Monday, October 17, 2011

Tithing is way down, entertainment expectations way up

Before I was saved, I used to think that churches were a racket. "All they want is your money," I'd parrot, like so many other people say without thinking. LOL, I have no idea how I thought the church building electric bills got paid, or who paid for the gas in the church bus that takes meals to shut-ins.

On a less practical and a more spiritual level, tithing and making offerings should be a joy and a blessing to perform, just as any other service to the Lord. It is an act of offering to give something back to Him, who has given us and will continue to give us so much. GotQuestions.org has a good essay on tithing here, with scriptures.

When I ran my newspaper, it was paid for by advertising. The paper didn't cost anything to buy, so the local businesses that placed ads in the paper paid for the printing, mailing, circulation, insurance, and salaries. When a business was feeling the pinch, they would look for ways to cut back. Of course, advertising was often the first to go. There was an intangible benefit to advertising that couldn't be quantified and was rarely demonstrable. Frugal business owners would cut back anyway and their ads would stop. The benefit was there, it just couldn't be seen.

Tithing is like that. Taking the spiritual obedience away, on the practical side, people who are iffy on tithing often don't see an immediate benefit, so when their household budget gets pinched, they quit. It is like advertising in the paper: an activity containing an intangible reward that goes out the window when money gets tight. They want the tangible reward and they want the payoff now, not later.

But just as money gets tight, people want more for their money. In Christian churches these days, they want and expect entertainment. So churches spend more to hold on to their church-hopping congregants. It is a downward cycle.

This article from the Christian Post reports on that downward cycle we're seeing so much of these days. "Tithing Hits Record Low; Churches Spend More to Make Congregants Happy"
"Are churches spending more on themselves than on the needs of those outside the church? According to a new report they are, with churches keeping a larger share of their tithe-generated income for their own in-house needs. In a report, titled “The State of Church Giving Through 2009,” released Friday by Empty Tomb inc., a Christian service and research organization, authors found that “benevolences” – or funds used for giving outside the church including giving to charities and seminary training – hit new lows compared to their first report in 1968. Understandably, with the tithing amount greatly reduced over the past few years because of a bad economy, a drop in benevolences was only normal. The report, which used data from evangelical and mainline churches including Lutheran, Presbyterians and Episcopalian churches, in fact revealed that tithing as a percentage of income was at its lowest level in 41 years, Religion News Service noted. Parishioners were only giving about 2.38 percent of their income to the church in 2009, down from 2.43 percent in 2008 – shockingly low percentages." More at link.

One can only wonder what the levels are now, three years into the terrible depression we are living through. The article continues in the same sad vein:

"If Americans who identify with the historically Christian church had chosen to give 10 percent to their congregation in 2008, rather than the 2.43 percent given that year, there would have been an additional $172 billion available for work through the church,” the Empty Tomb website noted. Though the greatly reduced tithing rates garnered much attention, what remained more surprising to the authors was the church’s distribution of parishioner income. While only 0.34 percent went toward benevolences, over 2 percent was used on congregational finances. If the percentage of income for benevolences was at the level it was back in 1968 – 0.66 percent – there would have been an additional $3.1 billion in benevolence giving. “Churches on the whole are continuing to spend more on current members and less on the larger mission of the church and cutting back on missionaries,” Sylvia Ronsvalle, Empty Tomb’s executive vice president, told RNS."

Wow. What is our prime directive from Jesus? What was the last thing He said to the people before he ascended to the right hand of the Father? "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Our job as humans is to submit to God's will for us. That will includes first and foremost, repentance to the Lord leading to salvation and a deep love of Him. After that, we're told that the next greatest commandment is to love one another, and finally to witness to the ends of the earth. For those who can't go, they finance those who can and do go. Failing to support missions, failing to support benevolences fails the two most basic things He told us we are put on this earth to do: love one another and witness to His glorious Gospel.

Far from being an intangible reward, the rewards we receive are very real: only delayed. Though we do not give in benevolent fashion only to receive a reward, but to honor Jesus, we do receive them. Here are a few of the verses which state this, as a reminder:

"Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:24)

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)

The reward is great:
"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:12)

It is so great we cannot even conceive of what it is:
"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." (Isaiah 64:4)

When we make offerings to Him, do we do it in like attitude as David?: "And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD." (Psalms 27:6)

Because after all, He sacrificed Himself, freely, for us:
"And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." (Ephesians 5:2)

Please do not let your church be one of these that expects entertainment while at the same time you are withholding a tithe or an offering to the Lord Jesus. Give, give joyfully and plentifully in love to Him and on behalf of others. And sing gladly.

7 comments:

  1. I have to say that Christians who speak of "tithing" are 100% in error. Tithing was part of the O.T. law and included much more than 10%. Christians were never told to tithe, nor told there was any minimum or maximum for giving to the Lord's work. We are told only to "give what each man has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

    Too often Christians get hung up on that 10% thing to their detriment. My sister years ago came to the Lord when she was a single mom (her husband left her for drugs and another woman) working two jobs to make ends meet and couldn't even afford to give 10% of her income without sacrificing food for her kids. She still gave what she could, but the church she attended (an AOG) demanded access to pay slips to prove whether you gave a full 10%. They told her all sorts of garbage about how she was stealing from God. She was very spiritually damaged by that church and wants nothing to do with organized churches now.

    When I first came to the Lord I gave very little because I had very little to spend, let alone give away. I looked at 10% as a goal to reach and over the years I was able to financially do so, but then we continued raising our % to where we no longer pay attention to the numbers - we just give to the Lord out the blessings he has given us.

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  2. I agree that the mandate to tithe was an OT command. However, many NT Christians take the spirit of that mandate without parsing the actual word itself to heart and wish to continue it, including myself. I also agree that there is no set amount commanded in the NT, which is why I did not mention the 10%, but again, many use that as a benchmark to begin their tithing and go from there, including me. And last, I agree that many churches harp on tithing to the detriment of the overall point of my post: giving is a joy and a blessing. It is also important. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

    Unfortunately, the entertainment-driven, selfish church of today is failing their obligation to support their church, support local and international missions, and to support benevolence to the enhancement of their neighbor. Therefore, I tithe.

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  3. No place in all of scripture to me gives a better picture of selfless giving than in Philippians 4 Most of the modern American churches have become all about gathering as much money as they can to support their programs while people who are in grave spiritual danger are sitting in their pews seeking an answer, giving, but not committing.
    Philippians 4

    1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

    2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

    3And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

    4Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

    5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

    6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

    7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

    8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

    10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

    11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

    12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

    13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

    14Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

    15Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

    16For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

    17Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

    18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

    19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

    20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

    22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.

    23The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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  4. I guess my point is that to emphasize the word "tithe" gives people the idea that 10% is what they should give and no more. I think we should emphasize giving abundantly out of our abundance that we have been provided. That if we can afford any luxuries, should not we also be able to give generously to the Lord? My experience with the tithe issue is that people tend to see that as a limit, and then they've done their duty.

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  5. Is tithing only applicable to money earned? The only money I have to give is allowance money to be honest. It feels wrong giving money someone else worked for but I don't want to go by how I feel.

    I was not aware it did not have to be 10%. Is it best to just pray about it and ask the holy spirit to guide you with what to give?

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  6. Anonymous, as to your question on tithing on money earned, hereis an answer from GotGuestions.org on tithing and the NT suggestions aobut it

    Question: "What does the Bible say about Christian tithing?"

    Answer: Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. In some churches tithing is over-emphasized. At the same time, many Christians refuse to submit to the biblical exhortations about making offerings to the Lord. Tithing/giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case in the church today.

    Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10 percent of everything they earned and grew to the Tabernacle/Temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent, not the 10 percent which is generally considered the tithe amount today. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system. The New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. Paul states that believers should set aside a portion of their income in order to support the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

    The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says it is to be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some in the Christian church have taken the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving. The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the church. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

    Here is an answer from Jack Kelly on tothing on the gross
    We have only once source of income. Am I being selfish by tithing on the net instead of gross? I know it may sound like splitting hairs and I want to please God most of all. He has ALWAYS taken care of us, but we have no money left at the end of the month.


    A. It all boils down to this.

    Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38)

    You decide what you want to give and the Lord will respond accordingly. No guilt, no splitting hairs, no fancy interpretations, just cause and effect. By the way, you shouldn’t worry about not having some money left at the end of the month. Many people still have some month left at the end of the money. The Lord said if you first seek His kingdom and His righteousness He would see to your needs (Matt. 6:31-33). It sounds like He’s doing that for you.
    http://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/am-i-splitting-hairs/

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  7. Glenn thank you for the clarification! You said "My experience with the tithe issue is that people tend to see that as a limit, and then they've done their duty."

    I can absolutely see that as true in today's selfish church.

    I'm not by nature generous, so I start at the 10% as the lowest limit for myself and strictly keep to it, otherwise I'd likely give hardly anything. Then I go UP from there. I consider it the *start* of my duty, not the end. I have to, or I'd be completely selfish. I wish more people would simply give and not get hung up on percentages and definitions of tithe or offering...

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