1 Stars Out Of 5
Legalism with Denials
March 25, 2017
(Note: page numbers below are from the standard edition of the book.)
I first encountered "The Treasure Principle" about ten years ago, a few years after returning from 14 years as a missionary overseas. I was underemployed and barely able to survive financially, and was unquestionably unable to live without 10% of my income. The first four chapters said some good things, but chapter 5 hit me like a 2x4 in the face. Was I really robbing my heavenly father, as Alcorn claimed? Was I robbing the holy, almighty God?
I almost immediately saw a few specific things that didn't seem right; for example, he applies Malachi 3:8-10 directly to Christians, including "You are under a curse", but Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us". Alcorn also ignores other types of tithing in the Old Testament, such as in Dt. 12 (especially note verse 17) and 14:22f, where it says the Israelites should set aside a tenth of all their fields produce each year and have a feast with it, while not neglecting the Levites.
Alcorn says on page 62 that "Jesus validated the mandatory tithe -- but in context, Jesus was talking to a Pharisee, not one of his followers. Some slaveholders used a similar argument to say that Paul validated slavery when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon or when he said, "Slaves, obey your masters" (Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22). (At least Paul was talking to Christians!)
Alcorn says on page 65 that not giving 10% of your income is "like saying, 'I used to rob six convenience stores a year. This year, by His grace, I'm going to rob only three.'" Alcorn gives no mercy and no grace to those who cannot give according to the portion of the Law quoted in Malachi.
As time has gone on and I've read and re-read Romans and Galatians, I have seen more and more clearly that if we are in Christ then we have died to the Law, and that by putting us under the Law, Randy Alcorn is doing no differently than those who Paul talked about who were trying to put Christians under the Law of circumcision -- and with less foundation, looking at how absolute God's covenant of circumcision is with Abraham in Gen. 17:9-14.
Alcorn says that Jesus supposedly "raised the spiritual bar" (p. 63) -- but did He say we should more strictly obey the Sabbath (one of the Ten Commandments), or dietary laws? No, what Jesus did was to change the paradigm from works of the Law to our heart attitude, and our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
As God's adopted son, I am not under the Law (cf. Mt. 17:25-27), but I am a co-heir with Christ (Rm. 8:17, et al). Because I am in Christ, I have died to the Law (Romans and Galatians, et al). This cannot be emphasized strongly enough, because it is integral to the Gospel. Alcorn makes it clear, contrary to Scripture, that he thinks tithing is mandatory. In doing so he puts us back under the entire Law (Gal. 5:3, James 2:10), condemns us all and implicitly denies the Gospel.
Alcorn also dances with a type of "Prosperity Gospel", which for the sake of space I will not discuss further.
I would not recommend this book except with strong disclaimers, or as an example of legalism and bad hermeneutics.