On The New Tetzels
First and foremost, in no way do I intend to encourage faithful givers to discontinue tithing to their church. Secondly, I in no way disparage those who, out of graceful conviction, feel the tithe is worshipful and holy giving to God. I have reached my conclusions on tithing based on careful study. Others have, also after careful study, reached different conclusions. That is quite fine in this mostly tertiary issue, one to be disagreed upon graciously.
Some pastors, however, cynically use their exhortations to tithe as a graceless, wicked, sledgehammer to either callously manipulate people to giving out of guilt or, even worse, to manipulate people into a quid pro quo mode of giving, a type of pseudo-karmic ‘prosperity lite’ theology where God only meets your financial desires and meets your felt needs based on the percentage of your financial input.
I honestly do not want to sound my own horn; I do not care for anyone to know how much I give to a church or to charitable causes. I do not want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. That being said, not so long ago, I had been attending a church for a while, though not a member, when I was introduced to the church secretary. She recognized my name from the checks I wrote to the church and complemented me on my giving with an aside that she wished others did the same. Her comment, though innocuous and complementary in intent, bothered me a bit. I later learned this church that had rather recently went through a painful split and was now, due to a decrease in attendance, overstaffed and experiencing a budget deficit. This is by no means a church that constantly harped on money as so many contemporary churches, mega or otherwise, often do. I only heard one sermon on giving/tithing while I was there. It is a wonderful reformed church that values expository preaching and seeks to give glory to Christ.
During that one sermon on tithing, it was mentioned, as a sermon illustration, that there was a church that put up visuals, charts essentially, that exalted those who were the big givers in the church in order to encourage other to give more. That illustration concerned me.
Later, I listened to a sermon by Ed Young, Jr, one of the bigger stars in the constellation of megachurch pastors. In the course of the sermon, he mentioned that if one did not tithe to his church, you could not be a member of his church.
In my previous post, I noted that Perry Noble, another megachurch CEO/pastor from the same mold as Ed Young, Jr, stated that his staff was going to go through ‘the records’ to see who had or had not been tithing, an act problematic in and of itself, and remove those who had not been tithing and volunteering from the church roles. He said God told him to do so.
What has happened with this distorted focus on and understanding of tithing is that something seems to have been added to the Gospel of grace and faith in Christ. Beyond being regenerated and baptized, now you have to submit to what I believe to be an erroneous understanding of the Old Testament tithe to be a member of the New Testament church. Essentially, an errant and distorted requirement of the tithe augments baptism and belief as a standard of membership in the church. It becomes the equivalent of the Mosaic circumcision required to be part of covenant community. Sadly, grace and faith in Christ are not enough to be in the family of those redeemed by the atoning work of the Messiah.
As an addendum, I sat on this post for weeks before posting it. After viewing the following video, I felt compelled to publish.
One might recall the recent controversy surrounding Ed Young, Jr’s church in its leasing of a private jet used to shuttle Mr. Young to the various conferences that he attends, an expenditure that was not revealed to his church until the story reached the media. One might also remind Ed that the Levitical priests who received the tithe, in part the Old Testament tax for Israel, were not allowed to own property.
24When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?”
26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.