"I Can't Afford Church"...Thougths On Passing The Collection Plate In A Recession

In these times of billion dollar bailouts for the haves, and increased belt tightening for the have-nots, most of us have had to make some tough decisions about what to cut out of our budgets. Before the failure of mortgage backed securities became the lead story on the national news, many of us were trading vacations for day trips, SUV's for economies, and anything else that we could think of to offset the doubling and sometimes tripling of gas prices, seen before Katrina. Some however, have also cut church out from the budget, and with what seems to be good reason.

Somewhere a single mother sits down on a pay Friday and sets aside money for the rent, the utilities, the car note, day care, groceries, and gas, only to notice she has less than $50 left for anything else. Two days later, on the way to church, the sole of her son's $20 Payless shoe comes off in a puddle. She makes a quick stop at Payless to pick up another $20 pair of shoes before heading to church. With less than $30 in her purse to get her through to the next pay day, she sits down to listen to the sermon. The scripture reading that morning was from the book of James, but the sermons always end up in Malachi 3:8-12. "Will a man rob God?" the preacher's voice booms over the loudspeakers. As is the weekly custom, the church then has a "Get right with God" offering where a person who has given less than 10% can give the remainder of their tithe, while others are encouraged to give more. As usual, the basket sits at the front of the church for those with triple digit donations, while plates are passed for the rest of the congregation. Our single mother does the math in her head realizing that the $30 in her purse is all she has, yet it makes up less than 10% of her check. Guilted, she stuffs the money in an envelope, seals it, and quietly prays that there will be no more plates passed.

After service, Deacon Jones confronts her about her offering. "Sister", he says, "I've noticed that for the last month your giving has not reflected what we have on record from your W2." "I'm sorry Deacon" she starts, feeling sour and uneasy about the conversation, "I've had some unexpected expenses, and to make a long story short, what I put in the plate today was all the cash to my name." "Well sister when you've given all your cash", the deacon begins, "there is a small section on the back of your offering envelope where you can put your credit card information."

Is that really how it's supposed to be? Malachi 3:8-12 is very straight forward with no exceptions or loopholes. Will a man rob God? Most wouldn't, but what if you can't afford the burden? The truth is that tithing isn't your burden to bear. I know, clutch the pearls. It's blasphemy and many pastors would not want you to read another word.....yet you're still reading.

To understand the tithe we have to start with the commandment. It is in Leviticus 27 where God commands the tithe for himself. In the book of Numbers he declares ALL the tithes to be his gift to the Levites for their service to the Lord. Now the question is, "What is a Levite?" The Levites were the men who took care of, and served at the tabernacle/temple. They were the clergy of that time with one distinct difference. Levites were chosen based on their bloodline. They were the descendants of Jacob's son Levi, but more recently the descendants of Moses and his brother Aaron. God had a very strict laws regarding the holy things as a disobedient few learned throughout the Old Testament. It makes even more sense when you look at what tithes were. It was not 10 % of the Jew's income, but 10% of their produce from the land. Because of their daily responsibilities inside the tabernacle, the Levites did not have as much time as everyone else to grow crops and tend to livestock. The Lord recognized that in times of feast and celebration, the Levites wouldn't be able to provide what the other tribes could.

God had a reason for mandating the tithe. Aside from a reason, God also had a system. The Levites did not collect 10% every year; year after year. Every seventh year there would be a time of rest known as the Sabbath year. The tithe wasn't just a measurement, but an entire system of giving. Remembering that the tithe was not money or income based but based on produce, the Sabbath year was an entire year devoted to rest and allowing the land to heal. The purpose of work in the Sabbath year was to feed the mouths of those who lived in your house. The sabbath year doesn't translate to today because we tithe income and not production. Because tithes weren't collected in the sabbath year, and because it doesn't translate into our current system of tithing, the sabbath year and the seventh sabbath year, known as the year of jubilee have been written out of many church's doctrines. The result is that many church's hound you for your 10%, but never mention the 14% (one out of seven) grace period.

So we've established the fact that the tithe wasn't based on income, but on the land. We've covered the fact that it wasn't meant to be for God's bank account, but it was his gift to the Levites and only the Levites. We have laid down that God's system of tithing was not a continuous stream of 10%, but his system included a year of rest in the midst of every seven. What I'm trying to show you is that the system of tithing practiced in most churches is only BASED ON God's system of tithing and not God's actual system of tithing.

You may say, "Well today's circumstances don't allow a church to go a whole year without collecting from the people. The church has too many fiscal responsibilities. Moreover, the clergy is basically the same as the Levites anyway." To the first point I would only counter that by asking why that reasoning works for the church, but not the people. As for the second question, it actually leads me into why the the tithe is not meant for today's Christian. We will start at the top.

Today's Christians worship the same God that Israel worshipped in the Old Testament. The next step down was the High Priest. In the old testament the High Priest was a descendant of Aaron who continuously gave an animal sacrifice for atonement of sins. Here is where we see, as Beyonce would call it,"the upgrade". The High Priest of Christians is Jesus who laid down himself as the perfect sacrifice, ONCE that through it all may be forgiven. Not only was Jesus the last high priest ordained to reign forever, but Jesus wasn't a descendant of Aaron. Jesus wasn't a Levite. The bible calls him a high priest forever in the line of Melchizedek. If you're up on your bible history, this is the part where you point out that Abraham, the father of the Jews, gave 10% to Melchizedek. This is true, however Melchizedek received 10% after blessing Abraham. Abraham did not give Melchizedek 10% to be blessed. And the bible is plain in saying that when Melchizedek blessed Abraham it was the better blessing the lesser.

So even though we have the same God, the bible clearly states that the New High Priest, which is Jesus, required a new covenant. Now most of you will throw out the fact that Jesus said, "till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." Yes Jesus said that, but look at what he says before hand. In the previous verse he says, "I came to fulfill." Jesus walked the earth and eventually died to pay the debt mandated by the law. It is what Jesus referred to when he uttered, "It is finished" on the cross. Moreover, Paul gives us an illustration from marriage in the book of Romans about the transition into a new covenant.

Through Jesus death we no longer have the burden of the law. Acts 15 is very clear in pointing that out. In a council meeting of the leaders of the church, some Jewish Christians opine that Gentile Christians should be made to follow the laws of Moses. Peter responds to the suggestion by calling the Law a yoke that the Jews and their forefather's couldn't bear. Then, to clarify the situation, the council sent a letter to the Gentile converts to reassure them that it was not their obligation to keep the law.

Now we see that the tithe we give today doesn't fulfill the purpose God set for it when he declared it be for the Levites. We see that it's not the system God designed when he provided the people with a Sabbath year and a year of Jubilee for rest, and not a constant stream of 10% of income. We also see that we are under a new covenant which means that we do not bear a curse for not being compliant with the old covenant. So where do we go from here? If we aren't mandated in the new covenant to give 10% then how much should we give? Should we give at all? Should we bring this up at the next "Get right with God" offering?

I don't suggest becoming a distraction in your church. I encourage you to share these points with your church elders , but to understand that there is a time and place for everything. Pray for wisdom and direction in these matters. If you continue to feel led to give 10% or more then I beg you to follow those convictions.

My intent isn't to get people to give less to church. The bible says that he who sows generously will reap generously. Moreover, it commands Christians who are well to do to give generously in order to store up treasures in Heaven. It's important to understand that the treasures are in Heaven because many people preach that giving money on earth means getting money on earth. That's not always true. It's very important for us to give, and to give generously. Giving generously doesn't mean generously giving all the change in the bottom of your purse.

Like any other area in your life, I encourage you to pray and discuss your finances with God, and ask him for guidance when it comes to giving. Be honest about what you give, which is the moral of the account of Ananias and Sapphira. Be faithful in giving what you are led to give understanding three things:
  1. It's not scriptural to give more than you can afford.
  2. You are not obligated to 10%. With that in mind, remember that guilt arising from not being up on your tithes is not a reason to stop going to church.
  3. Be sure to give generously and cheerfully for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

For more information on the truth about tithing read here.

Article by: Stu

3 comments:

LAW said...

I have a number of Christian friends (I being Christian myself) that seem to have a problem with this article... The point of the article wasn't (as Stu stated) to convince you NOT to pay tithes... It was to question the tone at which we tithe and the tone with which the church takes when requesting we tithe... Furthermore, this article is to make you think about tithing... use your brain! Too many Christians don't think... they just follow... That's a problem. Christianity can't advance if we don't train ourselves to think critically and to subject our faith to the market of ideas, where other religions trade ideas and perspectives... This is one of the reasons that we seem so exclusive and close-minded in the minds of those we are trying to reach.

So please read the piece again and if you have objections, then comment on them, but be thoughtful.

Thank you for reading www.motleybloggers.com

Stu said...

I said in this article that it's not my intent to get people to give less to church. What I want people to understand is why they give.

Click the links to read the scripture references. If you feel I've misapplied something or that I that I'm twisting the scriptures then please leave a comment. I promise to respond to each one respectfully.

Unknown said...

just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.


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