Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tithes, Offerings & Tent Making

"Pass the Loot"
By Dale Brown

A good friend once told me of an experience of being in a large health and wealth type church where a high-powered speaker was brought in to give a message about church finances. The message was laced with Bible verses about faith in God’s provision and of course the one about God loving cheerful givers. Presented like a fast talking car salesman eager to close the deal, the speaker zeroed in on his mark. My friend who was caught up in the fervor and hype soon found himself dropping his wedding ring into the offering container. Just as he heard the sound of it "thunk" on the bottom of the cardboard bucket his heart sank and he realized he had made a mistake. This was not a "free-will" offering, but an offering of compulsion made through manipulation.
Now, clearly churches have light bills and salaries to pay in order to continue doing what they do, but where does one draw the line? The Old Testament is clear about funds collected to support the work of the temple. The word tithe simply means ten percent. The most often quoted verse is in Malachi 4:8-10. "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say ‘How have we robbed thee?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." It is usually pointed out that this is the only place in the Bible where God says we can test Him.

This is often preached by pastors as though they are supporting a temple with its ritual sacrifice and a hosts of priests. The problem however is that we are not living in a theocratic society, nor are we under the law of Moses. We are living under a new covenant of grace, in which God places His law on our heart by being born again. Now certainly most pastors mean well and use the offering in a just manner. However, pastors are only one member of the body of Christ and they do not represent the full expression of what God is doing on this planet. Sometimes the kingdom that is being built is not God’s but the preacher’s. This is where we as givers need to put on some critical thinking, do a bit of praying, and find out where God wants your money invested.

Those who do not like the idea of tithing are quick to point to the fact that apostle Paul made tents at times to support his ministry. Paul did this at times in order that he would not cause people to stumble over the money issue. At other times, however, Paul voiced his frustration because some were being supported while he was stressing out under the load of his ministry. "Do we not have a right to eat and drink?" "Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense?"(1 Cor. 9:4,7) It is most discouraging for an evangelist who is living by faith and working a job in order to reach the lost, when the local pastor is receiving a comfortable salary with medical insurance while looking for everyone else to do volunteer work to support his own private agenda. Parachurch organizations are often born out of such situations. When the traditional church does not recognize what God is doing through what they might consider unorthodox means, God is likely to remove these gifts from the local church so they can fulfill His divine purpose else where.


  1. While I do believe that it is commendable for any person to give ten percent of his income to worthy charities, I believe that transparency and knowing how that donation will be spent are essential information that a donor needs to know beforehand.

    If I am familiar with what an organization is doing, and how, then I can trust them. But if they are willing to be transparent it is easier to trust them.

    In many cases, I prefer to give a portion directly to people who are in need rather than have a middle man. While a group can in theory find the most efficient way to feed a large number of people, sometimes people abuse funds intended for the poor. There are too many examples of that.

    As for salaries of clergy, each needs to negotiate a contract with the board of each group for a specific period of time.

  2. Faith is required to pay tithing. We cannot see what may be around the corner, but God can. That is why we put our full trust in Him, knowing that He will use our tithing as HE sees fit.

    Yes, men are just mortal and as such will err. But man's choices will not affect God's ultimate plan.