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