Let’s talk about tithing. I know this might be a touchy subject for some. Honestly, I am not sure why. This should be a simple couple of sentences, and then we should be able to move on to other subjects. Unfortunately, that is not the case. If you are wondering, my stand on tithing is this – YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO TITHE. I said it a little louder for the people in the back. The church was never supposed to be set up in a way that had it relying on your money to stay afloat. We can spend paragraph after paragraph explaining the idea behind tithing within the old covenant system. We could defend why it was necessary and practical at that time. I could yammer on about the tribes and the way they were set up. The way that they were required to take care of the tribe of Levi. But, in all honesty, that is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is the modern church. Primarily the Western church It has become a sight to behold. A wondrous creation. A light on the hill for all to see and look upon it in wonder. But was that what it was ever meant to be? Was it supposed to be the best-looking building on the block? Was it supposed to shine like a beacon…literally? I don’t think so. Somewhere along the way, the church has lost its way. It has set itself up in pomp and circumstance. It had decided that it needs to be the best show in town. What does all this need to work? Money, and lots of it. So, what did the church do? It turned to its congregation and created two levels to sustain its coffers.
First, it set up a system of fear. Fear that if you did not tithe that god would be angry with you. After all, tithing is biblical. After all, god desires us to give until it hurts. Preachers would get up in front of their congregation (usually after a really heartfelt slow song in a minor key) and explain how god needed to church to step up and do their part. God needed the church to raise money for…fill in the blank. New carpet for the nursery. New chairs for the sanctuary. New televisions to show the lyrics of those slow sad songs. Money to send someone off to some foreign land to save the heathens. This list could go on and on. God needed us to reach deep into our pockets and give just a little more than we were comfortable with. We didn’t want god disappointed in us. We didn’t want to receive the bad karma for being the one that, through not giving, made the preacher’s future dreams not come true. After all, he was the conduit to god that we all listened to. If he was saying it needed to be done, then that was the same as god saying it…right? The fear and dread were palpable. There was an underlying concern that the church could fold. That if we didn’t do our due diligence, that the church’s failure would be in a large part because of us. The sad part of all of this is that the church was and is complicit in all of this. Churches and pastors were just as guilty as the guys with the new mansion and the new fast car. There was and is a sense of one-up-manship in churches. The idea of keeping up with the Joneses. This church got a new sound system, so this other church got a new lighting system. Another church got a flat-screen television, so this other church got three new flat-screen televisions. All the while explaining to the church that this is all god’s will. We don’t want to disappoint god. We have to show through all our new toys our devotion to god. This is one way that the church manipulated its followers to give and then give a little more.
The second tool in their bag of tricks was even more sinister, in my opinion. I might be a little biased with this one. I might have a personal ax to grind with this one. I am positive that I am not the only one. This other trick that they had is what most like to call the prosperity gospel. It works something like this. God needs you to give. He needs you to dig deep and give just a tad more than you can afford. But don’t worry. God will reward your faithfulness by returning your generous offerings say…fivefold…seven-fold…hell it might even be tenfold. Here is the part that is overlooked by almost every pastor I have ever heard preach this. There is no set timeline. You might see your return really quick like in just a few days. In other instances, it might take much much longer for you to see your glorious return on your offerings. Why does this notion work so well? As I see it, it is for a couple of reasons that this works. First, shame. You don’t want to be the one that goes to the pastor to let him know that you never reaped any reward. What would the other churchgoers think of you? Did you not give enough? Do you have some secret sin in your life that is blocking you from receiving your reward? Televangelists got very good at this tactic. They would use the above-mentioned fear connected with the promise of rich rewards to dupe people into sending their hard-earned cash to them. This is the personal part. I had family members that bought into this and sent way too much money to these swindlers. Never to see any type of reward except maybe a Christmas card every year (which also reminded them to send more money). The second reason this worked is if by chance you got up the nerve to ask your preacher why you hadn’t seen your return on your offering, he had the perfect answer all ready for you. It would be just this simple to blow you off. It would go like this. “well, for this to work you need to have faith. If this isn’t happening for you, I think you need to look deep inside. You need to find your faith that god will provide for you.” How do you respond to that? How can you explain that your faith is just as good as the next guy? Especially when their shame is probably keeping them quiet about also not receiving any returns on their offerings. This whole prosperity gospel begs the one question. I am sure you have heard it asked before, but I will ask it again. If this whole prosperity thing works. If there is really a five, seven, or ten times return, then why doesn’t the church donate all its money to another church? It would stand to reason that they would be rolling in cash in no time. Why don’t they do that? I am sure you are smart enough to figure that out.
I am going to end this rant with one simple request from the church. Stop demanding tithes. Stop funding a concert special event every Sunday to get people into your pews. Be more like the church of Acts. Give everything away. Take care of the poor. Take care of the widows. Take care of the sick. Take care of the marginalized. These are things worth spending money on. Not a new car for the pastor. Not a blasting sound system. Not laser lights and fog machines. Not one of those has ever saved someone. But giving a hungry and sick child food and a place to sleep has.
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