Dear [Redacted] Church, It’s Not Us, It’s You

randomlychad  —  May 14, 2012 — 22 Comments


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Dear [Redacted] Church,

We wanted to love you. We really did. My family and I gave time, talent, treasure. We believed in your mission.

That’s why we feel so let down now. The last two months, it’s been like going to church at TBN. And we don’t even watch TBN! Yes, we get it–yours is a big facility, and it’s expensive to run. We get it. And you’re expanding–planting satellite locations.

All well and good; however, all you had to do was say so: “This is expensive. We need your help.”

But you didn’t do that. You put a biblical veneer on it, told us that tithing is “ten percent of gross income given undesignated to the church you attend.”

Thing is, last time I checked, the tithe had a very specific function in the Old Testament–namely to provide for the priests and Levites who could own no land of their own. We have no problem with this. The worker is worth his wages, and all. We get it. (Indeed, we wonder: if we were farmers, and we brought our “gifts” into your “storehouse,” would you tell us where to go?)

But in the New Testament paradigm we fail to find a one-to-one equivalency between the temple of old and the church of today. In fact, the widow was lauded not for the amount that she gave, but rather because she gave her all. And the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade.

Yet for the past two months, all we’ve heard is a misguided at best, and disingenuous at worst, message about a very specific amount–10 percent–and how we won’t live the “blessed life” if we’re not giving that much.

Not once did you mention anything about God loving a cheerful giver. (“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor. 9:7, ESV). This makes us sad. Do you know the sacrifices we’ve made? How we’re a one income family so mom can be home with the kids? We live paycheck to paycheck to give this stability to our kids. And, dear church, we give what we feel we can. (Which God Himself seems to approve).

Yet in video after slickly produced video, you showed us testimonies of how folks paid their “tithe” ahead of their bills, and somehow everything else was taken care of. Where are the stories from folks where this didn’t work out so well?

We have this queasy feeling in the pits of our stomachs that you wouldn’t share such testimonies. We get the sinking feeling that your leadership, instead of continuously admonishing us to do so, should be trusting God themselves.

Instead of always talking money, how about installing gift boxes in the back of the sanctuary, and let people give as they are lead? But that would take faith, right? How ironic that you want us to exercise faith, but seem to have so little yourself.

You make laws where God Himself does not, and burden His people where He does not. In Psalms 51:16-16, it says,

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Thus it is readily apparent to us that it is the heart that is central, and not a dollar amount. Because we could be giving in the manner proscribed by you, and yet still miss the mark when it comes to doing good to the least of these, visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. Because we are all kings and priests unto God.

As such, we have no problem giving to God, but cannot in good conscience continue to give to you. We hope you understand:

It’s not us, it’s you, and we’re breaking up. God’s kingdom is bigger than your four walls.

Dear friends, what do you have to say? Do you “tithe,” or do you give in accordance with your conscience?

PS, here’s Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason, on tithing vs. giving

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comments

randomlychad

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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • Jesus said we shouldn’t neglect tithing. “Tithe” means 1/10. So as far as tithing 10%, I think your church is correct.

    However, when folks say things like, “It has to be 10% of your gross income, payable only to this church”, they’ve added to God’s command. God says to tithe ‘on your increase’. That could mean take-home pay. It could mean gross. It’s a judgement call. And the money is payable to God’s Kingdom, which could include your local church, but does not mean that church exclusively.

    You’re right that it’s a heart issue. God doesn’t need your money, but He desires your faith. This is the one spot in the Bible where God tells us to test Him.

    My brother’s church has a policy -- Tithe. Doesn’t have to be to us, but tithe. If you do tithe to us, we’re so sure of God’s promise to you that if you’d like to test it, you can tithe for 90 days…and if you’re not better off for having done so, we’ll give you your money back.

    So while I agree that your church doesn’t need to add guilt trips and certainly needs to find something else to talk about after the last two months, I challenge you to try it. And you don’t have to give it to your church. You could give to World Vision, Gospel for Asia, The Mentoring Project, Rob Shepherd’s new church, etc.

    And as for all those people that were blessed because they trusted God and tithed first -- I’ve seen it myself. Over and over and over. Though it doesn’t make sense, why should we be surprised? It’s exactly what God promises will happen.

    Have a gander: http://christianpf.com/tithing-in-the-new-testament/

    • Ricky, thank-you for your comment! And a church with a “money back guarantee?” Never heard of such a thing.

      Here’s a great analysis of the issue by a man much smarter than I:

      http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5624

      To sum it up: he says that while there is no moral obligation to tithe, there is one to give--and to do so cheerfully.

      Believe you you me: I am praying my way through this, seeking God, asking Him to grow my faith.

    • Ricky, thank-you for your comment! And a church with a “money back guarantee?” Never heard of such a thing.

      Here’s a great analysis of the issue by a man much smarter than I:

      http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5624

      To sum it up: he says that while there is no moral obligation to tithe, there is one to give--and to do so cheerfully.

      Believe you you me: I am praying my way through this, seeking God, asking Him to grow my faith.

  • Michelle Woodman

    My husband and I tithe, and I can honestly say (particularly in the early years of our marriage) we can’t afford not to. No, we’re not rolling in $$, but our needs are met and met well. I know people who have quit tithing and picked it up again because things were harder for them financially when they stopped. I know others who gave faithfully and gave out of their need with glad hearts to see debts paid off at amazing speeds. Jeff and I also experienced amazing provisions for us when he was unable to work for three months due to chemotherapy treatments.

    I am also blessed to be a part of a church body where people are not brow-beat into tithing. It is taught on regularly, we are encouraged to give, and it’s left at that. From what I have heard and seen over the years, there have been no guilt trips. We’re also in the midst of building a new church. But again, there have been no guilt-trips or hammerings from the pulpit to give into the building project. We’re also doing things differently: We only proceed with the next phase of the project once the money for it is in. This way we have nothing owing on the building to date, nor will we when it is finally finished.

    It makes me sad to hear about what you’re experiencing at your church, Chad. As Ricky said, God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our faith. I’ve tried Him in this, and He has proven His faithfulness. Has it always been easy? No. But He never proved a storm-free life (though He did promise to be with us through the storms).

    • “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief” just about sums up where I’m at. I’m praying for grace to exercise more faith. But really, I think, my wife and I just want to feel like we belong, that we’re not just another number. Instead of being beaten over the head. Other things have been said before, like “if you’re not ‘tithing’ I would question your salvation.” So we’re bailing. Not sure where we’re gonna land.

    • “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief” just about sums up where I’m at. I’m praying for grace to exercise more faith. But really, I think, my wife and I just want to feel like we belong, that we’re not just another number. Instead of being beaten over the head. Other things have been said before, like “if you’re not ‘tithing’ I would question your salvation.” So we’re bailing. Not sure where we’re gonna land.

      • Ricky Anderson

        It is NOT a salvation issue. Anyone who tells you otherwise needs a whack upside the head, and I’m volunteering to dispense it for you.

  • Chad, I understand that in the OT there was tithing before there was Law. The thing about tithing in Israel is that is was like an income tax to, like you said, support the priests. Israel was supposed to be a theocracy. So “tithing” like that doesn’t work. If we followed the OT tithe to the letter, we would give about 30%, not 10. So, when I hear pastors putting a law like that on me, I get riled up. And no, I don’t OT give. It’s all His. Not just 10%.

    • Larry, when Abraham tithed to Melchizadek, right? He gave of the spoils. Like Mary, I am pondering these things in my heart. Truth is: I want to give somewhere to something I believe in. And it’s not the place we’re leaving.

    • Larry, when Abraham tithed to Melchizadek, right? He gave of the spoils. Like Mary, I am pondering these things in my heart. Truth is: I want to give somewhere to something I believe in. And it’s not the place we’re leaving.

      • Yep. I’m just not convinced we have to tithe as believers. I think the law has been fulfilled. We give based on a different standard now.

  • Chad, I love your honesty. I don’t think that you are making the argument against tithing, you are making an argument about your church desiring your money before their desire for developing/deepening a relationship with you. I think your point that they are asking you to live by faith, but are completely taking matters into their own hands in getting their donations. The paradox, of course, is that if they were equipping you in line with Paul’s exhortations, then you would probably give in increasing amounts. Great stuff.

    • Yeah, Caleb--this. You got it. God is a relational God, and as such His church should be, too.

  • I’m applauding. I understand that churches need that tithe to keep the building running smoothly, but you’re right. The guilt trips they use to get it is insane. I give an amount that I feel God is cool with. In addition, I give money to two separate charities that I believe very strongly in every month. Could I give more? Probably not, because at the moment, there is no money left when I’m done balancing the checkbook.

    • Cool! Thanks, Jamie! That’s basically where we’re at, too. Could my wife and I make some life style adjustments? Sure. We’re striving to be generous in all areas of our lives.

  • Sorry the church has done this to you!

    We give. It’s sacrificial, but it is a blessing. Our country is full of self-entitlement and I think finances are one of the biggest examples of this. I would actually argue that a major cause of our economic crisis is because people don’t give enough. They think money is about their happiness, and so they spend it to be happy. Then they realize they need to spend more to be happy, and more, and more and more!

    The truth is, fulfillment only comes from Christ. Giving is a necessary process for imperfect people to remember that God is our provider. Not just of bread, but of contentment.

    That being said, I think it is important and essential for the church to talk about money. Your church is clearly going overboard and taking things out of context. The solution to this problem is to find a church that teaches through and from the Bible. What I mean is, you have a pastor teaching through books of the Bible, chapter by chapter or verse by verse. This is important for many reasons, and two really fit here:
    1) It keeps the pastor honest. He preaches God’s Word, and does not use God’s Word to preach what he wants people to hear. It seems like your church is doing this with money.
    2) Money is talked about when the Bible talks about it. This keeps it from being ignored, but keeps it from becoming obnoxious and guilt ridden.

    Lastly, I am not suggesting you do this, but I have met people who use Paul saying God loves a cheerful giver as an excuse to not give. “I’m not cheerful, so I shouldn’t give.” That is completely misusing the text. Paul is saying we should give cheerfully, and so we should give cheerfully. If not, we’re missing out.

    Good luck as you process through all this. I know it is tough, especially when providing for your family is on the line.

    • Evan,

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment. You have given me much to think about.
      As I said in a previous comment, I’m sure there is “fat” that could be trimmed from my budget.

      I have pondered attending a church that teaches “expositionally.”

      Praying, and seeking.

      • Yeah happy to comment!
        I strongly encourage checking out an expositional church. Obviously you still need someone who knows how to preach, but they are really great

        Just to clarify too, when I say our giving is sacrificial, it is not related to bills. Rather, it is the iPads and extra vacations I’m giving up.

  • It is that verse in 2 Cor. that gave my wife and I the freedom to begin to give SOMETHING. We could not do 10%, as it was we sometimes would have to borrow money to make it through the week. When we heard our pastor preach on how much more important the cheerfulness was than the amount, we started giving. Small amount though it was, we gave it freely and were glad to write the check each month. Since then, we have increased our giving to 12x what we started. With Jesus it was always about heart behind the act. In a perfect world, we would give ALL we owned to him. I currently do not give 10%. Maybe one day I will, but I refuse to believe that God has not blessed that which I have given simply because it wasn’t a full 10%.

    Thanks for sharing. Wonderful thoughts!

    • That’s awesome! Thank-you for sharing some of your story.

      And welcome!

  • seniorcit

    Since I am not longer a church attender, I am no longer a tither in the sense that I give to a church. Instead, I cheerfully give to international health, relief and economic development agencies--the Mennonite Central Committee is a favorite--as well as my local food bank. Long before I left the church, I came to the conclusion that we tithe to ourselves for bigger buildings, more staff and more programs. Those were goals I no longer wished to support. In this way I feel I am making a difference in the actual lives of people who really need help.

    • I can’t argue with that at all. Even supposing that I support my church in such endeavors, I’m in no way absolved of my responsibility to do likewise
      Thank-you for your comment, and for making a difference.