I’ve talked about tithing in my past few posts. I’ve explained what a tithe is, and why I believe that tithing is a form of personal worship.
Now I’m going to explain how I believe the church is getting it wrong when it comes to teaching about tithing.
When most churches (that I’ve heard or seen) teach about tithing, it feels to me like they choose one of two messages:
- They make it sound like they are doing you a favor by teaching you that God wants to bless you so darn badly, but He’s just waiting for you to make a deposit. Then He’s for sure gonna bless your socks off! What are you waiting for??? Or,
- They try to guilt you into tithing by going legalistic and shaming you into doing something that you should have been doing for a long time. How can you even call yourself a Christ follower? They “challenge” you to do the right thing. Please… for your own sake… do the right thing!
And that’s what I think turns a lot of people away from tithing. It’s the reason I believe a lot of people are just fed up with hearing about it. It’s the reason a lot of people feel that the church is “just trying to get my money”.
As a way to bypass this very common response, I’ve heard pastors even start their tithing message off by explaining to their audience that “the church doesn’t need your money”. They say things like “We’re doing fine without your money”, or “We don’t want your money”. I can’t say for sure why this happens. It seems like they do this in an effort to side-step the real intent of their message (which is to raise giving). Maybe it’s a pre-contextual way of letting people off the hook in hopes that whoever decides not to start giving now, will continue to attend services until the next tithing sermon (probably only a few months away). Maybe those who don’t start giving now will start giving then. I’m not sure that they realize how misleading it feels to the average church goer when a church leader makes these statements. It turns a lot of people off. We’re not ignorant children. Don’t treat us like we are.
Let me say one thing… Forgive me for using all caps here, but I need to be clear….
OF COURSE THE CHURCH NEEDS YOUR MONEY!
Unless the church is fully funded by some rich member with a huge trust fund who is never going to leave, die, or change their opinion about your leaders’ theology, YES the church needs your money. The power company expects payment for the electricity the church uses. The insurance company expects payment for insurance coverage. The snacks and coffee that everyone loves so much has to be purchased. Staff members expect to be paid. Musical instruments and electronic equipment is not free. Bulk paper products are downright expensive. Those awesome props and backdrops that adorn the stage and make the service look like a concert come at a price. The list goes on and on.
Everything runs on money. Why are we pretending that it doesn’t and expecting people to naively believe this? I think it just offends people when a leader makes a statement like this. These statements make me cringe! I think that the moment a statement like this escapes the lips of a teacher, they immediately begin to lose credibility with some.
Personally, I’m protective of my money. I’m not just going to hand it over to someone who talks about it like it carries no weight. I feel the same about pastors who make statements like “giving twenty dollars is just a tip, it’s not a real tithe”. I would agree that twenty dollars is probably not a Biblical tithe from most working adults, but it just MIGHT be for some in attendance. Or it might be the first step that a new Christ follower needs to take. But statements like this make a pastor seem greedy, egotistical, and money-driven to those who may be visiting, struggling, or still young in their faith. Sure your inner-circle may understand that you’re just being comical, but your inner-circle isn’t usually the ones who need to learn about tithing.
Now that we’ve cleared up the fact that the church DOES need your money (and mine), let’s talk about the other ways that churches today are convincing Christ followers NOT to tithe in an attempt to convince them to tithe.
Every sermon that I’ve ever heard about tithing (from many different pastors and from several different churches) focuses on the same scriptures to convince you that it’s your duty to tithe. Here they are:
- Malachi 3:8-10
- Luke 6:38
- Proverbs 3:9
- 2 Corinthians 9:6
There are a few more, but this is the foundation for most tithing sermons. In a nutshell, they teach that you are supposed to tithe. If you do tithe, God will invest your money wisely, diversify your portfolio, and return your investment with cash dividends. It’s a sure thing! Who wouldn’t sign up for that? The problem with this style of teaching is it lacks one crucial component… your heart.
Another disclaimer: I do believe that the scriptures do in fact teach that you will be blessed for tithing. But I believe that this method of tricking people into thinking that God is a stock investor is souring the message.
Here’s what I mean. We’ve all heard that money is the root of all evil. We see it in the scriptures in 1 Timothy 6:10. Jesus makes it clear in Mark 12 that God is not in the business of money. In this chapter some religious leaders are trying to trick Jesus by asking whether they should pay their taxes or not. Jesus asks them whose image and writing is on the money and they reply that it is the Caesar’s image. Jesus then tells them to give Caesar what is his, and give to God what is God’s. So what is it that God wants?
God wants our hearts. And when God fully has our hearts we will look forward to worshiping Him with everything else in our lives.
Matthew 6:24 makes it clear that you can’t love money AND love God. Sure, we need money to survive. But when we make excuses as to why we can’t trust God with our worldly wealth, or we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t follow God’s instructions, how can we profess that we love Him fully and completely with our hearts? And that’s what God desires of us. He desires our love for Him. He desires our hearts.
So if you’re tithing or not tithing because you have experienced a sermon where you have been guilt-tripped into it; or if you have been “sold” the monetary rewards of tithing only to find that the return wasn’t what you expected; or if you have been shamed into tithing, then I’m sorry. I apologize to you as a follower of Christ. That was wrong. It directly contradicts what God wants you to experience through tithing. God wants you to experience a relationship with Him in which you have absolutely no doubts that He can and will provide.
So why would a church leader appeal to his or her congregation by insinuating that God repays tithes in monetary dividends?
The only reason that I can think of is that this is what motivates them, so they hope that it motivates you as well. What I do understand is that the scriptures make it clear in Luke 16:10-12 that if you can’t be trusted with a little, God isn’t going to bless you with a lot. if you spend your money wildly, if you covet material things, if you live in debt and finance Happy Meals at 20% interest with credit cards (I’ve done this myself in the past), and if you are a slave to lenders (Proverbs 22:7), then you probably aren’t someone who God would trust with a lot more money. If I gave my daughter a fifty-dollar bill and told her to buy school supplies with it, but she instead spent it all on candy and bubble gum, I wouldn’t just turn around and give her another fifty-dollar bill. So I have no doubts that God will bless you, but I have a hard time believing that you will be blessed with money if you don’t know how to manage money. Proverbs 15:8 says that “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked”. I personally believe that even if you tithe faithfully, but don’t “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), then God is waiting for more than just your money. These scriptures are easy to find and understand. I think that teaching people that God will surely bless them with money directly contradicts much of God’s word. So why are there church leaders who are teaching money, money, money?
I think that when our church leaders preach about tithing, they should do it out of a concern for your heart. I think they should be teaching out of concern for your spirit. I believe that they should have a deep desire for each of us to have such a strong relationship with God that we will delight in worshiping Him in all aspects of our lives. Part of this personal worship is unquestionably the want to tithe in order to further the mission and finance the Kingdom of our Savior.
I believe that people feel like “the church only wants my money”, because some churches truly are motivated by money. I think that most people are wise enough to realize this when it’s happening. I think that a lot of people feel like the tithing sermons always happen around building campaigns and times when the budget isn’t doing so well because that’s truly when they happen.
I believe that if each of us developed such a strong relationship with Christ that we would all delight in giving a tithe to our church freely, many of our churches budget issues would be erased. Many of the people who we should be reaching for God would be reached. Many of our lives would be blessed. Many of our communities would be healed.
It’s easier to reach people when you can afford to outfit the restrooms in your church with toilet paper. It’s easier to lead people to the light when you have electricity. So, the church does need your money. And I believe that if you are a Christ follower it is your duty to fund God’s Kingdom. But it should be your honor to do so. Please don’t let a sermon from your past deter you from this mission.
What would you say to a person if they asked you about tithing?
Why do you think that it’s often so easy for us to brush off the expenses related to the operation of our church as being “someone else’s” responsibility?