Category Archives: Church Dogma

Wasted Palm Branches

palmsIn many traditional Christian churches, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the waving of palm leaves and some even re-enact the laying of palms on the ground.  It reminds people of the day Jesus rode in on a donkey (fulfilling a prophecy, of course) and the masses waved palm branches and placed them, along with their coats (ever wonder why they don’t call it “Coat Sunday”?  I guess it just doesn’t have a good ring to it.), on the ground before Jesus, as the shouted, “Hosanna!”  Well, perhaps that scene was not what we have made it out to be.

Let’s see if you see what I see.  Your input is welcome.

Many teach that these people were worshiping Jesus, even though they were the same ones that wanted Barrabas when given the choice.  I even once heard that they “forgot” Who it was they worshiped with the laying of palms and decided they wanted the political prisoner released.

I don’t believe they were worshiping the Messiah, though.

Well, at least not the Messiah they thought they were worshiping.

There was a preconceived idea about the Messiah.  The Pharisees had their version. Many of the people had theirs, much of which was taught by the leadership.  Honestly, it was more of a political version than the one Jesus said He is.  The general idea was that the Messiah would come as a leader or a ruler and use His power to dispel the unwanted government(s).

The Pharisees were seemingly disappointed when they got to see Jesus and hear His words.  They had no problem with the miracles, really.  Even His popularity was not a problem at first, had He fit their ideal Messiah.  As time went on, His popularity did become an issue, as people were more drawn to Jesus and His teachings than what the Pharisees were doling out.

The people thought they had that Messiah that would put the Roman government out. They probably even wanted the oppressive Pharisees out, too.  They were ready for someone to rescue them from the system.  For that, they could shout, “Hosanna!”  The all powerful Jesus was their man.

Then, they changed their minds.  Jesus was captured and arrested.  Now, the Jewish leaders could swoop in and start manipulating the crowd.

It was the chief priests and elders who got the crowd riled up against Jesus.  Rather than reasoning or thinking for themselves, they allowed the false rationale and spread it around.  They started to believe Barabbas would save them from the Roman Empire.

Interesting thing about Barabbas…bar means, son of and abba means father.  Son of the father.  His name was fully, Jesus Barabbas.  Or, Jesus, son of the Father.  He had an identification that bore a resemblance of a savior.

In Matthew 27, verse 17, we see a distinction when Pilate asked the people who they wanted…“Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  Basically, do you want this Jesus, or Jesus you have been calling Christ/Messiah/Savior?  This same crowd was just yelling “Hosanna!” about Christ, now suddenly wanted the one they thought would save them from what they thought they needed saving from.

Shall I get current eventful here, for a moment?  I hope you don’t mind.

This past election revealed much about a good portion of the Church.  Whether these people would admit it or not, Jesus is not enough for them.  Not only do they have Pharisee-esque rules, but want to impose them on others   They want legislation to force others to conform to rules they think should be adhered to.  Then, they voted for  – and told others to vote for – someone they thought would bring that legislation they so desire.

However, Jesus changes people from the inside, out.  He gives grace.  He shows love.  He is love.  When He came here, He came to serve.  He did not come to kick out Rome and establish a Theocracy.  This is what the Jewish leaders and many of the people wanted. Soon, they realized that Jesus was not about to be what they wanted.

They wanted Barabbas.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist who wound up in prison for murder during an uprising. He wanted Rome out.  The Pharisees wanted Rome out, because they wanted to rule with a self-righteous iron fist.  They did not like Jesus teaching and acting in a manner unlike the Messiah they had decided should be.

It seems that Barabbas was one who wanted to “make Israel great, again”.

In reality, Barabbas was not able to give them what they wanted, anyway. Rome continued to rule for years, afterward.

To me, the whole palm waving celebration is useless.  It was not intended to praise the real Jesus, but to praise their idea of Jesus.  His “triumphal entry” was not all that it has been cooked up to be.  While the King really was riding in right in front of them, they did not really see Him as the Messiah or the King of kings.  In Matthew 21, we see that they thought of Jesus as just a prophet from a nearby town…

10 When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, “Who can this be?”
11 The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

They respected Him as a great prophet.  It seems they did not recognize Him as the promised Messiah.  They were laying down palm leaves and their coats for a revered prophet.  Yes, they did acknowledge Him as the Son of David.  But, did they see Who it really was, riding right there in front of them?

Peter knew Who He was.

The Samaritan woman knew Who He was.

Zaccheus knew Who He was.

Mary Magdalene knew Who He was.

The crowd, however, saw a great prophet.  They thought this prophet might be the guy to deliver them from Rome.  They wanted the Messiah that would heal and do miracles. They also wanted the Messiah that would rule and reign and they thought that would or, at least, should happen on Earth in that present time.

Nowadays, people still have a limited view of the Savior.  Not just personally, as what Jesus does for us as individuals.  But, also our perception of His dealings with the rest of the planet.  We want Him to lay down the law and remove the lawbreakers.  We expect Him to establish a Christian Theocracy, here on Earth.

Especially in the United States…the so-called, “Christian Nation”.

Well, no.  I already have an article with my thoughts on that.

Jesus did not come to alter the system or take it over with the Ten Commandments as the standard.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), is one main reason He came.

Yet, here, many among our ranks want to establish a Christian Nation, filled with Mosaic level rules and law.  Is the Jesus we read about enough?  Is the Jesus we claim to know enough?

Or, do we want or own version of Barabbas?  Do we have our own idea of Who the Messiah is?  Maybe we have some inflated idea of who we are in Him and still want to plaster His name on what we do in order to justify our plans and ideas.

It is time to get back with the Savior Jesus.

We don’t need another great prophet.  We need “Jesus, called the Christ”.

We don’t need another Barabbas.  We need the one and only Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

The Profession Obsession or the Confession Direction

I have a long time friend, Mike, I have known since we served together in the Navy back in the early eighties.  He and I have managed to keep in touch and we talk together frequently, mostly by text messaging.  Besides pre-pubescent level insanity befitting two guys in their mid fifties, we share epiphanies and inspirations and often learn from one another.  Here is the sum of what Mike opened with recently:

What direction is love in your life?  If your theology hinges on your love for God, then the blood and the cross eventually take second place.  This can produce a compulsion to work and brag about your love for God and thinking you have “levels of faith”.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t you say?

loudmouthSo much of the Church has gone the way of professing their love for God and the result is a misinterpretation of what it means to love God.  If it becomes strictly a matter of us loving Him, then the Cross means nothing.

It starts with the Cross…His love for us.

We read, “Love the Lord with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind.”  However, this has become something of a doctrine of our effort toward salvation and approval by God.  It is as if they promote a gauge of how much a person loves God, which is measured in words and deeds.  In other words, the more work you do and the louder you can shout and profess your love for God, the more approved you are and the greater the proof of your salvation.

If you ask me, this sounds tiresome.  How do these “professors” and their faithful followers keep up with this?  Well, it’s like that commercial for a brand of anti-depression medication, where the people carry a paper smiley-face mask with them.  They put on a facade.

Fake it?  Yes.  Put on a happy face.  Therefore, all this profession is a facade in front of others along with an attempt to impress God.

Impress God?  As if.

How can anyone impress the Creator of the Universe?  Peasants.

His love for us, however, outshines anything we can even attempt to do to impress Him. He isn’t impressed with us or anything we do.  He loves us.

Law is profession.handup

It takes no faith to profess something.  You can shout anything you want from whatever vast knowledge or belief you may or may not have.  Profession takes no faith.  There are plenty of pulpit-pounding purveyors of various doctrines out there who profess stuff they don’t understand or necessarily believe. Confession, however, does.

Love is confession

We confess that He loves us.  Since we know He loves us, we love Him in return.

Parents, your children’s love for you is out of response to your love for them.  You don’t demand or command that they love you.  They love you because they know you love them.

How much more does the Father love us?

The danger of enforcing profession.

When leaders profess love for God and enforce (encourage?) the profession of love for God by others, what happens is individual efforts to impress God with our love for Him.  What we may see is people straining to reach God, singing and shouting loudly during “worship service”, as if the louder and more exuberant they become, the more obvious it will be to God how much they love Him.  Many of these people are insecure in the idea of God’s love for them.

Another, probably bigger danger is the judgmental statements that start with, “If you truly love the Lord…”.  This forces people to profess and/or prove their love for the Lord.  It results in the facade of behavioral modification.

God.  Loves.  You.

Learn that.  Agree with it.  Believe it.  Know it.  Take refuge in that.  Just sit back and know that He loves you.  Know that His work on the Cross is sufficient.  Did He not say, “It is finished.”?  We don’t need to stress and strain or prove our love for Him…He loves us, no matter what.

When we embrace the fact that He loves us, our love for Him follows.  Then, we begin to act on that love, when He calls, commands or speaks to us…and we obey because we love Him. We do for Him out of our love for Him and our love for Him is in response to His love for us.

Knowing how loved we are prompts, propels and compels us to love and serve Him.

A very busy man in ministry was once asked how he did all that he did, with the travel and ridiculous schedule.  His reply, “I know that I know that God loves me.”

Let’s not gauge our spirituality or our standing by how much (we think) we love God.  Let’s not measure how much we love God by what we do, how we do it or how we behave.  This is backward.  Our love is incomplete, impure and has its share of conditions and reservations.

We need to go back to the Cross.

We need to remember how completely and unconditionally He loves us.

1 John 4:10 (NIV), This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This gives us a good starting point toward loving Him.  First – and always – His love, proven at the Cross. Then, our love for Him follows.  It is more organic than demanded.

 

 

 

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Grown-Up Stuff…A Few More Thoughts

Get the Church out of the bedroom!

Oh, I can hear the logic, now.  That’s impossible!  We are the Church!  Now, what we need to do is just follow along, here.

Within the Church, there are those who over-legislate sex among just about everything else.  They make rules for frequency, positions, men being in charge, lights out, only in the bedroom, only for procreation…blah, blah, blah.

Where did these rules come from?  As far as I can see…pretty much seems they are made up.

What about, “Be fruitful and multiply”.  Doesn’t that mean sex is only for procreation?

Nope.  There is no indication, not a hint…nuttin’ that gives a clue for that idea.

As for any of the other stuff, it is like someone was afraid of what sex could be and thought it to be something wrong.  There are no limits…whatever position, wherever hands go and whatever they do, oral stuff…all good.  Sex once a week, three times a week, or ten times a week…all good. Before children, as parents and into senior years…all good.  Whatever makes it good for the couple, is all good.

Bed half empty.

I heard a rather sad statistic…about half of married couples are NOT having sex.  What?! If we were to believe TV and movies, it would seem everyone is having sex fairly regularly.  But, then it stops sometime after marriage?  NO!  Whatever opportunities a couple has should be spent enjoying each other. There is nothing wrong with a couple who wants to be a bit slutty with each other.

Whoa!  Did you just use that word?

Yes, I did.  Get over it.  For that matter, if you are married, get over it, under it, on top of it, beside it…or whatever works for you and your spouse..as often as you can.  Go ahead and be a little slutty.

Geez, he said it again.

Mayest thou get over thyself.

Here is a bit of information that people tend to forget.  The whole good feeling, liking what you see, all the good touching, getting all fired up and all…God created that!  He made us that way!  You know what else?  He totally approves of whatever fun you like to have, too.

After all those kids and pizza.

There is that issue of body image.  Women are especially sensitive in this area.  Well, ladies, if your husband still likes being with you, even after all those kids and a few helpings of cake and potato chips, enjoy the ride.  It’s nice if you can stay or get back in shape, but if that guy is still warm for your form, then go and let him warm you up.

As time goes on, sexy takes on all new dimensions, with the help of gravity and maybe a few extra donuts.  And birthday cake. And everything between Thanksgiving and New Year.  Don’t sweat it.  If one of you is getting a bit spongy, likely the other is, as well.

It is not dignified for people over certain ages to engage in such relations.  Anyway, people lose interest after the years go by.

bedfeetReally?  Abraham and Sarah certainly were a fun pair, then.  I doubt they were honeymoon marathoners in their platinum years (at their ages, they passed golden years), but it seems they still had a reasonable fire in the furnace.  Let’s put it this way…if you are of certain senior age-range and still can and want to…go forth and enjoy!

Now, I am not opposed to losing weight and/or staying in reasonable shape.  Honestly, I think that sex can be more enjoyable when two people are less “girthy”.  And, when I say, ‘reasonable shape’, it means we don’t have to go all crazy at the gym and all that.  But, that we should be able to enjoy our time without a trip to the ER afterward.  Out of breath after the big event…expected.  Wheezing like a dying animal for just getting your clothes off…may want to make some changes.

A few more thoughts.

I just shared Anna McCarthy’s most recent post on depression (Just a Jesus Follower).  I think that many of the demands placed on people (by Christians) also affect what goes on between husband and wife.  Honestly, I think the reason so many people are not enjoying sex is because of everything around them.  Not only do we have many two-income households with children and all their demands and activities included, but in the Church we have many demands, as well.  We have to serve this much, we have to obey this way, we have to walk this line, our marriage has to appear like this, our demeanor has to look like that…and on, and on, and on.  We have been pounded with doctrines that have reduced us to often worrying what God is thinking of us, whether He is disappointed in us and even if we met some sort of condition to earn His love for us.  This does not encourage active snuggle time.

God loves you just as you are.  Warts, flab and all.  He created us just the way we should be. He created the sexual urge and did so for more than just procreation.  If you have been missing out on some good times for a while, maybe it is time to sit with your spouse and discuss the idea of getting back in the saddle, again.  Maybe it is time for me to stop using such corny metaphors. In any case, people need to feel free to get as nasty with each other as they see fit for themselves.

What rules?

Here are the only real rules – First, the marriage bed is un-defiled.  Second, do not deprive on another. Actually, these are not so much as rules, as they are declarations of the freedom to be with your spouse the way your spouse agree and enjoy being with one another.

If anyone wants any homework…well…you can make up your own assignment.

 

 

 

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If You Aren’t Reading This Blog, You are Missing Out.

I have some history with anxiety and depression. But, they haven’t just affected me – I’ve learned to detect them behind pained smiles, hurting eyes and in surface conversations. But, before we go any further, let me first make one thing clear: if you suffer from anxiety or depression, this is NOT another Christian blog […]

via 4 Reasons Christians are Depressed — just a jesus follower

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The Worldly Church

“There’s a stylized, bastardized Christianity that many politicians and celebrity pastors have peddled for years; one that has slowly but surely become our American template. It’s a bloated, opulent, consumerist, aggressive, nationalistic, might is right amalgam that really doesn’t resemble Jesus much at all.” – John Pavlovitz (johnpavlovitz.com)

In the quest to be what actually results in the above description, church leadership has stooped to tactics which include lying, manipulating and over-sensationalizing.  They have misinterpreted scripture and misrepresented the Gospel. They either don’t see it, or don’t care, since they often get what they want.

If you have to lie, manipulate or over-sensationalize in order to prove what you say is right or true, then you have nothing to stand on.  Besides, this is how the world works, not how things get done in God’s Kingdom.

But, there is an audience.  A flock.  A band of followers.moneypreacher

They listen.  They cheer.  They give money.

Nickles and noses.  A faithful audience that hands over money.

They make it all sound so good and specific scriptures (often out of context or ‘clobber’ verses) are used and then, they place Jesus’ Name on it and it is all accepted as right and true.

Not all churches or ministries are like this.  But, way too many in the US are. They could be a small congregation of 30 or a massive mega-church. Tactics are used to hold those people there, control/manipulate them and make sure they give money.

Rather than being “transformed by the renewing of the mind”, it is a system which would act in a manner reflecting the world system of kings and superstars…that is, being “conformed to this world”. To use manipulating tactics to attract and keep people is the world system way.  To do all of this for big money is greedy and selfish.  To aspire for worldly treasures…massive salaries, huge and opulent buildings, power, notoriety and huge followings are all earthly treasures, even if they are dressed up as “Kingdom building”.

2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV) 

3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds,who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.~

This has been taught as being about general sin and the “unsaved”.  But, if we take a closer look, it is about the Church.  Key..verse 5, “…having a form of godliness…”  Another key, verse 7, “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”, and “…these teachers oppose the truth”.  That last one has my attention.

I am amazed how anyone who calls themselves a teacher or a preacher would dare oppose the truth.  They appear to speak the truth, but much of what they spread has little to no truth.  Then, if confronted with what is correct and true in scripture, they deny it.  They are convinced they have all the “proof” they need for what they believe and teach.  This is what makes them, basically, dangerous.  This is why we read in verse 5, “Have nothing to do with these people”.  They draw people in, drag them down and take their money.  They do this, all the while believing they are serving the Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!~

This is not just about the people who are “traditional Christians” or pastors by career only, nor is it about the ritualistic religious. An example of the subject of this verse in plain view, right on the television. Yes, the beloved “televangelist”.  Not all people of this ilk are on TV, but these guys are the epitome of what we see in this verse.  They often use false prophecies, sensational End-Time Eschatology topics, as well as, rhetoric and “clobber scriptures” to take their stands against abortion and homosexuality.  They use fear tactics to sway people to the altar and shaming tactics to convince people toward certain behaviors.

controlcartoonThe result is followers, which brings power and, often, massive amounts of money, which further feeds the power.  Meanwhile, they are convinced they are doing the will of God, pointing out that they are doing His will.  Often, however, their speech and actions show some things that are not Christ-like, at all.

They use Jesus’ name as a rubber stamp that they have permission to use on whatever they feel should be God’s will.  They stamp it on the opulent buildings, the huge salaries, the judgmental statements and messages and even the false prophecies.  If they want a specific candidate for office, they put Jesus’ name on that, too.  If they want people to behave a certain way, His name (and a good deal of shaming) is spoken.

By the way…using Jesus’ name to garner favor or to persuade God or people is using His name in vain.  I believe the Commandments these guys blast at people has something in there about that.

There is a faction of the Church, I believe, which will rise up.  They will not rise up in power or come with convincing words.  They will not seek to build huge ministries or massive buildings.  Their goal will not include having a title, a following, a huge salary or a lavish lifestyle.  They will bring one thing.

The Gospel.  The Good News.

Their lives will reflect what we read about Jesus in His Earthly ministry.

Love will be the nucleus of what they say and do.

They will seek to be the Jesus people need.

They will expose truth to and about these modern day Pharisees.

They should be all of us.

We need to be Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

Love should be our nucleus.

As it should be.

As we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spiritual Diabetes

sugarbowlThere are a few diseases on the rise and Type 2 Diabetes is at the top of the list.  Many are able to manage with medication and a better diet, while others avoid it with a more radical diet change and exercise.  Others do nothing about their diet and rely on the medications.

Some people blame it on genes…Mom had it, Grandpa had it, etc.  They don’t see that Mom and Grandpa had high carbohydrate diets and washed them down with sugary drinks and passed this wonderful habit down the line.

Many people, including those with Type 2, know it is mostly (not exclusively) a result of lifestyle choices.  Usually, a lifetime of bad eating habits.

The “bad” food is easy to come by, less expensive and tastes very good.  People don’t want to give up on what is easy and tasty.  I can’t blame them…I like the tasty stuff, too!

But, this is not about harping on people with diabetes.  Let’s look at the “bad diet” we accept and devour, spiritually.

Soaking in Doctrine

Doctrines can be interesting.  What makes them interesting is how many of them have nothing to do with real scripture. Sure, they have something to do with some portion of scripture, but not (what we call) the “full counsel” of scripture.  Many things are out of context, while other doctrines are totally made up.

Here are a few:

  • God being disappointed in or angry at someone
  • Any sin being worse than others
  • Pastoral “covering”
  • Women being subservient
  • Prosperity doctrine
  • The curse of Adam

We sit back and soak it all in.  We enjoy allowing someone else tell us what to believe. We allow someone to tell us what God’s will is for us.  We sit and feed on sweet sounding doctrines without another thought.  It’s easy.  It costs very little.  Sweetened with convincing words, false doctrines can be very palatable.

Sweetened with Convincing Wordssugarcube

1 Timothy 4:3-4,  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Words can sound good.  Politicians use convincing words with fear, and lies taken from something of truth.  Sadly, many pastors and other church leaders do things in a similar fashion.  They use rhetoric, clever words and entertaining metaphors and even say things which, if you really listen, might not even make any real sense, but come with enough ten dollar words and fluff to make them sound like something real.

To a listener who is satisfied to simply sit back and soak it all in, without any thought, they can even say bizarre, meaningless quotes and their mindless sheep never question it. Here are two quotes from a pastor of a small church in southern New Jersey…

–  “My God does not plead the 5th. He is a reliable witness and His testimony is true.”
– “Definition of God’s favor: Not letting you go your OWN way.”

I mean, they just make no real sense.  But, these quotes are proudly posted on the church’s Facebook page.

When you read them, you take a second look and then a part of your brain kinda starts to twitch.

When said from the pulpit, with clear diction and dramatic vocal inflection and pacing with a Bible firmly gripped in hand, even the most preposterous crap can sound good to many listeners.

It is a steady diet of superficial drivel and ridiculous rhetoric, designed to maintain and retain followers in the same way high-carbohydrate, sugar-laden foods keep drawing their addicted consumers.

Change Your Diet!

Just as with diabetes and other diet/lifestyle related maladies, the first step is to remove the junk and replace it with better stuff.  Healthier food, exercise and reducing stress will contribute to better health. Spiritually speaking, we can do the same.

  • Study scriptures for yourself, seeking the Lord all the way.
  • Read others’ teachings on both sides of a questionable doctrine.
  • Avoid the purveyors of false doctrines

How to know…

  • If a doctrine is supported by only one or two obscure scriptures, question it.
  • If a doctrine has no real scriptural support, we are talking falsehood.
  • If leadership insists that you simply obey them and not worry about what you have discovered in scripture on your own, not so good.
  • If there is a teaching that contradicts what you see elsewhere in scripture, red flag…such as, condemnation when Jesus did not condemn.

These are a few and you may see these and more.  If you do, then you have a choice; either stand for what is scriptural and live and act accordingly or, stay right where you are and remain status quo.

Please note…it is not worth it to try and convince (argue with) leadership of their errors. This can only bring about anger and hurt feelings.  Take it from someone who values principle and doesn’t shy away from an argument.

Not worth it.

If the disagreement is such that you cannot agree to disagree, maybe it is time to move on. Better to not engage.  My family and I left a church we were with for a long time.  The last few years we were there showed things that we could not align ourselves with.  By the last few weeks, we knew for sure, it was definitely time to go.

If we see any doctrine that does not line up with love, grace and what we read about Jesus, then it is time to reconsider what we are going to embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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