Friday, November 23, 2007

And Now, Here’s the Rest of the Story

The power that a pastor wields from a pulpit is a huge responsibility. He or she will often give the impression that what they are teaching is the whole counsel of God. The truth and nothing but the truth is the impression given. The reality is that what they are saying is that they are giving their interpretation or their group’s interpretation. Rarely are they like Paul Harvey, “and now here’s the rest of the story,” allowing people to hear all sides of the discussion and then making up their own minds.

This is an example of one such teaching.

Tithing on one’s income is taught within some religious circles as a moral obligation with a curse associated with it if one doesn’t tithe. It’s usually stated in positive terms that you will be blessed it you do. New believers are especially susceptible to this coercive manipulation as they want to do what is right before God.

Here’s a quote from a pastor who teaches tithing,
“I have tithed most of my life…and when I don’t tithe…I get into financial trouble…and when I do…I prosper!...I don’t teach tithing as a law…I teach it as a principle lived out by faith that God will bless my 10%and multiply it like Fish and loaves…
I have dared anyone in my church or ministry to try it for 6 months and if they don’t truly feel it is right or that God hasn’t blessed them…I’ll give their money back…in 20 years no one has ever took me up on it…but, many have thanked me that it changed their lives.”

I’ve never heard of anyone giving a money back guarantee before but the idea that you will be blessed if you tithe is often taught. I know, I was one of the teachers of this questionable practice. I even remember when I was on staff at a church when the tithe police questioned me about my own personal tithing. If we're gonna preach it we better practice it. How could I lose? It went right back into my salary anyway and I got a charitable receipt to boot.

New Christians are sometimes referred to as “baby” Christians. This is not meant in a derogatory way. It is only meant to express that they don’t yet know how to discern what is true in a teaching. I have never heard a preacher of tithing say, “wait for a year while you get the necessary background so that you can properly understand the principle of tithing for yourself.”

This is one of the most beloved verses for preachers of tithing. It is often printed on tithing envelopes.

Mala 3:10 (NIV) Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

The interpretation given is that the storehouse is the church that you belong to. The money is to be given with not a lot of thought about how it is to be used. Your offering is to God, don't ask how those who take your money, spend it. The fact that it is used to pay the preacher’s livelihood is not usually highlighted as one of the main uses.

Would it be wrong to question the motive behind reaching out to the “lost” when eventually the expectation of getting paid by the one's they reach is part of “the plan”?

Another way to interpret Malachi is to understand it as God’s means of caring for the poor. The storehouse was literally a grainery that was used to store the tithe(grain), so that the poor will have a place to get food in order to survive. It was kind of like the original welfare plan.

Today, only a very small percentage of monies collected (usually less than 10 percent) in churches that preach tithing actually goes to the poor. Most of the monies collected go to things like buildings and salaries.

The principle of Malachi is that tithing was God’s mechanism of ensuring that the nation of Israel would be strong because it was making sure that the poor and oppressed would be cared for.

In a horribly twisted inversion of that principle, tithing is now used by the strong (pastors) to get the weak to financially support them and their system.

And that’s the rest of the story.


Mamamull said...

You know the premise that each pastor is interpreting scripture by their own means without the measure of a particular set of concepts - eg each church is the church of the pastor - there is too much discrepency.

While you would probably say that the magisterium of the Catholic church is too one-sided (led by the Holy Spirit) to give a full interpretation. It is one of the gifts of the Church to have a concept of theology and means for how the scripture is intrepreted is helpful - at least from some people's perspecitives.

Also the whole concept of Catholic Traditions being just an invention of men - so too can be the individual pastors and their method of running a service.

Under the mercy, of the King of mercy,

David Grant said...

It is true that the Catholic church does make more sense in terms of unifying interpretive models.

However, I think each individual should have the responsibility of interpreting the scriptures for themselves and walking in the light that they have received. To trust that God can be personal and revealing to individuals is something He likely has the power to do.