Getting Fleeced

This is what many hear, every Sunday morning…fleecedsheep
“Now is time for us to take up the tithes and offerings…”

Then, there is that all familiar passage from Malachi…
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…”

Some churches pass a plate or a basket.  One church I went to put the plates up front so everyone could bring their “tithes and offerings”.  Of course, absentees have the option to mail in your tithe or send it electronically.

First, let’s briefly examine this stuff of tithes and offerings.

The Tithe

As many may know, a tithe is ten percent.  It started with someone taking a tenth of his crop or livestock and offering it to the Lord.  It was never commanded, though.  Giving is voluntary.  There are instructions as to what was to be done and acting with integrity with the tithe/offering, but there was no command to do so.  There are some articles we can find online about this.  This one is brief and to the point:  www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA144

One other article I read explained that the verse in Malachi was something spoken to the priests and it was about a literal storehouse for produce and such.  Somewhere along the line, the storehouse became the local church and the grain and produce became financial earnings.

Scripture doesn’t support this extrapolation.  In both testaments, giving is voluntary, according to one’s own heart.  Giving is talked about, recommended and to be done “without compulsion”.  More on this, shortly.  On to the other half of this…

Offerings

Just that word gets to me a little.  Just consider the word and what it means. Offerings.  It should be a gift or a contribution.  But, we have made it similar to an appeasement.  You know, like tossing a virgin into a volcano to appease a fire god.  It has become a financial way to “please” God.

There are no commands to make financial offerings.

The Hook

sheeping-the-fleece

Original art by Michael Willingham

Some convey the idea that if we do not bring our “tithes and offerings”, God would not only be disappointed in us, but our finances would be cursed.

Really?

Funny thing…there are people out there who have tons of money, yet don’t tithe.  Oh, yes…even believers.  If being a millionaire is a financial curse, please curse me!

The hook is fear.  We don’t want to displease the Lord.  We sure don’t want to tick Him off. Many “leaders” want us to believe that God would be totally cheesed, curse our finances and never bless us if we don’t tithe.

Personal Story

In a previous church, my wife and I endured a few “ambush” meetings with our pastor. He would want to meet with us and dump some sort of reprimand on us, then bring up one or two other “infractions” in that same meeting.  One time, the pastor brought up my tithing.  You might get a kick out of this.

He handed me a piece of paper and stated, “I can see why your you guys aren’t being blessed.” (We have had our share of financial stresses, but tithing or not, had nothing to do with it).  This piece of paper was a record of our weekly giving.  He noted two weeks where we did not give.  I showed him that one week, we forgot our check and pointed out that it was double the next week and further explained that on another week, we gave cash.  Then, he asked why I would put in cash and not have credit for my taxes.

I have told this story before and some readers might make the same facial expression others did when I told them this.  Yeah, that’s the one…now, close your mouth.

Reality

The average budget in US churches is taken up mostly by salaries and building expenses…to the tune of 70%.  So, if a church has a one-million dollar income, $700,000 goes to pay people and keep the building.  That leaves the remaining 30 percent to take care of added expenses, help people and support other ministries.

Many pastors get salaries of 50,000, 80,000 or more, depending on the size of the church. Buildings can cost a half-million or more, while “mega-churches” spend millions upon millions, paying their pastors 6 figure salaries.

This is what the tithes pay for.  We are expected to tithe to a church and give above that for the important stuff, like feeding the poor, putting a roof over someone’s head or otherwise helping someone.

It is all about giving.

A short list.

Deuteronomy 16:17
1 Chronicles 29:9
Proverbs 3:27
Proverbs 21:26
Proverbs 28:27
Luke 3:11
Luke 6:30
Acts 20:35
2 Corinthians 9:6-7

I know there are more.

It’s about giving to the Lord.  Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to Me.”

Before I get strung up…

 …I am not saying do not tithe, if that is in your heart to do so.  But, consider this…there is a lot of legalism and subsequent guilt associated with tithing. The message has become, if you don’t tithe, God will curse you.  If you do tithe, God will bless you.
Then, if we add in the Prosperity messages – give to get  – we then have a con going.
A con?
Yes, a con.  They tell people something based on either fear or greed…the followers shell out their money and the “preachers” are the ones actually “prospering”.
We see huge salaries in some cases.  Some so large, they can live in such places as a multi-million dollar dwelling, like in Trump Towers.  So, who is really being “blessed”?
Back to the basics.
I do believe we need to re-structure giving.  We should consider personal generosity.  Monies collected should go toward something that benefits people, not a building or overstuffed salaries.  Maybe we should re-examine the idea of (financial) stewardship.

 Stewardship (Merriam Webster)

  1. 1:  the office, duties, and obligations of a steward

  2. 2:  the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially :  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>

While we are reminded by these preachers that all things belong to God, what we see is many of them using monies for things which are not important to Him.  So, if we are to be true stewards, recognizing that we are dealing with things that belong to Him, we should
  • Seek Him
  • Seek to use monies to what He says matter, like in Matt 25:40.
  • Not seek our own gain (reward) in what we give…at all or in any way, shape or form

If it is in your heart to tithe, then do it.  But, don’t do it out of fear or, as in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift]” (Amplified)

It’s about the heart.

When we give out of fear or compulsion, our heart is not in the gift.  Law displaces the heart.  Compulsion has no heart.  When we give, we need to give as we have decided in our heart.  We cannot be forced, nor can we force ourselves, to give cheerfully.

To whom do we give?

If you feel the Lord wants you to give to your church, do it.  But, I challenge anyone else to step out of that box.  Give to where people are genuinely affected – food pantries, homeless shelters, an individual or family in need, “orphans and widows”, women’s shelters – to name a few.  Not only money, but time, supplies, a working hand or whatever it is you are able to give.

Just some stuff to think about, as we walk together.

 

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One thought on “Getting Fleeced

  1. I have found that I have gifts and offerings that can be a form of tithe and service. I think God is more concerned about our capacity to love and serve than our wallet size. I have been donating some of my passions to help a ministry, especially because my wallet is often starving. We do need to be wary of walking in legalism!

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