Social financing cannot be avoided. The state is ready to assume it as a means of power (as is the church); the tithe places the power and decision in the hands of the believer. State financing cannot be “abolished” unless it is replaced. The answer is therefore not legislation but Christian reconstruction. We cannot wait for people to vote the abolition of welfarism and the public schools; we must construct our own schools and our own more godly welfare agencies. Quietly and steadily, these things are being done. ~ R. J. Rushdoony
Chalcedon vice-president, Martin Selbrede, once noted that if Christian Reconstruction is thriving, then a clear indicator of its flourishing would be that Rushdoony’s small volume Tithing & Dominion is Chalcedon’s best-selling book. At present, the popularity of the book equals the popularity of the subject of tithing, so it’s obviously no best-seller. However, Selbrede’s point is well taken and remains a benchmark for our progress.
Why is tithing a benchmark for our progress? It’s because God’s tithe is the alternative means to social financing rather than the state. If God provides—through His people—then God rules through His people. If the state provides, then the state rules.
Early on, statists saw that the increase of bureaucracy was easily justified by the state’s assumption of providing for social needs—a blatant overextension of God’s intention for civil rulers—however, this could only be accomplished because of the void left by Christians who turned their faith into a religion of the heart more so than a faith for all of life.
Tithing or Cutting Taxes: Which is More Important to You?
Consider the fact that the average conservative Christian speaks far more about “cutting taxes” than tithing, and rails more about “smaller government” than they do an increase in Christian alternatives to civil government. Ergo, conservative Christians are still quite statist, and their passions are more political than productive.
Rushdoony’s solution was a simple one: replace the state with Christian governing institutions that are financed by the Lord’s tithe. Over time, the influence and power of God’s order will challenge the state’s authority and cast a skepticism about its involvement in education, welfare, healthcare, and more.
This requires human energy and financing, but all of that is mostly consumed by political action and an unproductive focus on building church buildings more so than creating Christian institutions that can address specific societal needs.
It’s Easier to Vote Than It Is to Work
As you may know, a central divide among Christian Reconstructionists is the question of which covenantal institution bears the most authority. For Rushdoony, it was the family, while for others, it is the institutional church, and this differentiation has had a significant impact on tithing, because one position puts the authority of the tithe’s distribution in the hands of the individual/family while the other places it in the hands of local elders.
The problem we face in the larger scheme of things is not so much Rushdoony’s emphasis upon the family as set over against your local Reformed church, but rather the mainstream evangelical church’s total absorption of the time, energy, and tithe in church staff and buildings. It therefore makes sense that the average Christian feels political action and revivalism represents Christian service more so than godly reconstruction. After all, they give to their church, don’t they? What’s left to do but vote in a Christian president!
Even on a lesser scale, it’s easier to “vote in” a Christian public school administrator than it is to finance Christian schools or take up homeschooling. Yet, nothing has come to the fore that represents any greater example of Christian Reconstruction than what is accomplished by Christian education. In this area, Christians are “taking back” government from the state—and weakening the state’s jurisdiction—by investing their time, energy, and money in homeschooling and building Christian schools.
Are there other areas where a similar accomplishment can be had? What about welfare? Healthcare? Marriage? Civil disputes? In our May/June 2011 issue of Faith for All of Life, Martin Selbrede wrote about the reconstruction of animal shelters. Is God’s law concerned with stray animals? Most definitely, but do Christians share that concern? And if so, what are they doing about it?
We cannot limit our faith without implying that God’s jurisdiction is equally limited. And if we believe that our faith extends to all areas of life, then the implication is that we must prepare ourselves for both wider and deeper work in our social order. This is our duty as those commissioned by Christ, and this is our calling as trustees delegated to “occupy” until He comes (Luke 19:13).
All of our resources should be devoted to this charge, and the prime objective of tithing should be towards creating alternatives to the jurisdiction of the state. Christian Reconstruction is Christian responsibility. It’s as simple as that.
 R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), p. 758.
- Chalcedon Editorial