells truth about the church where the church does not want to admit. Historians have left published records that Americans and Christians have not liked dealing with the phenomenon of paying for God or paying for religious services. Most people do not realize that prior to the disestablishment clause to the Constitution, most churches existed on free-will offerings and that the church was traditionally a part of the public sector which received public support from the government much like public television. In the colonies, the state supported religious institutions as a public service deserving public support to finance religion with the use of user fees, licenses, taxes for public good. Some of this is still in practice today as in the case of public education. Property taxes were assessed to pay for schools and property taxes were levied to pay for religion in America. Citizens were charged taxes to pay for religious services. There was no tithing doctrines in churches during the 17th and 18th centuries as America was forming. In the quote below, many churches and pastors during this time did not like the eventuality of religious disestablishment having benefited from it financially for two centuries. It meant losing some of their financial support from the public sector of government. In the book, In Pursuit of The Almighty Dollar by author James Hudnut-Beumler he writes on page 8 and 9 that some of the founders of America like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison whose political philosophy centered around freedom of belief and limiting government in its involvement in religion. Others saw that:
Religious disestablishment was the largest instance of privatization in all of American history; it moved a large part of the traditional public sector into the private marketplace in a relatively short period of years. For those portions of the ecclesiastical world accustomed to state finance–the Anglican, Reformed, and Congregational churches in the South, the mid-Alantic states, New York, and New England-disestablishment was not a godsend delivered by the political philosophy but a frontal challenge to their understanding of who ought to pay for religion and why.
This is a powerful statement that the early American church did not want to be de-funded by the disestablishment clause of the Constitution. In the aftermath of the legislation, churches have to create new forms of self-sustaining financial support and the author lists such plans such as renting pews, subscription books that were passed around community households that asked people to pledge money until the church met their financial goal. Another financial plan was the permanent fund where people just made pledges. Also, at this time, American Chattel slavery was in full operation, and the most shocking practice besides slavery in the church during this time was that Churches in the south who owned slaves rented them out and their children to raise money for the needs of the church. Churches employed all kinds of financial tactics after losing the public sector funding and being forced into the private sector, which lead many churches to depend wholly on the resources of its members of the congregation. As time went on, voluntary giving doctrines were pushed into a systematic forms of giving. Then teachings on stewardship began to emerge. Around 1870 to 1920, churches began reinventing the biblical tithe because fundraising and stewardship was needed to support churches and clergy. Over time, pew renting and all other forms of fundraising fell out of favor as monetary tithes doctrines began to emerge. The move to make monetary tithing was stick was that:
Tithing was attractive as a source of funding to the degree that clergy could convince themselves and others that it was spiritual law, as unappealable as the laws of motion, force and gravity. It was also obvious to these advocates of tithing that their churches had been getting by on a good bit less than a tenth of their members’ money…… But the advocates of tithing were not prepared to accept less than a tenth any more than advocates of grape juice were willing to accept wine in the Lord’s supper. page 51
There you have it. The clergy or pastors were not accepting freewill offerings anymore and the congregation had to cough up that ten percent. So they re-imagined God’s tithe and reinvented new tithe context so members had to accept paying for God. And it does appear that from the 1870s and on, the church stepped into kleptocracy to maintain an enforceable monetary tithe doctrine after loosing public sector financial support with the disestablishment clause that defunded religion in America, which they fought hard to keep. It took about 50 years for voluntary support to lose its impact, then more forceful means of stewardship arose with early preachers like Charles Finney. Once the church was cut off from government public funding, it pushed pastors into becoming professional fund-raisers within their own congregations.
As Protestantism grew, the means to finance the church came do to a fact that:
Every one owes the tithe to Jesus Christ. Not less than one-tenth of a man’s income will discharge debt. It is to be paid before any other debt. Jesus Christ should be the preferred creditor; nay, more–no man has a right to pay his debts to another man with the property of Jesus Christ personally challenges as his own. Furthermore it is a debt to be paid before anything else can be called a gift, or freewill offering to Christ. page 52
This above quote from the 1800s is totally out of context with scripture. First of all, Christ paid the debt on the cross when he gave his life. So no man or woman owes God a tithe because a tithe is not monetary but is agricultural, herds and flocks. Many pastors today teach this quote but be assured it is not biblical accurate no matter what Protestant preachers claim. I argue that the New Testament church gives no such command to tithe to any church today, In my book, Kleptomaniac: Who’s Really Robbing God Anyway, I argue that although monetary tithing grew in many churches since the 1800s, there has been a long history of believers and leaders arguing against the monetary tithe doctrine. There is a crisis in the modern church because stewardship and fundraising programs are off the rails and out of control. Mega churches popping up and financial scandal is causing many of them to implode. Here is an excerpt below from my book, Kleptomaniac: Who’s Really Robbing God Anyway?
Kleptomaniac Book Excerpt
False Pro-Tithe Arguments
- Israel’s farm produce was their income and they tithed on it. Money is what I produce by my labors. Therefore I should tithe my money.
This statement seems biblical and plausible; however, it is not true. When you work for money, you are selling your labor to man for a price. Therefore, you can’t produce money from your labors but you can earn money from your labor. Israel tithed from God’s labor. The Israelite farmer’s crops and animals were their farm assets not income. The farmer’s income came from the sale or barter exchange of those assets. What a farmer received from the barter exchange or sale would be the farmer’s income. The income was NOT what God wanted tithed but rather the assets (crops and livestock), which came from God’s hands as miracles. Here is an example: Fruit is not a payment or compensation. Fruit is classified as an asset because it is property, a product. The sale or exchange of the fruit would create income. There are no Scriptures showing Israel selling crops and cattle and taking the money from the sale and giving a tenth to the temple or to the Levites as a tithe. If you study every money verse in the Bible, it was never a titheable item. For example, Joseph gave Benjamin 300 pieces of silver (Genesis 45:22). According to Genesis 47:15-17, food was used for barter only after money had run out. Banking and usury laws exist in Leviticus even before tithing. Therefore, the argument that money was not prevalent enough for everyday use is false. Yet the tithe contents from Leviticus to Luke never includes money from non-food products and trades. The only mandatory tithe in the Old Testament is eatable items (crops and livestock).
- Tithing is a mandatory biblical practice taught in both Old & New Testament.
According to Scripture, tithing was mandatory only for those who owned land and grew crops and raised livestock in the Old Testament inside Israel. There are no implied or direct mandatory commands to tithe money from the Apostles in any of the Epistles. To assert that tithing money is mandatory in the New Testament is an argument from silence in the Scriptures. Tithing is mandatory in the Old Testament under the law and not mandatory under the New Testament because it was not passed down. The New Testament encourages giving from the heart as outlined by Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7. If Paul wanted to drive home a tithing argument, his style of direct and to the point writing would have been clear because the text would possibly read: “So let each one give a tithe as God commanded.” When Paul says give what you decide in your heart, he is emphasizing freewill grace giving not percentage based giving.
Read Book excerpts from Kleptomaniac: Who’s Really Robbing God Anyway and learn some of my personal thoughts about what went into writing the book excerpts.
- Is the Church the Storehouse for Tithing?
- Did Jesus Collect Tithes?
- Will a Man Rob God?
- Eating Tithes vs. Paying Tithes
- What are First Fruits in the Bible?
- Official Orthodox Biblical Tithing Has Passed Away
- Jesus and his Ministry Never Received Tithes
- Paul Never Taught Believers to Tithe Money
- The Church and Its Money Grab Tactics
- Monetary Tithing is not a Foregone Conclusion
- Money Tithing or Eatible tithing, Which One?
- Arguments Against Tithing Has a Long History
- What Does True Giving Look Like?
- Tithing on Increase
- The Law Does Not Teach Monetary Tithing
- Research Brings Truth
- Understanding Tithing Starts With a Definition
- The Fight Continues
- Did Paul Convert the Tithe to Money?
- How Did God’s Tithe Become Money?
The author of the book, In Pursuit of The Almighty Dollar makes it clear that evangelicals wanted to expand expand the establishment of religion so that any and who decided to preach could benefit from public sector money. Beumler writes on page 10:
The plan had been to widen the establishment of religion to one in which every freeman paid a tax got to specify to which church it went (much as was the case in the late eighteenth-century states to the north) The Anglican gentry and even the Presbyterians recoiled in horror at the notion that “any laymen, or mechanic, if he finds a motion within him from the spirit, may leap from the anvil or the plough, and in a few minutes go forth a preacher of the word of God” and be supported by publicly collected funds in pursuit of wild doctrines and disorderly gathering of the faithful.
As you can see, it appears some denominations were for anybody preaching and having access to the public money to go on the preaching circuit. Some groups wanted to control who had access to public sector money for preaching. The nasty little secret of church, tithing, government and slavery has alway been swept under the carpet of American history. And so America’s history began with some denominations competing and outmaneuvering each other for the public’s money to sustain themselves. If the competition was this cutthroat then, it is not unusual that kleptocratic methods crept into the church to enforce mandatory tithes by any means necessary to lay claim to church member resources. The disestablishment clause sent shock waves through the church and left many of them spinning their wheels on what to do next now that the government money was gone. Paying for God seems to have been a standard practice throughout history and even now monetary tithing in churches is no different. People who pay a tenth of the income to institutional church based on some alleged scriptural authority are paying for God too. The reason why the church seem comfortable in kleptocracy is that today people can have as much religion they can pay for in a society where the church has went from institutional church to consumer church. The tithe doctrine’s strength lies within the consumer church movement where mega buildings appeal to the masses and where classism exist.
Earlier in this discourse, I mentioned grace tithing as one of the new scams being used in the church. But what the Bible really teaches is grace giving from the heart as the spirit leads one to give. So the slide gives you an example of how grace tithing works in the book of Acts.
To show you how scriptural hermeneutic manipulation occurs, pastor use Apostle Paul’s own words to get you to think that he collected tithes from churches. A kleptomaniac practice they use is from II Cor. 11:8 which reads: “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.” So the argument is that this verse is the smoking gun for collecting tithes. They say when Paul wrote he robbed other churches to preach freely to the Corinthians, he was talking about tithes he collected. This is total foolishness. But when you exegete the word “robbed” Paul was actually using hyperbole which is an expression speech or exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Paul was simple using the word to impress upon the Corinthians and prick their conscience that other churches provided him support while they provided nothing but should have provided some support. This verse is not about tithing. To prove this verse is not about tithing, Paul would have been forcing the Corinthians to break God’s Tithing laws if he refused to take their tithe. And in fact, Paul refused to accept any support and did not want to be burden to them but chose to work his craft of tent-making to support himself and those with him on the preaching journey. In the book, Kleptomaniac: Who’s Really Robbing God Anyway you will know by the end of the book that the pro-tithe proponents have ushered the church into a kleptocracy run by many aristocratic and autocratic pastors who operate in what is now consumer christianity.
So let me conclude with a quote from Author Ernest L. Martin who wrote The Tithing Dilemma. What he say about tithing puts the nail in the coffin on mandatory tithing and what all giving now represents. He writes on page 59:
The rules are now changed. Since tithing is not applicable for members of the Christian ekklesia, all the money (and this includes all the increase of crops and animals) belongs to the Christian who produces the income. This means 100% of his or her income still belongs to the income producer as far as God is concerned. Now some of that money will go to pay taxes (and the Bible states that taxes should be paid—Romans 13:6–7), but as far as God is concerned, 100% of the money Christians earn is theirs. This means that when a Christian gives the first 1% of income to support the work of the Gospel, that 1% is from the start reckoned as a free will offering. If one gives 5% or even 10% (or whatever one gives), it is ALL a free will offering. But with the tithing system which was in force in the Old Testament, that 1% (or more) of free will offering only started after one gave the required 10% to the Levite. But with Christians, all the support is reckoned to be free will.
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