Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Scandal of Tithing

Many churches preach a message of tithing. The spin is that when one practices this they will in turn receive financial blessings as well. It’s an interesting self-serving proposition seeing that the one preaching this message is dependent on the tithe to get his salary.

The goal is to always grow a bigger church because it’s obvious that the bigger the church, the bigger the salary. They say that growth is about more people having received the gospel but when it’s linked to the size of a pay cheque, personal motivation is a realistic consideration.

I have never heard of a pastor of a small church of less than 100 making $100,000 or more. The biggest pastor’s salary that I have heard of was by a well loved pastor in Toronto making $450,000 per year.

The key New Testament verse that is supposedly the pattern for the weakly tithe is 1Cor 16:2 (NIV) On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

But here’s the COMPLETE SCANDAL misrepresenting this verse. You only have to back up one verse for the “true” context on this passage on giving. 1Cor 16:1 (NIV) Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.

This offering was to be sent to Jerusalem to help the saints who were in physical need because of persecution.

This was not an offering to be used for brick and mortar and for the spiritually strong “pastors” to make a decent living.

It was not an offering based on a tithe where the person making $200,000 a year would give $20,000 and have to suffer through on the remainder.

It would have taken weeks, if not months to deliver this gift to the saints in Jerusalem. And yet we are living in a day when Africa currently has 13 million orphans, 43 million by 2010; 7000 people dying every day; As this breath-halting reality of HIV/AIDS stuns and burns across southern Africa, the rest of the world waits, paralysed and overwhelmed by the magnitude of such pain.

Generally the North American church, including myself, has been apathetic to the cries from both here at home and overseas, that have been ringing throughout our lifetime.

I believe we have cursed ourselves into believing we are doing something noble when our tithe goes to our beautiful buildings and paying our pastors to make us feel good about doing so.

The priority in our churches regarding giving is in this order:
1. brick and mortar
2. pastors
3. programs
4. missionaries
5. the scraps (usually there isn’t much left over) for the poor, the widow and the orphans.
(When it is done, it's usually for bragging rights to show we really are making a difference.)

James 1:27 (NIV) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I’ve heard many pastors say that if all (currently it’s about 17%) of God’s people would tithe we would then be able to really help.

That simply isn’t the track record.
Bigger offerings = bigger buildings + bigger salaries.

Every week people gather to raise their hands in praise to God and then joyfully tithe to their buildings and pastors.

Every week, in other parts of the world, people despondently wait with no jobs, no food and no hope.

Let’s finish this thought with a song that I’m sure some orphans are singing in Africa.

Count Your Blessings

Verse 1
When upon life's billows You are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you What the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your blessings See what God hath done.
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings See what God hath done.

Verse 2
Are you ever burdened With a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear.
Count your many blessings Every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing As the days go by.

Verse 3
When you look at others With their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings Money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high.

Verse 4
So amid the conflict Whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged God is over all.
Count your many blessings Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you To your journey's end.


Robin Cecile said...

So when are you goin to stop mincing words?

Here are some interesting stats from a World Magazine article Oct 22, 2005: "Of every dollar given to a Protestant church, the average amount that goes to overseas missions is two cents."

Here is the link if you want to read more:

Another article in Christianity Today titled "Where Does The Church's Money Go?" had this to say:
"The biggest slice of the church budget is by far the payroll, which accounts for 42 percent of the average church spending"

"facilities are the second largest part of the average church budget" and while they had a much more generous accounting of the 'missions' budgets, I'm sure this catagory would include for their administration as well as the actual left overs for giving:

"The average percentage of church budgets utilized for missions has remained at a steady 15 percent for the past decade."

Here is the link:

I wonder what Paul meant in Acts 20:33-35?

Act 20:33 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.
Act 20:34 "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.
Act 20:35 "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Makes me think of a Mark Twain quote "It is not what I don't understand in the Bible that troubles me; it is what is perfectly clear that does"

David Grant said...

Those numbers were the ones I have been using from personal experience. The fact that these numbers are normative throughout thousands of churches speaks volumes.

It's the equivalent of paying the New York Yankees payroll but then only letting them play 4 games during the season.